Four Fred Eberle Technical Center students in the ‘Summer Vocation’ electrical technician program worked two days this summer at the Buckhannon Fire Department to gain real world experience while giving back to the community. Instructor Robert Lowther said students Cameron Ware, Nate Perry, James Mitchell and Chase Gainer helped change outdated lighting at the Buckhannon Fire Department. / Photos courtesy Fred W. Eberle Technical Center

FETC electrical technician students spent their ‘Summer Vocation’ brightening up the Buckhannon Fire Department

BUCKHANNON – Fred W. Eberle Technical Center students in the ‘Summer Vocation’ electricity program helped light the way for the Buckhannon Fire Department by swapping out 30 large, relatively inefficient metal halide fixtures last week.

The FETC students replaced the fixtures with smaller, more energy-efficient fixtures which are brighter and have more output.

Buckhannon Fire Department Chief J.B. Kimble said when the station was built, LED lighting was not that prevalent.

“So, as time went on, we realized the lights that were installed in the bay were not very energy efficient, and we had to leave the lights on all the time because it took the old lights 15 minutes to warm up,” Kimble said. “I had budgeted for replacing all the lighting in the bay to go to LED to save some power money and also to have instant light because when you flipped the switch, it took forever for them to come back on.”

Kimble said now with the LED lighting, when they flip the switch, they have instant full brightness – thus eliminating the need to keep the lights turned on 24/7.

“I had approached Robert Lowther at the Fred Eberle Technical Center to see if his students could help out with the installation,” Kimble said. “The students had completed another project where they came to the station and rewired so we could install a piece of equipment before the pandemic. While they were here, they told us to give them a call if we had any more projects because they were close and could use the experience.”

Kimble said he contacted Lowther, and they planned for the students to swap out the 30 large fixtures with the smaller, more energy-efficient lights.

“They came in and the timeline was just right,” Kimble said. “We had the scissor lifts here and in two days, the project was completed.”

Lowther, an electrical technician instructor at Fred Eberle Technical Center, said they are running a ‘Summer Vocation’ course.

“Earlier in the spring, the government released some funds so we could put on summer trainings for students,” Lowther said. “Last winter, J.B. Kimble approached me about doing a lighting upgrade in the Buckhannon Fire Department Bay where they park their fire apparatus. We ended up not getting to complete that project due to the pandemic.”

Lowther said with the summer course, one of the goals was to offer students the opportunity to complete ‘real world’ projects.

“I decided to get back with J.B. Kimble to schedule the lighting upgrade in their bay. We took down 30 metal halide fixtures and we replaced them with LEDs,” Lowther said. “Basically, what we did was took down some outdated, inefficient lighting down and replaced it with new updated lighting.”

Lowther said a total of four students – two from Upshur County and two from Barbour County – participated in the project. He said the students had completed their first year in the FETC electrical technician course and will be seniors in the fall. The students who completed the lighting upgrade include Cameron Ware, Nate Perry, James Mitchell and Chase Gainer.

“This project got the kids back out in the public and exposed them to work and let them give back to the community,” Lowther said. “It showed a little bit of leadership and initiative on the students’ part. It was a nice service to do for the fire department and a great way to give back.”

Lowther said the beauty of the partnership is that it helped not only the fire department but also gave the students real world experience.

“It is very much something that they could be working on. They had the opportunity to use some equipment they would not normally be able to use,” Lowther said. “This job was up in the air – up in the ceiling – so they were able to use the scissor lift, which is not something they get to use everyday in the classroom, but that they will get to use them out in the field. It also allowed them to work in a real-world facility, and it gave them the opportunity to use the lockout/tag-out protocol, and make sure nothing was ‘live’ while they were working.”

Lowther said the experience enabled students to practice all the OSHA safety procedures – something they learn about from the beginning of the class – and allowed them to put the standards into hands-on practice situations.

“I try to secure at least one off-site job for my students each year – it is usually more than one,” Lowther said. “Project-based learning allows the students to experience these opportunities. It is a lot different being in the school shop or classroom working and going out into the workforce and doing this for real. This really takes it a step further and allows them to have opportunities they may not get.”

Kimble said the partnership between the FETC students and the Buckhannon Fire Department was important and was a benefit to both parties as well as to the residents of Buckhannon.

“They provide their service and it gave the students the capability of coming into a commercial-sized building and their instructor helped teach them conduit wiring and it is a great experience for them,” Kimble said.

The fire chief also said that any time a group of five or six people come into the station, it provides career and volunteer firefighters with an opportunity to educate people about joining the local fire department.

“They may want to be an electrician, but it also shows them what we do, and they may want to volunteer to help out in their local fire departments as well,” Kimble said. “If a young man or woman is looking to get into the fire service, it could be a teetering point when they come here to put up lights. It could spark them to think it could be a cool thing and that they might want to help out.”

Kimble said he really appreciates having the FETC as a resource in the community.

Fred W. Eberle Technical Center students in the ‘Summer Vocation’ electricity program helped light the way for the Buckhannon Fire Department by swapping out 30 large, relatively inefficient metal halide fixtures last week. / Photo courtesy FETC

“It helps us,” Kimble said. “I have spoken to other city departments and said if they have any electrical things going on they may want to involve the students because first of all, it saves the city residents money and by utilizing these students, we can save money by not using a contract company and making the money go further. Also, it gives the students experience and may strike some interest in the students.”

Kimble said for folks to volunteer in the Buckhannon Fire Department, they need to complete an application.

“We have different memberships available,” he said. “People who want to be a firefighter will need to complete the Fire Fighter 1 and 2 classes and we have training. We also have a contributing membership which is for someone who specializes in something such as ropes, confined space or extrication. They do not have to have firefighter training, but they cannot respond to fires.”

Other opportunities for volunteering with the Buckhannon Fire Department exist as well, and you can find out more by calling the department at 304-472-2868.

“Maybe someone is a CPA and would like to help the fire department – perhaps they could help manage the finances of the fire department,” Kimble said. “The best thing to do is to get them inside these walls and sit them down to talk, discuss and educate,” Kimble said. “I just want to thank the trade school and the students who came here and got involved in our project. It turned out really nice.”

Lowther said those interested in learning about electrical technician classes can sign up as a sophomore in their school by contacting their guidance counselors.

“Then, we interview them and if selected, they can start in their junior year and graduate when they are seniors,” Lowther said. “The criteria for entry includes grades and attendance. We take seven students from each county – Barbour, Lewis and Upshur counties.”

He said FETC also offers night classes for adults and people wanting to take those courses just need to apply through the Fred Eberle Technical Center.

“There is a math entry exam to take and there is an interview process,” Lowther said.

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