Individuals skilled in electrical trades are always in demand. As new homes, buildings, and industries spring up, the need for electrical energy increases, as does the need for competent electrical technicians. The Electrical Technology program at Northeast Technology Center has been based on a long-standing tradition of success. The traditional wiring approach to teaching this program has prepared countless graduates for employment and sustainability. However, the advanced skill level emerging trends have required electrical technicians to have means transitioning to simulation-based learning must be a natural enhancement for electrical training programs.
And thanks to a $50,000 High Growth and Emerging Technologies grant from Carl Perkins, NTC Afton Electrical Technology students now have opportunities to learn many new real-world applications that will be helpful in their future careers without ever leaving the classroom.
“Electrical Technology programs today can no longer rely on the structural approach of wired buildings only,” said Keith Glenn, Electrical Technology Instructor. “Technology plays a major role in what we do. Just as electrical contractors must decide to remain stuck in the traditional methods or leverage the new technologies, technical schools have the same decision to make.”
For NTC, that’s an easy decision. With a mission of Preparing Individuals for Successful Careers, NTC places embracing technology and technology-rich course curriculum to prepare students for a fast-paced changing workplace as a top priority.
“The old methods may still form the backbone of the electrical courses that prepare students to become apprentices and installers, but employers don't have a problem with the new ways of efficiency when it comes to saving time and money,” said Glenn. “In fact, they expect it.”
The largest component of the project purchased with the grant funds is the Industrial Controls Training System. The simulator system includes an extensive array of modules that represent control components found in industry, which creates setups for a large number of training needs for students. Comprehensive on-line curriculum includes student manuals with hands-on exercises and instructor guides.
“The electrical connections between the modules mirror real-life connections,” said Glenn. “The motors in the training system are actual industrial machines. The simulation software allows students to complete all the exercises in the training system courseware on a computer. That’s a great option because it allows students to walk through the project on the computer then apply it to the actual trainer.”
Add-ons to the Industrial Controls Training System also purchased with the grant funds include a sensor package, industrial controls simulation software, eSeries & IC simulation software, an AC/DC training system, a pneumatics system and a hydraulics package.
Simulators are used in many industries for training, testing and education. Simulation is often used when the “real world” condition cannot be easily created, is too costly or too hazardous. The new equipment purchased with this grant is designed to introduce and embed simulator systems that fit all three of those criterion.
“In my classroom, it would be a costly challenge to teach industrial controls, AC/DC training, sensors, hydraulics and pneumatics with actual equipment,” said Glenn. “But with simulators, the processes can be taught and retaught in a safe environment, and the outcome can prepare graduates for the workplace in 2016 at an affordable cost.”
First year students will use the AC/DC training system, which introduces students to the basic principles of electrical circuits to apply electrical theory and hands-on exercises on relevant topics such as nature of electricity, Ohm's law, Kirchhoff's voltage and current laws, using measuring instruments, solving series and parallel circuits, and troubleshooting electrical circuits. Second year students will use the Industrial Controls Training System to further apply electrical theory and techniques of electric motor controllers, mount control devices to form typical control circuits and troubleshoot. Students will then be able to demonstrate their abilities of a complete motor control circuit. The scenarios used in the training system and curriculum are commonly used in industry.
“The concept is to teach students how to use advanced technology, think critically, adapt quickly and interact with their classmates for the purpose of resolution,” said Glenn. “This goal can only be met by embedding simulation-based curriculum therefore providing real-world experience through simulation modules so that students will be better prepared for the workforce.”
Glenn plans to reapply for a second part of the grant which could be another $50,000 to advance the Electrical Technology program at the NTC Afton Campus.