Andrew Johnson '15

Nicole Sheldon

Andrew Johnson has spent his years since high school doing research and development for the St. Thomas Center for Microgrid Research, after he started college at the University of St. Thomas and interned for their program.  

Andrew's Beginning's in the International Space Station Project at MA

Andrew was a part of the International Space Station project through a new class that had just started at MA called Applied Research and Engineering. “I joined the second year of the program, my junior year, and that’s what got me on the engineering track. No one wanted to do the electrical team but me, and because of that, I’m in the Microgrid research program at St. Thomas!”  

Through his experience at Minnehaha, Andrew was encouraged to be curious. “I learned that it’s fun—it’s actually cool to learn.  A lot of kids nowadays think that education is dumb and you don’t need education—you can make your millions from other things like social media, YouTube, or being an influencer; and you don’t need education or college. I believe you’ll still need the skills, and you’re not going to have any time in your life where you can set aside 8 hours a day to learn and not have other significant life responsibilities. My MA education was important to me. I enjoyed science but had zero clue what I was going to do with my life.” 

Becoming An Intern with the Center for Microgrid Research

Andrew and colleague discussing findings at a lab

Andrew graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2019 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. While in college, as an intern with the Center for Microgrid Research, his role was to do research on the Microgrid and to set up protection pieces for a Relay. A Microgrid is an independent power network that uses local, distributed energy resources to provide grid backup or off-grid power to meet local electricity needs. They are small (micro) and offer an interconnecting system of links (grid).  A Relay  receives an electrical signal and sends the signal to other equipment by turning the switch on and off. 

Andrew first researched how the Relay works, then wrote a manual on its programming and the methods used to do the settings. He then included what he saw as the limitations of it as well as potential future work. He also programmed in some new functionality. (Currently the Microgrid is fully automated.) In addition, he served as the interface for the automation engineer interns.  “I helped them create an HMI--Human Machine Interface—of any application from which you can control all of your devices. I programmed current capturing. I conducted experiments. I laid the groundwork for future research.” 

Andrew Recently Presented His Master's Thesis, Which Took 14 Months to Complete

Andrew just finished his master’s in Electrical Engineering in Power Systems. In July 2021 he presented his thesis, which took him 14 months to complete. His thesis was to create a scalable, affordable Protection Relay for a Microgrid. He did research and development and created one for under $50, which is unheard of when most cost several thousands of dollars.

“I built the test fixture, the hardware, software, did the price analysis, methodology, everything. It was a lot of work.  Hopefully it goes well enough that you can buy it in a couple of years!”

When Andrew started at MA, he was encouraged by his shadow tour host, Tommy Ostrem, who was a year older than him and who welcomed him and introduced him to other Christian friends. Reverend Dan Bergstrom was his advisor all 4 years. “He was my confidant, very much an influence and a driving person in my life. Having that community with the guys during advisory time was huge.” At college Andrew got involved in many clubs, both professional and Christian. His advisor since his freshman year of college, Dr. Greg Mowry, is still his advisor now and owns a company that Andrew works for and does research with. “Dr. Mowry is also a believer.  He’s an amazing witness of God’s creativity.” 

What's Next? 

What’s next for Andrew? “I’m a research student. I’m just writing—that is my work—until I have work.” I know Andrew will go on to do great things in the field of Microgrid research. Someday, we may all own a part of his research with solar panels on our homes or businesses, and get to see him make a difference with affordable, renewable energy in parts of the world that are less resourced.  


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