Posts Tagged ‘Laramie County Community College’

Word of the Day: Nacelle

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Wind TurbineDo you think you have a good vocabulary? Here’s one for you: What is the definition of “nacelle”? We’ll give you a few clues.

Clue #1: A wind turbine couldn’t function without one. Wind turbines are the towering windmill-style mechanisms that convert the flow of wind into the mechanical motion that is used to produce electricity. Today, wind power accounts for about 50 percent of our country’s renewable energy and, according to the American Wind Energy Association, is one of the fastest growing sources of electricity in the world today. Among the more than 8,000 parts that make up a wind turbine are three major components: the blades, the tower and the nacelle.

Clue #2: They frequently require the services of Wind Techs. Wind Turbine Service Technicians, or “wind techs” are the men and women who provide regular maintenance for wind turbines — especially the nacelles. According to a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics wind techs are capable of diagnosing and fixing any problem that might require a wind turbine to shut down, and they perform much of their daily work in nacelles.

Clue #3: They’re bigger than the proverbial bread box, and sometimes large enough for a helicopter to land upon.

If, by now, you’re thinking that the nacelle is the “brain” of the wind turbine, you’re right. Derived from the French word for “small boat,” the nacelle is the compact space that houses the turbine’s gears, generator and other mechanical components. The nacelle also contains the complex electronic components that enable the turbine to monitor changes in wind speed and direction in order to turn wind into useable energy. (To learn more, check out “How Wind Turbines Work” from the U.S. Department of Energy.)

And, if the nacelle is the brain of the wind turbine, then Wind Techs are the brain surgeons, keeping these complex components functioning smoothly. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wind Turbine Service Technicians actually perform the majority of their daily work inside the nacelles’ compact space at the top of the tower, as they clean and lubricate shafts, bearings, gears and other machinery, and troubleshoot potential generator problems. Wind techs may also work outside on top of the nacelle, hundreds of feet in the air, replacing the instruments that measure wind speed and direction.

Training programs in wind turbine maintenance are offered at community colleges across the country, and generally include course work in basic turbine design, diagnositics, control and monitoring systems, as well as basic turbine repair. Many programs, like the one at Laramie County Community College featured in this week’s Episode, also offer students hands-on training. Check out the Windustry web site for a full list of educational programs.

And, just think, you’re already ahead of the game — you know what a nacelle is. (For extra credit, check out some other wind-energy “vocabulary” words at The Energy Bible.)

Community College Summit

Friday, October 15th, 2010

The White House Summit on Community Collegescollege

Last week, the inaugural Summit on Community Colleges was held at the White House, helping to draw attention to a valuable educational resource. As Dr. Jill Biden noted in the program’s opening remarks, “[Community colleges serve as] an important next step in our [nation’s] efforts to meet the President’s goal of having the best-educated, most competitive workforce in the world by the end of this decade.”

Community colleges are an American invention that were first introduced nearly 100 years ago to help broaden educational opportunities. According to the American Association of Community Colleges,
as of the Fall 2007, a total of 7.4 million individuals were enrolled in credit programs at 1,165 community colleges nationwide. Forty percent were attending on a full-time basis; 60 percent attended part-time.

Here’s what President Barack Obama had to say in his remarks at the Summit, “[Community colleges] are places where workers can gain new skills to move up in their careers. These are places where anyone with a desire to learn and to grow can take a chance on a brighter future for themselves and their families – whether that’s a single mom, or a returning solider, or an aspiring entrepreneur.”

We didn’t have to venture further than this week’s ATETV Episode to find a great example of these very circumstances: Laramie County Community College student Stacy Brandt is enrolled in the school’s Wind Energy Technology Program. Stacy was a stay-at-home mom for eight years, but as she told ATETV, she needed to go back to work following her divorce and was looking for a career with a future.

“I don’t fit in the box,’” Stacy explained. “I love the hands-on aspects of working on the wind turbines…and I think if you have a job that is also your interest, even your passion, then it makes it easy to get up in the morning.” Plus, she adds, “My son is now 9. He thinks what his Mom is doing is cool.”

Writing about the White House Summit, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan noted, “Community colleges have never been more important. They are educating the workforce of the future – the radiologic technicians; the registered nurses; the installation experts on solar and wind power; the IT and cyber-security technicians; the displaced workers in need of retraining and new careers; and scientists and other professionals.”

Check out the ATETV Archives to learn about these and other offerings at community colleges around the country, and hear from other students about their experiences. We think you’ll find that community colleges provide lots of cool options.

ATETV Episode 46: Creating Marketable Skills for Cutting-Edge Industries

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

This week, we look at a program that is enabling students to bring their creativity to life, see how older and younger students can learn from one another, and hear from employers how Wind Energy Technology careers are soaring.

In our first segment, we talk with Brian Simpson, a student in the Simulation and Game Development Program at Wake Technical Community College. Brian’s lifelong love of video games is translating into a marketable skill as he studies Video Game Design. “It’s great to actually be doing [video game design] instead of just imagining doing it,” says Brian. “It’s like bringing your imagination to life and it’s just an amazing experience.” Incorporating math skills, programming, graphic design and, yes, imagination, Video Game Design is much more than fun and games — for students like Brian, it’s a promising future.

In our second segment, we visit Sinclair Community College where students in the Green Building Technology program are also embarking on fascinating future careers — some for the second time. As Sinclair’s Bob Gilbert tells us, “We’ve had some people who’ve been [working] in the building industry for a number of years, but when they find out how much they can benefit from weatherization programs [and other new building programs] they’re amazed.”

As a result, the program at Sinclair is made up of a mix of younger and older students who not only learn from Bob and other instructors, but also learn from one another. As 58-year-old student Howard Drucker explains, “I found my experience with the younger students very enjoyable — they’re bright young, excited about getting started. So it’s been very enjoyable, almost inspiring at times.” Adds Bob Gilbert, “The older people bring life experience to the classroom and that adds a lot…it makes things very realistic.”

Finally, in our third segment, we look at another relationship that’s working extremely well, this time between students in the Wind Energy Technology Program at Laramie Community College and area Wind Energy employers in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

“Our relationship with Laramie County Community College began during the construction of our facility,” explains Tom Bailey of Duke Energy Generation Services. “Wind energy is an important career track because of climate change regulations. People are more interested in renewable energy, and [wind energy] is a cutting-edge sort of field.”

It’s also a field full of opportunity, according to employer Mark Guilloz of enXco. “In the last four years or so, we’ve seen exponential growth throughout the industry,” says Mark. “It’s growing so rapidly that the manpower, the knowledge, the expertise that we’re reaching for is very difficult to find.”

But, as both Mark and Tom note, their companies’ close relationships with Laramie have enabled them to find top-notch students with up-to-date knowledge of today’s Wind Energy industry — and given students a chance to literally climb to new heights.

ATETV Episode 20: It’s All about Jobs

Monday, February 1st, 2010

ATETV hits a milestone with its 20th episode this week, and we’re marking the occasion by focusing on the issue of jobs and the needs of our workforce. In particular, this week we look at how ATE programs are training students for work in the new green economy, and to meet the high demand for technicians in many fields.

First, we head out to Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where Jonathan Terry is studying to be a wind turbine technician. Jonathan actually has a bachelor’s degree in international business, but he went back to school because he saw that wind energy is a growing industry.

Jonathan’s story illustrates a larger issue we cover in our second segment this week: the need for skilled technicians in many industries, from green tech to lab work. “The ability for the two-year community colleges to deliver these workers as quickly as they can, this is an area that has become critical to the United States economic position in the world,” says Ellen Bemben of the Regional Technology Corporation.

Finally, we take a look at one specific type of green job that’s in high demand. Sinclair Community College is partnering with affordable housing groups to conduct energy audits and weatherize homes. “It creates an awareness about what can be gained from energy efficiency,” says Sinclair’s Bob Gilbert. “And the possibilities for our students in the job market just keeps increasing and increasing.”

As the country continues to focus on creating more opportunities for the future, students should look into community colleges as a fast, cost-effective way to prepare for secure, in-demand careers.