By Tina Hilding, Voiland College of Engineering & Architecture
Unlike most students who come to WSU, Warren Seely came to Pullman to experience the big city.
Seely, a senior in electrical engineering with an emphasis in power engineering, is originally from tiny Clatskanie, Oregon, where his family has a 500-acre mint farm. He is one of the few students who call Pullman “large.”
“But,” he adds, “It still has a small-town feel to it and a friendly, open atmosphere.”
Growing up on his family farm, Seely enjoyed tinkering with engines. From a young age, he was working with pumps, irrigation systems, high voltage panels, and farm machinery. He re-built his first tractor engine at age six. As an entering WSU freshman, he gained some attention for a video that showed his sophisticated, working Lego models of farm machinery. The video was featured on Huffington Post and led to job offers and even an all-expense paid trip to an irrigation marketing conference in San Diego.
Seely decided to study electrical engineering for the challenge and has remained extremely busy with his difficult major. Whether working to understand transmission, transformers, or distribution, he likes the power program because it is challenging and interesting. Last year, he worked as an intern at Portland General Electric and will participate in a power engineering practicum over spring break. In his spare time, he is developing an autonomous, GPS-guided robotic weed control system for his family’s farm and is close to making a full-size prototype.
Seely is a recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) scholarship to encourage students in power engineering. The program, which awards 19 School of EECS scholarships per year, aims to address the dramatic need for power engineers to build the smart electric power grid. Approximately 21 percent of power engineers in the Northwest are eligible for retirement in the next five years, and there is also concern that the region is not producing enough engineers to meet the need for the growing green economy.
Support from the scholarship has made a tremendous difference for his education, says Seely, especially because he is an out-of-state student. The scholarship has allowed him to concentrate on his classes, reduce work hours, and minimize loans. And, he’s had a chance to branch out, meet friends, and grow in a larger community. He’s appreciated School of EECS faculty and staff, who have supported him through his classes.
“The scholarship has a huge, positive impact,” he says.
For his part, Seely is optimistic about his future, looking forward to using his skills in a hands-on, engaging career and sorting through many possible options for a career path.
“There are a lot of opportunities,” he says.