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Burnham Holdings Inc. officials had to travel just a few miles last April to celebrate the grand opening of the Burnham Holdings Center for HVAC Technology at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
“The college touches most everything we do as a manufacturer,” says Doug Brossman, CEO of Burnham Holdings. “We’ve hired many graduates from its welding and fabrication programs to make our products. And we rely on its graduates from the HVAC program to install our products. Our products are becoming more and more sophisticated so we need the best installers.”
Inside the 17,000-square-foot center, Burnham subsidiaries U.S. Boiler Co. and Thermal Solutions, LLC Inc. donated 60 boilers of various models for live-fire training, as well as boilers for the mechanical room.
In the lab, U.S. Boiler 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.
The learning experience also extends into the center’s working boilers, including a Thermal Solutions 1 MMBTU Arctic boiler, a 1 MMBTU Amp boiler, and two 500 MBH Apex boilers. 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.
“With the products that Burnham Holdings donated, students receive instruction on all varieties of boiler technology with a mix of the latest condensing technology, conventional cast-iron boilers either gas- or oil-fired and even steaming heating,” Brossman adds.
Besides the boilers and classroom instruction, the building’s VAV 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,” says Timothy Strunk, HVAC 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.
The facility also includes several commercial brakes to teach sheet metal fabrication. A cutaway chiller, inoperable but powered, allows students to work through the control sequences.
Strunk joined the program about five years ago. At the time, the HVAC program employed two full-time instructors and graduated about 15 students a year.
“I joined the staff knowing the plan was to develop and grow the HVAC program,” Strunk explains. “We were going to take the program not just up a level, but up several levels at once. And I definitely think we accomplished that with what we have ready for the 2019 schedule.”
Strunk says 150 students will be starting in August. Six full-time instructors will be leading the students during morning, mid-day and evening “shifts” with the center in use from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. That headcount, Strunk says, makes the HVAC program the largest program on campus in terms of faculty in one department and enrolled students.
While many students come directly out of high school, Strunk says about 20 percent already have four-year college degrees.
“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,” Brossman adds. “Our involvement here was a win for us, the college, the students and the local workforce.”
Burnham’s tech center is actually part of the 60,000-square-foot Greiner Advanced Manufacturing Center, on the site of a former National Guard Amory, located a short distance from the college’s main campus.
The educational complex is named in recognition of the $1 million lead gift from Greiner Industries, an international steel fabricator located in nearby Mount Joy, Pennsylvania.
The center was built at a cost of more than $20 million in public funds, (the college is owned by the state of Pennsylvania) with the college raising $2.4 million through a capital campaign. The center not only has room to teach HVAC, but also computer integrated machining and metal fabrication and welding technology.
An additional $1 million grant from the Gene Haas Foundation sponsored the Computer Integrated Machining Lab. Haas Automation is largest machine tool manufacturer in the U.S.
In all, more than 20 regional companies, private foundations, and individuals gave cash and equipment to support the complex.
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.
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