Middle school students throughout Wisconsin have some big ideas about how cities could be better designed in the future. Sixth, seventh and eighth grade students shared their ideas at the Future City Competition last month at Milwaukee School of Engineering during Wisconsin’s regional competition. And American Transmission Co. employees had the opportunity to share in the students’ positive energy.
Future City is a national program that encourages students to use science, technology, engineering and math to solve real‑world problems. This year, students across the country designed a city that addressed age‑related accessibility issues. They created a virtual city, wrote a 1,500‑word essay, created a physical scale model, drafted a project plan, and presented their city to judges. The team from St. Alphonsus School in Greendale, Wis., won the Wisconsin regional competition. The team is headed to Washington, D.C. to compete in the finals in February.
For Wisconsin’s regional competition, the Southeast Wisconsin chapter of Project Management Institute chose to offer its own award, the PMI Planning Award, to a team that presented an outstanding project. Three ATC employees who are members of Project Management Institute, Cerise Reed, senior desktop administrator; Devonne Wilhoit, business relationship manager; and Cheryl Nowak, business relationship manager, helped select the winner of the PMI Planning Award.
“The criteria for the project management award included showing consistent understanding of communication, collaboration, planning, prioritizing, effective problem solving and time management,” said Wilhoit.
The team from Golda Meir School in Milwaukee won the PMI Planning award.
“It is so inspiring to see the energy, compassion and technical curiosity that these young groups bring to our community,” said Wilhoit. “The ideas presented were very well thought out. It is an honor to support our leaders of the future and to be a part of their forward thinking of how they can contribute to what is to come.”
ATC is committed to supporting quality STEM education. ATC employees frequently visit middle and high schools throughout ATC’s service area to share their own stories about successful careers in STEM. ATC also helps schools design projects that give students real‑world experience solving engineering problems.
On Wednesday, Jan. 31, each American Transmission Co. office held a Soup-er Bowl to help support local food pantries. Employees stirred up their favorite recipes for soup and chili and shared them with co-workers in exchange for a donation to help feed the hungry.
Together the donations totaled $1,108.81, benefiting Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee, Second Harvest of Southern Wisconsin, Paul’s Pantry in Green Bay and St. Vincent De Paul food pantry in Iron Mountain, Mich. That is truly Soup-er support for our community!
Gail Wagner, consultant system control operator, has been with American Transmission Co. since it was founded in 2001 as the nation’s first multi-state transmission-only utility. She says she has stayed with ATC all these years because she knows the company cares about her and about what’s most important to her.
Today, Wagner works in ATC’s control center, operating the grid in real time. She helps move electricity from where it’s generated to where it’s needed through ATC’s network of transmission infrastructure, coordinating with crews performing maintenance in the field. While careful planning goes into operating the grid, when storms arise or the unexpected happens, Wagner and the other system control operators must be ready to respond.
“I love what I do. I love the hectic pace it could bring. I love the interaction with the people out in the field. Every day I come to work, it’s going to be different. I do take a lot of pride in my job,” said Wagner.
Thinking on her feet comes naturally to Wagner. In her spare time, she volunteers with the Emergency Medical Service in Lake Mills, Wis. When she goes out on a call, Wagner may administer medications and help start intravenous fluids for people in medical emergencies.
“It matters to me that ATC does value my work as a Lake Mills EMS volunteer. ATC did support our fundraiser this year, gave a nice donation to our organization to help that cause,” she said.
Since she started at ATC, Wagner has moved to four different positions, learning the organization and what it takes to operate the grid. She says that ATC is a great place for motivated individuals who are willing to learn.
“ATC will open the doors, give you all the training you need, and from there, you can become whatever it is you want to become. You have your future in your own hands,” she said.
If you’re interested in working with Wagner and other talented system operators at ATC, check out our careers page to search open positions.
American Transmission Co. employees are meeting with contractors, landscapers, plumbers, home builders, utility workers, farmers and other professional excavators throughout Wisconsin to discuss safe digging procedures when working around underground and overhead utilities.
The discussions are happening at Diggers Hotline’s Excavator Safety Meetings, which provide an overview of best practices and guidelines for excavating near a number of different types of facilities. The meetings run January through April. During the meetings, business owners, construction workers and municipal employees enjoy a meal while speakers explain the steps they must take before breaking ground on any project to avoid hitting underground gas, electric, fiber optic and private facilities, like underground sprinkler systems. Speakers also cover how to locate underground facilities and what to do in an emergency. Crews have the opportunity to network with the companies and organizations that own the facilities they may need to work around in the field.
Before digging, the first step is to call Diggers Hotline at 811 or to file a request online. Next, the crew should call the owner of the utility that they are working near. If workers are near ATC’s overhead or underground electric transmission lines, they should call (866) 899-3204 to discuss the facilities in the area and determine whether an ATC representative is needed onsite. This video provides an over view of best practices:
ATC participates in the meetings because we care about the safety of everyone that lives and works around ATC facilities. Check out the gallery to see photos from some of the meetings this year.
At ATC, we care about delivering power safely and reliably. We also care about our environment and our communities. We work to balance our obligation to operate our facilities safely while being a respectful neighbor.
Removal of trees around transmission lines is an important part of operating the lines safely and reliably. If vegetation grows too close to the wires, it can cause a dangerous situation. A tree branch does not even need to come in contact with a transmission line to create a hazard; electricity can jump from the wires to another source, such as a tree, igniting a fire or creating a dangerous electrical path. If this happens, there is an obvious safety risk to anyone nearby or any crews working on the lines. Wide-spread power outages can also occur.
Understandably, some landowners question the need for removal of trees that might have been trimmed, or allowed to remain, in the past. After widespread outages in other parts of the country, vegetation management practices throughout the industry and at ATC have changed in recent years.
We manage vegetation within our rights-of-way, which include land directly below and beside the wires. In all cases, incompatible vegetation within the wire zone must be cleared. Tall-growing trees, vegetation and brush must be cleared, but some low-growing shrubs and plants may be permitted. In partnership with gardening expert and horticulturist Melinda Myers, our Grow Smart® program helps property owners and communities identify low-growing, beautiful, native vegetation that can be planted the smart way – a safe distance from transmission lines. View or print the Grow Smart Planting Guide or Grow Smart Pollinator Guide for suggested vegetation that is similar to what we plant in our rights-of-ways after construction.
We conduct right-of-way vegetation management approximately every five years with the goal of removing all incompatible vegetation. Interim work to trim or remove vegetation is sometimes needed. Crews use manual, mechanical and limited herbicide control methods to achieve a clear and safe right-of way. We contract with professional tree trimming and removal companies that have extensive experience in proper pruning and removal techniques.
We typically notify landowners by mail in advance of any work on their properties and provide a description of our plans, the reason for the work, the time frame and contact information for an ATC representative.
We are also proud to be recognized as a leader in responsible vegetation management practices. We have received the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Line USA® designation every year since 2008. Our Community Planting Program helps support efforts to beautify communities in our service area in a way that’s consistent with safety and maintenance standards. Eligible cities, villages, towns, counties and tribes may apply for financial support for planning projects on public property within their communities. Applications are accepted June 1 through Sept. 30 each year. In fact, we just awarded $56,000 to 27 communities as part of the project.
If you have any questions about our practices, we encourage you to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.