Allen Morinec Admits He has A Passion for Power. Not the kind of power that gives people influence and notoriety, but the sort that is piped over power lines and into homes and businesses. Whether supervising field engineers in the substation department at FirstEnergy Corp. (Akron, Ohio, U.S.) or giving a presentation on electrical safety at his children's schools, Morinec is all about energy.
“I like teaching young people how to keep protected around electricity,” he said. “I give presentations at my children's schools and at Boy Scout den meetings about how to be safe around electricity in your house. I also have a collection of videos that show electrical hazards. It's much easier to reach children when you show them the damage electricity can do instead of just telling them.”
Morinec also enjoys instructing people about electricity's benefits. He has been an integral part of specifying and installing a 400-W wind generator on the roof of his son's Cuyahoga Heights elementary school.
“The project is about 80% complete,” he said. “We're going to use the generator to power some of the classroom equipment to show the kids how the wind can produce electricity. It's going to be a great experience for them.”
Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, as the son of an immigrant, Morinec displayed an interest in technology from an early age. “I always enjoyed math,” he recalled. “I knew I wanted to pursue engineering, but it was tough. I was the first person in my family to attend college. I wasn't always the smartest student, and my grades weren't always the best. But I worked hard at it. That's what I tell people — work hard and you'll get there.”
Morinec graduated from Cleveland State University in 1986 and began his career in the power-quality engineer department at the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co., a subsidiary of FirstEnergy. There, he investigated electrical problems with industrial and commercial customers and the equipment inside their facilities. He also helped restart factories and process lines when malfunctions occurred.
“That was a pretty exciting time for me,” said Morinec. “Our utility worked with EPRI to research this area, and I became involved with the IEEE, because it was developing different standards and color books. I helped develop a few of those with engineers on different IEEE committees.”
Ten years into his career, Morinec decided to return to Cleveland State University to pursue his doctorate degree. Today at FirstEnergy, he's involved with substation protective relaying and commissioning and troubleshooting substations. As a supervising engineer, he oversees seven field engineers.
“I mentor them, assign their workload, and assist them with troubleshooting and safely commissioning new substation equipment,” noted Morinec. “I take my responsibility to make sure they stay safe very seriously. At FirstEnergy, we make safety a way of life. Safety is also re-emphasized at home by the many lessons learned from my wife, who is a PICU nurse at a Level 1 Trauma Center.”
In addition, Morinec has been an adjunct professor at Cleveland State University since 1996, teaching a power system analysis and design class once a year. During this time, 18 of his students have pursued careers in the electric power industry, 14 of them at FirstEnergy.
“I like working at the university, because it gives me the opportunity to advise students in careers in power,” he explained. “Like my college professors, I want to show people how important it is to become involved in your career.”
Morinec leads by example. A senior member of the IEEE, he currently serves as the chapter chairman of the IEEE Power Engineering Society — Cleveland Section 2C. He has received the IEEE Third Millennium Medal for Outstanding Support and Achievement, as well as the Willard R. Holland Entrepreneurial Award for improving FirstEnergy's competitiveness and reliability by implementing GPS synchronized end-to-end relay testing of high-speed transmission protection schemes. Furthermore, he has authored numerous technical papers and takes time to attend industry conferences.
Despite his professional obligations and achievements, this busy engineer manages to balance career and family. He coaches several of his children's sports teams and joins them in outdoor activities, including biking, fishing and downhill snow skiing. Future family plans include climbing Mount Rainier in Washington State and traveling to Florida to watch the U.S. Space Shuttle launch. “Right now, I'm really satisfied with where I'm at,” he said. “I spend as much of my free time as I can with my children. I'm enjoying them being young.”
Morinec also plans to continue reaching out to potential new engineers. “There's such a need in the industry for young talent that the opportunities are unbelievable,” he said. “I'm a big advocate of college co-op programs, because they get interested students into a company and show them what power engineers do. We need to make the effort to introduce our youth to this exciting field.”