Apprentice Steamfitters Use Donated Cooling Tower for Hands-on Training
December, 6th 2017 Comments Views
Students and instructors install a Marley NC cooling tower that serves as the centerpiece for learning start-up and maintenance.
the Steamfitters UA Local #602 Mechanical Trades School needed
equipment to use in its apprenticeship program, a major industrial and
mechanical equipment distributor fulfilled the entire wish list through
manufacturer donations. The equipment, including a Marley® NC cooling
tower donated by SPX Cooling Technologies, enables the school to present
students with a real-world environment. Instructors use the complete
new cooling system to teach students how to troubleshoot and fix
problems with HVAC systems.
Local Pipefitter’s Union Beefs Up Training Spaces
UA Local #602 Mechanical Trades School recently expanded and renovated
its training facilities. The union, which represents journeymen,
apprentices and helpers working in the heating, air conditioning,
refrigeration and process piping industries, sought equipment donations
to outfit the school and help with its apprenticeship training mission.
The school, with training centers in Landover, MD and Springfield, VA,
offers a five-year apprenticeship and trains a diverse group of over 700
students aged 19 to 70.
Apprentices are assigned to a union contractor and jobsite, and generally work 40 hours per week. Classes range from soldering and brazing, health and safety, and drawing and blueprint reading to basic and advanced refrigeration and electricity.
Balderson, Assistant Training Director, explains that the nonprofit
school has a very small equipment budget, so he has to think creatively
to beef up the equipment available for HVAC training. Balderson is the
coordinator for the school’s HVAC department, and trains air
conditioning, refrigeration and boiler technicians.
“Being able to expose our students to real equipment gives us a greater advantage compared to teaching out of a book,” Balderson added. “Classroom time is necessary, but we must reinforce it with hands-on training.”
Balderson notes that he and other instructors regularly ask vendors if they know anyone discarding equipment. “If they are going to replace equipment and it’s still usable, we’ll arrange to come get it. Hands-on knowledge is the most important part of the steamfitter’s trade, so the ability to have access to real equipment to solve real-time problems is essential in the industry.”
He developed a long equipment wish
list, at the top of which was a cooling tower and a small boiler. Word
got out about the school’s request, and Balderson was approached by Ryan
Kern at Cummins-Wagner. Cummins-Wagner Co., Inc. is an employee-owned
industrial and mechanical equipment distributor headquartered in
Annapolis Junction, Maryland.
knew Kern from his years working in the trade. Kern made the rounds to a
variety of manufacturers to solicit equipment donations. Cummins-Wagner
also supplied products from its inventory to include Bell &
Gossett™ pumps and a Lochinvar FTXL™ boiler. Christmas in July fashion,
Kern was able to supply the school with all its wish list items.
SPX agreed to donate a factory-assembled single-cell crossflow Marley NC® 8401 cooling tower. Originally constructed as a demonstration cooling tower for trade shows, the tower is typical of what students would see in the field every day, making it an excellent fit for the school. “When I was in the field, the Marley brand was known as one of the superior cooling towers out there, so I was happy when I heard we had an opportunity to get one for our program,” Balderson said.
to Kern, both Cummins-Wagner and SPX support the union and the trades,
and were onboard with helping them meet their training needs. “We are
committed to the students’ education and are excited to get the
equipment into the hands of the next generation of pipefitters and HVAC
Cooling Tower Central to Training
cooling tower is key to the students’ hands-on training. When it was
delivered, the apprentices helped install the tower, and now it is being
used to cool one of the new classrooms.
The instructors also use the tower in conjunction with other pieces of HVAC equipment in the classroom. The availability of real operating equipment allows instructors to intentionally put “faults” in the system as it runs, so they can train students to troubleshoot. When the system shuts down – for example, a pump that has stopped pumping water or a fan no longer pulling air through the heat exchanger – the apprentice is tasked with identifying the problem and fixing it.
could buy trainer units, but having the real thing is so much better,”
says Balderson. “A working cooling system where I can place faults that
HVAC technicians have to fix is the best way to train. They can process
firsthand how important it is to properly maintain equipment and
components, and how water treatment is critical to product lifecycle.”
Equipment Donation Empowers Training
In sum, Balderson says, “Without these kinds of equipment donations, we could not provide the education we do. They help us educate our apprentices to a high level.”