By Mike McKissack
Students in the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration program at College of DuPage recently built two state-of-the-art cooler trainers to enhance training opportunities and further align the HVACR program with industry needs and trends.
The cooler trainers are the latest addition to the HVACR lab, built entirely by students over the last few years. The lab also includes a state-of-the-art hydronic boiler trainer and cutting edge electronics trainers. HVACR Program Coordinator Bob Clark said the lab is a testament to COD students’ abilities and work ethic.
“Our lab has been built completely by our students under faculty supervision and guidance,” he said. “We are providing them with world-class educational opportunities while letting our workforce community know that our students are developing real-world skills in the classroom.”
Funded through a $33,000 Perkins Grant, the two 8-foot by 24-foot cooler units feature closed-cell insulation. Each 24-foot section contains three freezers and features interior doors designed to change load characteristics, modelling real-life situations and creating variable training options. The units are able to support students walking on the top to further mimic real-world circumstances and provide increased training possibilities. Working with the coolers, students now have the ability to experience both rack and individual systems similar to those used in supermarkets and restaurants. Additionally, the coolers allow students to learn both wiring and mechanical control strategies.
Students built the coolers from the ground up, beginning with an installation class that put together the frames, followed by the mechanical and electrical components, which were added as part of a commercial refrigeration class.
“Working on the coolers was a great experience,” said recent graduate Mike Pagliuco. “It gave me real world experience in a controlled setting, so any mistakes you might make won’t cost thousands of dollars. In the end, I felt completely comfortable that when I threw the switch it was going to work, and it did.”
The Glen Ellyn resident, who earned his A.A.S. degree in Facility Maintenance this spring, said he enrolled at COD to create a new professional path for himself.
“I had spent the last several years in the workforce as a prep cook working in corporate kitchens and I was unsatisfied with where my career was going,” Pagliuco said. “I met an HVAC building engineer and saw that as something I could really enjoy. I came into this program with no knowledge in any of the trades. I didn’t even know what being an HVAC Technician entailed or how many different routes there were. I enrolled thinking I wanted to work on residential equipment. Now I work for a building automation company that controls skyscrapers in the city.”
Pagliuco said he plans to continue his studies at COD.
“Although I’ve already earned my degree, I keep coming back for more classes and to earn additional certificates because I feel like there is still so much to learn and COD has a great program and an all-star lineup of teachers,” he said.
Clark applauded the dedication of not only the students involved in building the cooler trainer, but of those who helped with funding and planning as well.
“This project would not have had a chance without the Perkins team and our administrative team,” said Clark. “It represents the power of change that can happen through Perkins when both faculty and administration work together to advance career and technical education.”
Constructing the refrigeration units provided an unparalleled opportunity for students to get real-world hands-on experience, said HVACR instructor Chris Lexow
"This was a fantastic project to work on with my class,” he said. “The best part about it was seeing the students come together and work and learn to work as a team to complete the task at hand."
Pagliuco said he is pleased with his choice to enroll at COD and pursue and new career path.
“The HVACR industry is an awesome place to be right now, but it requires a good education to thrive in it,” he said. “COD’s HVACR program gives you the hands-on knowledge to succeed in any of the many HVACR fields out there right off the bat. The program challenges you to be the best you can and those who want to succeed and try their best, will do so.”
COD’s HVACR program provides students with the theory of refrigeration, air conditioning and heating, electrical circuitry, control equipment, and system design. Students can choose from a variety of certificates, including Energy and Analysis, a Service Technician and a Stationary Operator certificates, as well as A.A.S. degrees such as Contractor, Service Technician and Facility Maintenance Mechanic.