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CVTC kicks off fall term, to put new Energy Education Center on display at Sept. 28 open house

EAU CLAIRE – Kyle Hislip already felt at home sitting in the lobby of the new Energy Education Center at Chippewa Valley Technical College on Monday, Aug. 24. The second-year Agriscience Technician student from Chippewa Falls said he loves his program’s new home, which held classes for the first time that day with the opening of CVTC’s fall semester.

But Hislip had already spent a lot of time at the new building at CVTC’s West Campus, just off Highway 312 in Eau Claire. “I was coming out here in early August on my internship with CVTC to help get things set up,” he said. “This suits our needs so well. It’s right next to our test crops.”

Those test crops – on acres of land nearby where CVTC agriculture students plant, manage and harvest crops – are why Hislip will probably not be spending a lot of time at the Energy Education Center. At this point in his program, Hislip will be spending less time in classrooms and most of his time in those fields and others like them around the Chippewa Valley, learning agriscience in an applied, hands-on fashion.

The Energy Education Center is the most conspicuous new feature at CVTC as a new school year gets underway. It is the new home for CVTC programs in Electrical Power Distribution; Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology; Agriscience Technician; Landscape, Plant and Turf Management; and Transportation. The many features of the new facility will be unveiled for the public at an open house Sept. 28.

While there is much new at the Energy Education Center, what continues at CVTC is the hands-on learning that sends Hislip and his fellow students out into the fields and attracts new students who want to learn by doing.

Matt Swenson, a 2004 Elk Mound High School graduate now living in Eau Claire, attended his first day of classes in the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology program. He’s been working in maintenance at a local hotel and is looking for career advancement.

“I work with all the HVAC equipment at the hotel,” he said. “I’m interested in the commercial refrigeration field; that’s where the jobs are.”

Like many non-traditional students at CVTC, Swenson has a family at home and is still working full time. “Working full time and going to school 35 hours a week, it’s going to be a long nine months,” he said.

The instructors appreciate how the new Energy Education Center facilities will enhance their efforts.

“It’s going to give us a great opportunity for hands-on activities with the students, whether it’s inside or outside on the grounds,” said Susan Frame, Landscape, Plant and Turf Management instructor. “And it will be easier to do group projects because everything is on wheels. We can move things around.”

CVTC Energy Education Center Open House to be held Sept. 28

The latest technology in alternative energy and energy-efficient building features will be on public display Monday, Sept. 28 when Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) holds an open house at its new Energy Education Center (EEC).

The open house will be held from 4-7 p.m., following a ribbon cutting ceremony at the building on CVTC’s West Campus, 4000 Campus Road, Eau Claire. The EEC faces Highway 312 just west of the Clairemont Avenue exit.

Classes in seven CVTC program areas have been held at the new facility since the opening of CVTC’s fall term on Aug. 24. The EEC and surrounding grounds are home to the CVTC programs in Electrical Power Distribution; Lineworker Apprentice; Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology; Agriscience Technician; Farm Business; Landscape, Plant and Turf Management; and Truck Driving.

The programs focus on energy technology in three areas, including energy generation, energy distribution, and efficient utilization and conservation.

At the open house, the public will see what the students discovered immediately: the EEC is no ordinary college building.

“The design and the technologies of the Energy Education Center provide an opportunity for students to interact with the building itself,” said Aliesha Crowe, executive director of the CVTC Foundation, which funded a substantial part of the approximately $10 million cost. “The building is a dynamic learning environment as students are able to manipulate the energy management systems then monitor the building energy usage.”

“The operations of the building are tied into the instruction we give our students,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker. “It’s a merger of operations and instruction.”

Upon entering the large student commons area, visitors will immediately notice the glass walls that make maximum use of natural light to supplement the high-efficiency LED lighting. Less obvious are chilled beams in the high ceiling and an in-floor heating system. The chilled beams cool the air above, which produces a natural air circulation system as warm air rises and cool air sinks.

“We’re trying to be efficient, with low environmental impact, and make common-sense decisions on the ways we approach things,” said Associate Dean of Energy and Agriculture Adam Wehling. “It’s representative of where the industries are going.”

CVTC is seeking LEED Gold Level certification for the building.

“The centerpiece of the facility will be a geothermal system that takes advantage of the earth’s constant temperature to provide both heating and cooling,” said CVTC Director of Facilities Rod Bagley.

The heart of that system, designed and installed by MEP Associates of Eau Claire, is found in a mechanical room in the center of the building, on full display behind glass walls and with water intake and return pipes color coded and labeled.

“The systems will be learning opportunities for the students,” said architect Tom Twohig of SDS Architects. “The intent is to have the systems visible to the students,” Twohig said.

Such features that merge the function of the facility and its educational goals are also evident on the outside grounds. Landscape, Plant and Turf Management students will learn through their role in taking care of the grounds and the interior plants. The grounds include a rain garden, a vegetated depression that collects, filters, and recharges storm water into the ground through the use of native plant species.

Each of the program areas will be interacting with the facility in their own way, making use of state-of-the-art lab facilities.

Electrical Power Distribution students, who have a new fully-powered “hot lab,” will learn how to tie in solar and wind equipment to the building, and to the area’s electrical power grid. Agriscience students will spend much of their time at nearby fields working with test crops in a program heavily geared toward precision agriculture principles.

Wehling said Agriscience students will also continue their work in biofuels. “We grow the crops, run them through biofuel equipment and extract the oil and make biodiesel, which can power the truck that pulls the mobile biodiesel lab trailer, and a Kubota UTV, which is used to take precision soil samples using GPS coordinates,” Wehling said.

The open house will include plenty of hands-on activities and interesting demonstrations. People will be able to climb an electrical pole in the indoor hot lab, see solar electricity production, learn how biodiesel fuel is made, check out the new greenhouse and see a “high tunnel” structure that helps extend the growing season for plants.

“CVTC has always invested in the training of the next generation of workers,” Wehling said. “We’re proud to present the Energy Education Center as the latest example of how our programs and facilities serve the needs of both our students and the businesses and industries working to stay ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing environment.”

Chippewa Valley Technical College delivers superior, progressive technical education which improves the lives of students, meets the workforce needs of the region, and strengthens the larger community. Campuses are located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls. CVTC serves an 11-county area in west central Wisconsin. CVTC is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.