It’s not uncommon for multiple generations of a family to attend the same university. But at the same time? Not usually.
In a twist on tradition, Terry Tucker and his son, Carson, both recently took the Power Systems Certificate program, offered by Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE). The two also work together, so for them, sitting next to each other in a classroom didn’t seem all that out of the ordinary.
The Power Systems program is for those who participate in the design, operations, and testing of energy management systems. The Tuckers’ consultancy practice with North Carolina-based Pro-Link Tech, LLC, deals with grounding issues of large coal, gas, and electrical facilities.
Carson is the youngest of the six Tucker children and the only one to join his father in business.
My father is my best friend, mentor, work associate, and an incredible source of inspiration. We’ve worked together, side-by-side, for almost 10 years now.
They communicate well and share the same interests, Terry said. And while he imparts his more extensive experience to his son, input flows in the other direction as well. The result of the two-way exchange is a greater pool of knowledge. “When you’ve got two people involved instead of one, it magnifies the efforts because you can explore things together,” said Terry.
That’s exactly what happened with the class. “When you’re taking a course, you don’t get it all,” he explained. “When you sit down and discuss it, you get a lot more perspective.”
That same collaborative approach is what ultimately led them to GTPE. “We were working with a facility that was having a problem, and we were having a hard time pinning it down,” Terry recalled. They’d heard about a device that tests energized grounding systems called the Smart Ground Multimeter, which had been developed by Georgia Tech Professor A.P. "Sakis" Meliopoulos. They contacted Meliopoulos and his colleague, George Cokkinides. “We had Sakis and George come out and do an evaluation,” Terry said, “Within three days, we had a solution.” That joint effort led to a relationship that has been ongoing ever since. “After that, we interfaced with them to get solutions to problems at facilities across the country for major clients.”
The collaboration reflects the same kind of synergy that their father-son relationship exhibits, with everyone bringing something different to the table. The Tuckers have a supply of in-the-field experience; the two professors possess constantly evolving technical expertise. And the consulting requests go both ways. “They have pulled us in on projects, too,” said Terry.
“Professors Meliopoulus and Cokkinides are quite well-known in the world of electrical engineering,” Carson noted. “I’ve been very fortunate to be able to learn and shape my path with them as constant sources of information and help. The knowledge itself is valuable beyond estimation.”
The Tuckers learned about GTPE’s Power Systems Certificate from Meliopoulos, who is the program administrator. They saw it as an opportunity for a deep dive into the technology of their field.
“This is extended technical training that you can’t get anywhere else because it’s so leading edge,” said Terry. It requires "the depth of knowledge like the people instructing the courses have, knowledge that is based not only on theory, but also on field experience. There is nowhere else we could have gained this knowledge. And I emphasize that. There is no better resource.”
He went on to explain that the benefits of the Power Systems program extend well beyond the material covered in class. Participation in GTPE programs opens the door to others at Georgia Tech, he said, and instructors and students form connections that stretch into the future.
The instructors continue to gain knowledge. We continue to gain knowledge. And when we come together, we share knowledge. So it doesn’t end. It keeps on. The learning doesn’t really stop.
Alongside that, Carson noted the importance of ongoing education. “In any profession, continuing to stay on top of what information is currently available is a necessary move to avoid career complacency. In a field such as electrical engineering, where the technology and understanding are progressively moving forward, if you don’t stay as up to date as possible, you’re likely to be phased out.”
But Terry stressed that not all educational programs are created equal. He finds that many provide “a lot of surplus information that really serves no purpose.” but that is not the case with GTPE. Instead, he said, classes are targeted and specific. “You’ve got people with similar interests who are pursuing things that are current, progressive, and solution-oriented.”
Carson agreed. “Safe to say, every single aspect of what’s covered in these courses directly relates to my job.”
Both Tuckers are all in when it comes to taking another GTPE program. “That is a definite ‘yes,’" said Carson. “It’s an absolutely enjoyable experience! I’m sure we’ll be seeing you guys again soon.”
Written by Laurel Ann Dooley