Interview with PACWolrd guru Roger Ray, USA

PAC World:  When and where were you born?

R.R.: I was born in McConnellsburg, a small farming community in south central Pennsylvania on January 1943.

PAC World:  Where did you go to school?

R.R.: I received my BS in Electrical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University and an MS in Electrical Engineering from New Jersey Institute of Engineering.

PAC World:  What interests did you have while in school? 

R.R.:  In high school, I was primarily interested in cars and tinkering with them at my father’s garage, and I spent considerable time building electronic kits from Heathkit. I also began to develop my interest in photography. However, I didn’t get very far then because I couldn’t spend much money on it. Another activity was building model airplanes and flying them, and fixing after crashing.

At Penn State, I spent most of my time studying and any hobbies went by the wayside, but I did like going to the football games.

PAC World:   Is there anyone in your family that you feel had an impact on your development as a person?

R.R.:  Yes, no one in my family had ever gone to college and my brother insisted that I not go in the military after high school, as many classmates did, but go to college.

PAC World:  What made you decide to study engineering?

R.R.:   When I was growing up I was always fascinated with science. I learned mechanics and working on cars from my father and later I began to develop an interest in electricity. As my interest in electricity grew, a high school teacher whose hobby was building audio amplifiers & speakers taught me a lot in his spare time. I guess this is what guided me in that direction.

PAC World:  How did you choose the university to go to?

R.R:  Probably there were two or three guiding influences. Two major ones were:  it had to be affordable and I didn’t want it to be too far away from home.

Beyond that a couple of my high school teachers guided me to a school that would meet that criteria and would be a good engineering school.

PAC World:  Did you select what to study?

R.R.:  Yes, with suggestions from my teachers.

PAC World:   Did you have any electric power systems, protection or communications related classes?

R.R.:   I only had one overview power systems course in my undergraduate work and none on protection. If you talked to me then about relays, I thought of a telephone relay. Then when I got to the Westinghouse Relay-Instrument Division and was handed a KD-4 relay I almost dropped it. My power systems education came from people like Louis Blackburn, Walt Elmore and George Rockefeller. My master’s studies were mostly communications courses.

PAC World:   Where and how did you start your career?

R.R.:  I started my career off with a position with Westinghouse. In those days Westinghouse had a very good orientation program to select a spot for new engineers.

They gave us a couple of weeks of education on corporate culture and during that time individuals would talk to counselors and they would select 2 or 3 one month assignments at various divisions. Then at the end offers for positions were given from those divisions and we could select what we wanted.

PAC World:  What were your responsibilities at the early stages of your career?

R.R.:  Initially my job did not involve any significant projects. It was just talking with people and asking questions of co-workers when performing various tasks that I was asked to complete.

After a few months of that I was given the responsibility of reviewing all the changes made to instruction manuals and seeing that the publications department followed thru on those changes. I didn’t like this too much, but soon realized that having to read all those manuals, I gained knowledge of a broad range of relays and their applications, which turned out to be very useful.

PAC World:  What was it like to work with a group of people that made such significant contributions to our industry?

R.R.:  The first word that comes to mind is awesome. The work environment in all the engineering and sales sections was great. Everybody was helpful and were very willing to stop and take the time to answer my questions and share their knowledge.

This was especially true of the Applications group where I was assigned. This group was led by Louis Blackburn and had the likes of Walt Elmore and George Rockefeller among others. I soon learned that I was fortunate enough to have landed in one of the most knowledgeable groups in the protection industry.

PAC World:   Later you got MSEE from New Jersey Institute of Technology.

What was the reason to do that?

R.R.:  Primarily I want to get a masters in engineering and Westinghouse made that easy at the time. I had also gotten in to the communications aspect of protection by the time I wanted to do it and felt I needed more in depth courses on communications theory.

PAC World:  What made you shift your interests from protection to communications?

R.R.:  Well, I had always had an interest in radio and how it worked. Then one day Louis Blackburn came to my desk and presented me with six IEEE papers that covered modal analysis and propagation of PLC signals on power lines. He ask me to read the papers on the subject and inform the group about the details and what it was all about. From that point on I became the expert on power line carrier applications as well as all the other forms of communications used in protection.

PAC World:  You have many contributions to the field of electric power systems protection and communications. Which are the ones that you consider the most important?

R.R.: The development of the unblock pilot relay concept was my first major contribution and also resulted in a patent. The next was the development of the Equations to turn the action of the HCB pilot wire relay to a solid state relay called the LCB which also was the first relay that used fiber optic communications.

This development turned into a patent as well and resulted in a special patent award from Westinghouse as well as IEEE Prize Paper award.

I would also point to my activities in starting Pulsar.

The success of Pulsar was due to the contributions of all the people who came with us from ABB. I guess I never thought I would be a major owner of a company, but that’s what the American dream is all about.

PAC World:  You have been involved in the transition from electromechanical and solid state relays to digital protection and control devices and systems, while at the same time the communications technology has been changing as well.

Which are the most important components in this transition?

R.R.:  I would say the transition to digital protection and the application of microprocessors to the protection system. This has allowed us to do much more than just protection. All the information provided by the microprocessor relay provides the industry with much more data to know what is happening on the system during a fault.

Looking at the communications aspects, I think that the application of fiber communications to protection solves so many problems that confuse the protection.

However, I don’t think that fiber should replace all the protection communications in protection systems. When redundant protection systems are required then I think a diversity in the communications part is also important.

PAC World:  Now we are in another period of transition – to IEC 61850 based digital substations and wide area protection and control systems combined with a new generation of communications technologies.

What do you think about the challenges with this transition?

What can we do better to speed up the acceptance of this technology in North America?

R.R.:  I’m not sure you can. Our protection industry has been slow in the past to accept new technology. I think everyone in our industry understands the importance of IEC 61850 and packet based communications.

Because of the fact that not that many new lines and stations are being built, the technology has been slow to take hold in North America, and the large investment in retrofitting older substations has also held back the acceptance.

We just have to be patient and keep it in the forefront. Don’t forget 61850 is a radical change to our present way of thinking. One area that needs significant development are the tools used to set up and program a 61850 substation. There are some tools out there, but I think they’re a long way from being efficient.

PAC World:  You have worked in technical leadership positions and in executive positions. Which of the two do you prefer and why?

R.R.: The technical aspects of my career came naturally to me, and the leadership/executive positions did not. I had to work hard at that.

One major trait I needed to work at may seem small but I had to work hard at remembering to compliment my people when they did a good job. When I was growing up I was working for my father.

He would never say anything to me when I did a good job, but I soon heard it when I messed up.

So, I learned that when he didn’t say anything it was a compliment. My mother was also the one who helped me understand this.

Thus, I had a very bad habit of not recognizing people for a good job.

PAC World: You have been involved with the IEEE PES Power System Relaying Committee and the IEEE Power System Communications Committee for more than 40 years.

What do you think about their role in our industry and your professional growth?

R.R.:  I feel their role in my professional growth was significant. I became involved with IEEE as a student because of a professor I had in an EE course.

Then I went to work for a company and group of people who believed in the IEEE and its value to the industry. The first trip I made was with Mr. Blackburn to the Winter Power Meeting in NY.

I think the IEEE’s role in the industry is significant in that it is a place where Engineers from all sides can get together and discuss problems, find solutions and write standards that guide the industry to the future.

While at times I think the IEEE has become too political, I guess that comes with an organization becoming as large as the IEEE.

PAC World:  What do you think is the importance for sharing your knowledge and experience and what is the best way to do it?

R.R.:  My opinion would be that sharing knowledge is one of the most important things we could do to educate and excite new engineers in the field. The best way to do that is thru personal interactions and training sessions at work and also places like IEEE.

Another good way to share information is thru writing technical papers and presenting them at various conferences held by our industry.

PAC World:  You are beyond the retirement age but still actively involved. What is your definition of retirement and can you imagine doing it?

R.R.:  Right now, my definition of retirement is having more time to do the things I want and when I want, but to me it doesn’t mean giving up contact with the industry and not keeping up with what great new things are happening.

That’s why I keep going to PSRC meetings and doing some consulting to keep me in touch.

However, it doesn’t mean I let that control my future, it’s only a small part of it.

PAC World:  You have received different awards during your career. Is there one you consider more important than the rest?

R.R.:  Becoming a Fellow in the IEEE. This was something I had never even dreamed would happen.

PAC World:  What do you consider your top professional achievement?

R.R.:  That’s a hard one to answer. My achievements have been many that are smaller by themselves but as a group have moved me ahead and made me successful.

However, if I had to pick one, it would be the development of the LCB and getting fiber optic communications involved in pilot protection systems.

PAC World:  What was the greatest challenge that you faced?

R.R.:  Helping to start a new company, Pulsar Technologies, Inc. and managing this company. There were many aspects that were new to me and things I had to learn. Even with that the experience was the best in my career and the most fun I had at work.

PAC World:  And what is your most important personal achievement?

R.R.:  I would say living a good life and partnering with my wife, Julie in 53 years of a successful marriage and raising a son and daughter.

PAC World:  What are the things that you like to do when you are not working?

R.R.:  Working with my photography hobby and traveling around this great country of ours with Julie in our motorhome.

Like many of us I have crisscrossed this country many times in an airplane and have seen many cities, and now it is time to see all the vastness in between.

PAC World:  You have traveled all over the world. Do you have a favorite place you like to go to?

R.R.:  I don’t think I can pick any one which is my favorite, but if I had to it would be visiting the great national parks we have here in this country. There are still many great places in this world that I haven’t been to and maybe one of those will be a favorite.

PAC World:  How do you mix your personal and professional life?

R.R.:  In general, there wasn’t much mixing of the two other than discussions in general about what was happening.

PAC World:  What is your favorite form of entertainment?

R.R.:  Now, it’s probably travelling and photography, which can go together very well. Also having more time, I have developed a habit of doing more casual reading of novels and history.

PAC World:  What type of music do you like to listen to?

R.R.:  Primarily Jazz, classical and country (my roots).


PAC World:  Do you have any favorite food?

R.R.:  I really don’t have a favorite food. I might say that because of my youth I grew up eating meat & potatoes, but I have grown a lot in my tastes since then and enjoy many foods.

PAC World:  What is the advice that you give to the young people in our industry?

R.R.:  Never stop learning. Part of that is accomplished by becoming involved in your professional society.

Never stop taking courses or training sessions.

This is not just true of your professional life but also your personal life. Never stop reading.

PAC World:  What is your motto?

R.R.:  Always attempt to treat people well and follow an honorable way of life.

BeijingSifang June 2016