COD Builds World-Class Electronics Trainers
By Mike McKissack
Funded through a Perkins Grant, eight state-of-the-art electronic controls trainers were recently designed by HVACR Program Coordinator Bob Clark and constructed by COD instructors and students.
According to Clark, the trainers surpass commercially available trainers and were built for only a fraction of the cost.
“A commercially available trainer of this type comes with a price tag of about $45,000,” Clark said. “From the $15,000 Perkins grant, we were able to build eight trainers of our own that provide much more flexibility than any offered by technical educational suppliers.”
The multifunctional trainers are adaptable to a variety of facility electrical systems and feature an array of components that mimic the kinds of equipment students will see in the field.
“The components are wired and broken out into screw-less DIN connectors that allow the use of regular wire, which is much more cost effective,” Clark said. “These are connectors that all control systems are evolving into in the field.”
Clark added that the trainers use programmable variable frequency drives that are in practically every facility and on most HVACR equipment. He also said safety was an important part of the design.
“The trainers were designed so there are no loose wires hanging out or pricey connectors that have exposed metal parts,” he said. “In addition, the control circuits are built with low voltage coils, making it a much safer environment for student learners.”
Currently, the trainers are being used to instruct students in three class offerings and enabled the College to offer a new class: Facility Electrical Systems, for which the trainers provided a necessary lab component covering facility electrical scenarios and components.
Clark said designing and building training such systems are a direct result of support from a range of people and resources within the College.
“Projects like this would not be possible without the support and understanding of the technology administrative team,” he said. “Credit must also be given to Jonita Ellis and the Perkins team for developing and providing training seminars for faculty so that projects like this can become a reality.”
Clark said the project is a great example of the importance of technical education and its significance to the local industry and community, as well as the community of educators beyond the borders of the College’s campus. He plans to share the design of the trainers, as well as the program curriculum with Perkins to use as a model for other educators and institutions.
“This is part of doing our duty as technical educators,” he said. “This type of training used to belong almost exclusively to apprenticeship-style learning and has been given to us. We have the duty to be grateful for the opportunity and perform it well. We do that by being proactive in our approach, providing our students with cutting-edge learning opportunities and keeping up with evolving technology.”
The HVACR program at College of DuPage provides students with a general technical background, including the theory of refrigeration, air conditioning and heating, electrical circuitry, control equipment and system design, and allows for specialization in a range of areas. Classroom instruction is enhanced through hands-on learning in state-of-the-art labs on cutting-edge training equipment. The core curriculum forms the basis for several certificates and three Associate in Applied Science degrees: Service Technician, Contractors and Facility Maintenance Mechanic.
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