1 University College Dublin (IRELAND)
2 KTH Royal Institute of Technology (SWEDEN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN15 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 318-328
ISBN: 978-84-606-8243-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 7th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2015
Location: Barcelona, Spain
This paper describes the potential and the challenges of open-source non-commercial software tools for undergraduate electric energy systems programmes and the impact on student future work opportunities. The paper also describes how different cultural backgrounds impact on the choice of educational software and how that impact on the learning and programme outcomes of modules. The matter presented in the paper is based on the author's experience with different universities and working environments, namely University of Genoa, Italy; University of Waterloo, Ontario; University of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain; and University College Dublin, Ireland.

The author has more than one decade experience in teaching power systems modules, and in developing open-source software tools for research and educational purposes. A comprehensive discussion on the achievements in this topic can be found in [1] and [2]. These references focuses mainly on the impact on education of open source software tools on the education of power system engineering students. In this vein, the lifetime value of open-source software tools is discussed in [3]. The papers cited above focuses on how the students react and how their learning outcome is affected by the use of open-source software tools. However, a relevant point that has not been discussed so far is how the usage of open-source software is perceived by both the academic environment and the industry.

A common question that arises when the programme outcomes of non-commercial software is used for applied modules such as “Power System Design” and “Power System Control” concerns the usefulness and adequacy of such tools with respect to commercial and costly standard de facto (e.g., PSS/E, DigSILENT and PSLF). The paper aims to provide a meaningful answer to this frequently asked question, and to describe the background that originate such enquire, which is peculiar of the power systems community and is, virtually, absent in other scientific and technical areas of knowledge.

The aspects that will be considered in the final paper are as follows. On one hand, the features, in terms of educational value of commercial and non-commercial software tools for power flow analysis are discussed and compared in an as fair as possible manner. Then, the aspects that are considered more important for each institution where the author has been working or has an indirect but reliable experience based the web forum he is maintaining are discussed. The main outcome is a sort of map of how the value of commercial and non-commercial software tools for power system analysis are perceived within the academia. The same exercise is repeated considering practitioners and system operators viewpoint, which are the potential employers of the graduates in electrical energy system programmes. Finally, remarks, conclusions and recommendations are drawn based on the discussion above.

[1] L. Vanfretti, F. Milano, The Experience of PSAT as a Free and Open Source Software for Power System Education and Research, Int. J. of Elec. Eng. Education, Vol. 47, No. 1, pp. 47-62, January 2010.
[2] F. Milano, Experience of Unix Terminal-based Labs for Undergrounduate Modules on Power System Analysis, EDULEARN14, Barcelona, Spain, 7-9 July 2014.
[3] L. Vanfretti, F. Milano, Facilitating Constructive Alignment in Power Systems Engineering Education using Free and Open Source Software, IEEE Trans. on Education, Vol. 55, No. 3, pp. 309-318, August 2012.
Open source software, commercial software, electrical energy systems, electrical engineering education.