What is Power Engineering?

Power engineering covers three complementary areas of electrical engineering:

  • power transmission and distribution systems (in short, power systems)
  • energy conversion (motors, generators, and electric drives)
  • power electronics

The job market is booming for graduates in electric power engineering. The workforce in the electric power sector is aging and the industry faces massive retirements, yet many power engineering programs in the U.S. have been phased out. In addition, new opportunities are exploding thanks to developments in power electronics. Exciting new applications include electric cars, (more) electric aircraft and ships, renewable energy (wind power), and data centers.

Wind turbines near Milford, UT
X-29 Aircraft

What is Control Systems?

Control systems make other systems do what we want them to do, without us having to do all the work. Examples of control systems in everyday life include the thermostat that regulates the temperature of a room and the cruise control that regulates the speed of a car. Typically, the core of a control system is an algorithm that computes the signal that must be applied at the input of a system so that its output follows certain reference values. Practical implementation involves a computer, a sensor (or sensors) that measures the output of the system, and an actuator (or actuators) that applies the required actions to the system. The actions may be physical forces, electrical signals, chemical products, or any other variables that affect the state of the system. To become an expert in control, you should be comfortable with mathematics and computing. You should also be curious enough to study closely a variety of engineering applications.

Two modern applications of control theory are flight control and active noise control. In the X-29 aircraft shown below, the dynamic behavior is so unstable that a human pilot is unable to maintain steady flight without the feedback actions implemented by a flight control computer. In the worst flight condition of the X-29, an angular deviation from horizontal flight doubles every 0.12 seconds (the stabilization task is equivalent to the one required to balance a 17.4 inch stick on a finger). Computations are performed 40 times per second to provide adequate stabilization and control of the aircraft.

What is Robotics?

The field of robotics has expanded tremendously since its early focus on industrial robots, and now includes very diverse topics such as autonomous vehicles, medical robots, smart sensor networks, micro robots, robot vacuum cleaners, sentry robots, and pet robots. Robotics technology is embedded in many devices which are not usually thought of as robots; for example, motion modelling and real-time computation techniques find applications in graphics, animation, and computer games. Due to the extraordinary breadth of disciplines that robotics encompasses, roboticists have been described as universal engineers, able to apply their expertise and adapt to a wide variety of topics.  As part of our robotics track, you can also take classes offered jointly with mechanical engineering and the school of computing.

The University of Utah is world-famous for the robotic systems it has produced, including manipulators such as the Utah/MIT Dextrous Hand, humanoid robots such as DB2, entertainment robots such as Jurassic Park the Ride dinosaurs, virtual reality systems such as the Sarcos Biport, and thought-controlled bionic arms such as the LUKE Arm. Faculty expertise is especially strong in the design of novel robot systems, including rehabilitation robotics, surgical robots, micro robots, aerial vehicles, precision positioning, and bio-inspired locomoting mechanisms, actuators, and sensors.


Course Numbering System

ECE X6xx = Power/Control/Robotics

Recommended Breadth Electives

3600 Intro to Power Engineering

3610 Fundamentals of Robotics & Cyberphysical Systems

Technical Electives

Class Non-yearly Options
5610 Power Electronics
5630/6630 Power System Economics
5625/6625 Power System Protection Even Years
5671/6671 Electric Generators IVC, Online
5680 Electrical Forensics Odd Years
5960 Robotic Millisystems
5960/6960 Linear Systems
6654 Neuro Engineering

Class Non-yearly Options
5620 Power Systems Analysis Online
5640 Power System Security Analysis
5615/5515 Classical Control Systems Starting 2025
5670 Control of Electric Motors IVC, Online
5960/6960 Convex Optimization
5960/6960 Power Systems Operation
5960/6960 Power Distribution Systems

Sample Four-Year Course Plans