Born with physical disabilities on a Vermont farm in 1792, Thaddeus Stevens grew up in a poverty-stricken, broken home. His father died in the war of 1812 when Stevens was 12 years old, leaving his mother to run the farm and raise a family. She knew that the only promising future for her two eldest sons would come by way of education and hard work.
After graduating from Dartmouth and starting a teaching career in York, PA, Stevens passed his bar exam and founded a legal practice in Gettysburg. He attained great success, becoming a well-known philanthropist and was eventually elected to the PA House of Representatives.
Most notable was his ardent support of a free school system in Pennsylvania. Following his passing, Stevens’ will directed the state to create a school for the “relief and refuge of homeless, indigent orphans.” This bequest has evolved into Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.
The growing college is located in Lancaster, PA, and is an integral part of the local and regional economies, offering a 98 percent job placement rate at graduation. Leadership at the college has always been responsive to needs in the workforce, preparing students for the job sectors offering the greatest opportunity, aligning perfectly with the college’s vision statement:
Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology will be the best two-year technical college of its kind by adding value to the lives of our students so that they will find skilled employment, be effective citizens, and reach their full potential.
This was the driving force behind the construction of the new Burnham Holdings Center for HVAC Technology, which celebrated its grand opening on April 10, 2019. The Burnham Holdings Center is part of the College’s new Advanced Manufacturing Center, a 60,000 square foot, $23.9M project constructed to expand the college’s skilled trade offerings. Along with the HVACR program, the new campus also houses Computer Integrated Machining (CIM) and Metals Fabrication and Welding Technology programs.
In response to an urgent need
“The trades are dealing with a huge skills gap,” said Dr. William Griscom, President of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology. “The college currently has more than 1,400 employers with more than 4,000 jobs for 400 total graduates. The new campus benefits the training and education of our students while simultaneously helping to address the workforce shortage.”
The Burnham Center for HVAC Technology encompasses nearly 17,000 square feet, and is dedicated to preparing students for a career in the hi-tech HVACR marketplace through hands-on learning with cutting-edge products and systems.
Above: Burnham Holdings Center for HVAC Technology provides hands-on training workshops for Thaddeus Stevens College students.
“Due to the outpouring of support from manufacturers in the HVAC industry, we’re able to provide a state-of-the-art learning environment and curriculum,” said Griscom. “It has also greatly increased the number of students we’re able to serve.”
“The Thaddeus Stevens HVACR program has always turned out exceptional graduates who typically receive multiple job offers,” said Doug Brossman, CEO of Burnham Holdings, Inc. “The Burnham Holdings HVAC Center brings a new level of hands-on, high-tech training. It also increases the number of students from 15 to 40 graduates per year, with the potential for 120.”
Construction of the new campus garnered $3M in private sector support, along with equipment and technology donations from more than 20 regional companies.
Through its subsidiaries, Thermal Solutions, LLC and U.S. Boiler Company Inc., Lancaster, PA-based Burnham Holdings donated five commercial boilers to heat the campus, along with 60 smaller boilers of various models for live-fire training. Thermal Solutions manufactured the commercial boilers, while the boilers for lab use were provided by U.S. Boiler Company.
“Our partnership with Burnham Holdings goes back decades,” said Griscom. “Burnham’s subsidiaries have always hired students out of all our programs, and members of their staff serve on our advisory committees and help develop and refine our curriculum. Their industry and community insight is invaluable.”
Built for training
Almost every element within the new building was designed to create a teachable moment. Engineers at U.S. Boiler Company and Thermal Solutions worked with architects on the system design, floorplan and controls to make this a reality.
There are five boilers in the main mechanical room; a Thermal Solutions 1 MMBTU Arctic boiler, a 1 MMBTU Amp boiler, and two 500 MBH Apex boilers. These provide heat to the campus via hydronic coils in large rooftop units. Through the building’s web-based control system, error codes can be created, in effect “bugging” the boilers and requiring students to learn diagnostics and trouble shooting.
In the lab, U.S. Boiler Company Alpine, K2, K2 Combi, X-2, V8H and Independence boilers can be installed, fired and uninstalled. Actual load can be applied to the systems through connected piping and radiation. All variety of radiation is available, including an in-floor system. There’s even a snowmelt zone, installed outside the lab on a concrete deck where condensing units are placed for AC system training.
Above: In the lab, K2 and K2 Combi condensing boilers by U.S. Boiler Company can be installed, fired and uninstalled.
Above: U.S. Boiler Company donated a variety of boiler models to the new Burnham Holdings Center for HVAC Technology at Thaddeus Stevens College.
“With the products that Burnham Holdings donated, students receive instruction on all varieties of boiler technology,” said Brossman. “The K2 and Alpine models represent the latest in condensing technology. The V8H models facilitate oil training, the X-2 is a conventional cast-iron, gas-fired boiler, and the Independence allows students to learn about steam.”
The lab’s VAV exhaust system responds instantly to pressure changes within the building envelope. For instance, if the large bay doors are opened to the outside, the boilers that are running won’t be impacted. Further, the exhaust system provides learning opportunities.
“The static pressure within the exhaust system can be manipulated through the lab controls to create an alarm on the boilers,” said Timothy Strunk, HVAC/R Instructor. “Instructors can raise the static pressure, leaving students to figure out what’s wrong with their unit.”
The lab is even equipped with an adiabatic, closed-circuit fluid cooler for heat rejection. Boiler instruction can take place regardless of outdoor conditions. Instructors are able to precisely manipulate return water temperatures to display the effect that system water temperature has on condensing and conventional boilers.
Sheet metal fabrication is taught on several donated commercial brakes. The facility also includes a cutaway chiller. Despite being inoperable, the unit is powered, and students can work through the control sequences, something rarely seen at a trade school.
Good for the industry, good for us all
Utilization of the lab began immediately, even before it was 100 percent complete. The lab is in use from 7:30am to 10:00pm. There is a morning, mid-day and evening group, or “shift”, each with a different instructor.
Block scheduling is used to increase the amount of time students have in the lab and with instructors. Student backgrounds are diverse, but they’re almost all starting at ground level, with little to no experience. Some come directly out of high school, while roughly 20 percent already have four year college degrees.
Thaddeus Stevens College now has the capacity to serve the community and students in a bigger way. There are currently 40 students enrolled in the HVACR program, which Griscom expects will grow to 60 in short order, and eventually double that. The size of the graduating class isn’t the only advantage, though. The quality of the program has improved.
As heating and cooling equipment gets more sophisticated, the technicians – and the training they receive – must follow. The support received by the college is an indication that the industry agrees.
“Burnham Holdings has always sought to help with local workforce development, whether that be with this college, with high school career programs, or through the Chamber of Commerce,” said Brossman. “Our involvement here was a win for us, the college, the students and the local workforce. Students will come out of Thaddeus Stevens familiar with our brand. That’s an advantage, considering that the majority of our warranty claims are the direct result of improper installation.”
According to Brossman, Burnham Holdings plans to host its mid-year board meeting at the new HVAC Center, and would eventually like to incorporate the facility in their contractor tour and training programs.
“We’re hearing a lot of excitement from the business community in response to the new facility and the growing student body,” said Griscom. “Indicative of the need for skilled workers, that excitement is tempered only by the need to wait for graduates. Employers want to hire now.”