Bank of computer screens connected to circuit boards

Buffalo State Professor Lends Helping Hand to Utica-Area College


When Herkimer Community College started looking for assistance in building an electrical technology smart grid laboratory, it turned to Buffalo State College’s Ilya Y. Grinberg for help.

Grinberg, professor of engineering technology, was only too happy to offer his expertise.

The result was a $2 million electrical technology smart grid laboratory modeled after the lab at Buffalo State and a new electrical technology associate’s degree program at HCC. 

“I think that we have a wonderful collaboration,” Grinberg said. 

The laboratory and degree program will allow students at Herkimer to prepare for jobs in the utility industry, as well as seamlessly transfer to Buffalo State to pursue a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology.

“We are grateful for the funding and support from our partners on this project,” said Herkimer College President Cathleen McColgin. “We look forward to preparing our students and the workforce for lucrative careers in the utility industry.”

Grinberg said the collaboration was “mutually beneficial,” as it creates a pipeline for students to transfer directly to Buffalo State. The idea was to make the programs work together, he said, to ease the transition for students who choose to go on for an advanced degree at Buffalo State. 

In creating the program, Grinberg relied heavily on what’s already in place at Buffalo State. He assisted Herkimer with buying the equipment and became a liaison between the school and the manufacturer. Classes working on similar topics between the two schools may collaborate over the Internet, as well.

Herkimer first approached Grinberg about the project several years ago, and came back to him once the financial backing for the project was confirmed.

Funding for the project was made possible through an investment of $949,000 from the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and donations from private entities. Those funds were matched by the State University of New York Community College Capital Program for a total project cost of $2,090,000.

“Herkimer County Community College’s Electrical Technology Smart Grid Lab will educate and inspire the next generation of utility workers with the unique skills required for the energy industry as it transitions to the grid of the future,” said Gil C. Quiniones, New York Power Authority president and CEO. “It is an exciting time to choose energy as a field, as it is rapidly evolving to proactively address climate change. This lab will ensure that we have the skilled workforce to help New York state modernize its power grid and expand our focus on incorporating renewable energy sources into our power grid. This lab will help us all achieve Governor Cuomo’s aggressive clean energy vision.”

Included in the laboratory and classroom setup is the installation of a grid-parallel photovoltaic electrical generation system and an emergency generator that includes grid-integrated controls for parallel operation to enable the college’s participation in the New York Independent System Operators’ energy demand response programs. The laboratory also includes energy-efficiency heating ventilation and air conditioning system upgrades as well as lighting upgrades.

Grinberg said he will help the program prepare for accreditation, as well. As an alternate commissioner for ABET, which provides accreditation to college and university programs in the STEM disciplines, including engineering technology, Grinberg is well positioned to help.

“I know the drill,” he said.

Looking forward, Grinberg said he’s excited about what the future holds for both programs and how they can benefit each other. 

“It’s a benefit to the schools,” he said. “It’s a benefit to the profession. I care about the profession very much, and it was the right thing to do.”

Photo courtesy of the New York Power Authority