Mixing Holiday Business with Pleasure

by Greg Carter

The holidays have arrived…

So here’s a lighthearted note we all could use as we chill a bit from all the “geek speak” requiring us to grasp technology. Every day, we find ourselves in conversation where the topic is “over our heads”. For example, I’m in an industry where industrial and electrical equipment are the product. But not all of us are engineers. So how can we communicate technical topics to such a diverse audience?

The Secret to Keeping Technology Simple

Here’s a little communication secret I’ve found useful: Analogies. Explain a technical issue in terms of something familiar in our everyday lives. So here’s my latest attempt at explaining an electrical topic over the holidays. This topic is the technology behind one of our favorite holiday toys and a common industrial/electrical application.

Fun with Electrical Power

The link between toy trains and the holidays has endured over centuries.  Remember that little transformer you used to start and stop your toy train? Well, here’s how it worked. If you’re of a certain age, when you think of toy trains, you

High Voltage Electricity leaves your wall circuit, and is “Transformed” to Low Voltage so we can have fun!

usually think of that little “power-pack” that magically moved the train when you throttled the power. Do you know how that worked?  It’s really quite simple. Your wall outlet is AC Power. The little train needs lower voltage DC power to it’s little motor in order to move.

Inside the toy, a little “decoder ” has a unique address assigned to the train. Its job is to change AC Power coming from your wall outlet to DC Power to provide power to the locomotive’s little motor. So it’s the brain of the toy train  and “listens” to the power flowing through the rails, making the locomotive move, light-up and even make a Choo Choo! sound.

We can use analogies from our every day lives to communicate technical topics.

Time to Grow Up

Fusing for substation transformers

Transformers “step up” and “step down” voltage as it travels between substations. 

Our life-size passenger trains, the ones many of us use to commute to work, slow-up, stop, then accelerate in the same way. Now that we understand how trains work, we’re ready to take on a more “Industrial/Electrical” topic.

We can apply the toy train analogy to learn technical topics such as power distribution substations. Circuits feeding transformers are Primary Circuits, while circuits drawing energy (e.g., train tracks) are Secondary Circuits that handle the “load”.

So our toy train and transformer analogy applies here: Transformers in electrical power substations “step up” or “step down” voltages to regulate current carried between power stations, technically known as substations. So electrical substation transformers are electrical devices that transfer – and transform – power between circuits across vast distances.

Transforming Technology in Every Day Life

The use of analogies in our jobs and everyday life in understanding technology makes everyone better communicators. Do you have any analogies you’d like to share? Email me at gcarter@electricalmarketing.net so I might share it in a future article. Our community of Industrial/Electrical professionals can learn by sharing our own analogies this holiday season and throughout the New Year.

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