Nasser Dollah, an instructor from Triton College in Melrose Park, IL part of IUOE Local 399 was recently invited to IUOE’s (International Union of Operating Engineers) brand new International Conference and Training Center in Cosby, Texas to develop and teach a 4-day course on Building Automation Systems (BAS). This world-class facility is the largest and most comprehensive training facility for union Operating and Stationary Engineers in North America and it was designed to develop and improve the skills of members, instructors, staff, and to meet the increasingly higher training and skills needs of the industry. Approximately twenty-five students attended the course representing regions from all over the United States including Chicago, New York, New Jersey and Georgia. The course covered areas of basic control theory, DDC device configuration, ventilation systems, calibration of HVAC/R system controls, wiring and connecting controllers, creating wire sheets using Sedona for control schemes such as AHU’s, Chillers Pumps etc. The lessons that were learned at the IUOE training facility will be with these students for their entire careers. The interest was high, and at the end, students were satisfied with the knowledge and skills they took away from this training session. Future classes are currently being scheduled for IUOE members to satisfy demand for this hands-on training.
I interviewed Nasser after the 4-day training course.
How does new HVACR/Automation technology help you teach? What kinds of new HVAC/Automation technology draws your attention as a technical professor?
After so many years of being in the HVAC/R and controls industry, it is really refreshing to finally see manufacturers come out with truly open BAS systems such as Contemporary Controls’ unrestricted approach to control systems in the BAScontrol and BASpi series of control devices which also come with free software tools and no proprietary software or licensing.
Another new age improvement in this industry is the spur of open communities in online forums and blogs that you can share best practices with and improve on industry techniques. People are sharing ideas and improving on concepts while also saving time on jobs and accomplishing more modest solutions. In addition, open systems save time in the classroom and are much easier to teach on than restricted or licensed systems. Students do not need to spend time and know about the specifics of licensing restrictions since that would not help them in their mechanical systems integrator careers. They really need to know the programming concepts required for proper digital control of mechanical equipment and the networking basics which allows these devices to communicate via various serial or IP protocols.
You’re on the frontlines of HVAC training. What are the biggest challenges facing students entering the industry today?
Some of the big challenges student face today are broad variety of manufacturers’ devices and software tools on the market, continuing their education, and outdated legacy systems in the field. Young students learn on mostly new technologies at school labs, but they also need to know about existing legacy systems in the field to be able to service them, convert them to a hybrid system or full DDC conversions. Often times schools will keep old equipment around just for this reason. There is still a lot of legacy equipment out there. Learning older equipment operation because you must deal with it out in the field adds to the amount of knowledge a technician or operating engineer is expected to have. Graduated HVAC professionals need to continue their education in order to keep up with new and different technologies which come out at faster and faster rates. This is the only way to stay up to date and provide modest, reliable, and efficient building control solutions. This means they need training on these new technologies. Sometimes training is offered by the controls manufacturers. Hands-on training is really the best approach for teaching BAS controls to new students as well as professionals who continue their education.
Nasser, how would you measure a training program’s success? Was this training session successful? What were some of the highlights of the session?
It was a home run, we are still receiving emails from students that were very satisfied with the class and I created a forum for the students where they can continue to ask questions and share best practices. One of the main items that they were able to take with them and to continually use and practice on, was the Sedona software package in Contemporary Control’s BAScontrol Toolset. This toolset was perfect for this training event. It really is a great tool for students, teachers, and professionals alike. Students can practice on their own time, complete homework assignments or simply improve their control sequences at their convenience. The tool allows them to practice and develop without having to have a real controller, 24VAC/VDC power, network cables, etc. All they need is a laptop or PC and this free toolset! The toolset includes a Sedona platform emulator (BASemulator) which students can use to write Sedona wiresheet applications as well as test out and improve their sequence behavior in this safe, emulated environment. The Sedona Application Editor is also a part of the toolset – it is streamlined and very easy to use programming tool. The last piece of the software – BASbackup allows students to backup the work they had done on the emulated platform and restore the whole project (wiresheet control sequence and device configuration) onto a real BAScontrol22 controller and observe their application work on the real device.
What is the future outlook for this training facility? It is already state-of-the-art.
IUOE’s International Conference and Training Center facility is a big step for the industry. It accommodates some state of the art HVAC/R training equipment as well as a strong staff of instructors and mentors with long experience in the industry. The future outlook is continuous growth and improvement of the program. The training center will enhance the training opportunities delivered by local union programs and demonstrate commitment to high-quality skills training.