At Michaels Energy, I was responsible for inspecting equipment for Alliant Energy’s residential load control program. Customers could have a device installed on their air conditioner and/or water heater that allowed Alliant Energy to remotely shut them off for short periods of time to reduce load on the grid during times of high demand. In exchange for this, customers would receive credit on their bill, so Alliant Energy wanted to ensure that the devices were still present and functioning. As these devices were simple radio receivers, they had no way to phone home, and each device needed to be manually inspected individually.

I was assigned approximately 3600 devices in southeast Iowa to inspect. I was totally on my own the entire summer. At every single house, I would knock on the door to let the customer know why I was there, then find the device(s) and ensure that their status lights showed they were operating correctly, and log this in a database.

As most of my job was the traveling salesman problem, I did use some of my programming knowledge to help me. I wrote a Python script to take the list of addresses Alliant Energy gave me and ran them through the Google Maps API to turn these into GPS coordinates. Then, I generated a .gpx file that I could load into my Garmin car GPS to easily see and navigate to customers.