The Future of Energy Education is Here

By Joan Koehne '17

There’s a new kid on the block at the NWTC campus: the Great Lakes Energy Education Center, located on the northwest corner by the Student Center. I toured the center with Amy Kox, associate dean of Energy and Agriculture, and I quickly realized that energy classes are way different than the marketing classes I completed. Here’s one example: A prerequisite for electrical power distribution is to check your fear of heights. You don’t want to panic at the pinnacle of a 40-foot electrical pole!
I had nearly finished my tour when I found something familiar: a traditional classroom. Yet even this classroom had a striking difference. Outside its wide window was a grassy field of electric poles, lines, backhoes, and apprentices in hardhats spending their day outdoors learning. Utility poles in a classroom in the Great Lakes Energy Education Center

Instead of learning marketing concepts like I did, students enrolled at the energy center learn about power generation, distribution, and conservation. They’re preparing for careers installing and repairing electrical lines, natural gas mains or solar panels, plus a wide range of other energy-related careers.
Despite the unfamiliar environment, I felt a familiar vibe – students working to get ahead and a college committed to making that happen.
The center opened in January, and it still looks like a new building, right down to the dirt outside the doors where grass will be planted. In true technical college fashion, students have been part of the hands-on crew that moved into the empty space and set up their classrooms.
Last semester, the solar power students installed solar panels on the building’s rooftop. Eventually, students in the landscape and sustainable agriculture programs will landscape the grounds.
Nearly every aspect of the center is designed for learning, or as Amy put it, “Everything is instructional.”
·         The ductwork and vents are labeled and visible throughout the building.
·         The mechanical room is spacious enough to double as a lab for energy management students.
·         A geothermal system of 40 wells, 300 feet deep, serves a dual purpose of instruction and heating/cooling.
·         The 32,000-square-foot facility even has a Mud Room, every mother’s joy. All those dirty boots won’t be tracking mud throughout the whole place. What haven’t they thought of?
This week 100 students start their energy programs at the center. How lucky they are to be the first students to start and finish their programs at the Midwest’s leader in energy education. Some will graduate in 9 months with the potential of earning $65,000-$70,000 right off the bat.
Although our student experiences will be vastly different, we have something in common – a college education. I just happened to earn mine without leaving the ground.

Join Amy and the rest of NWTC at the official ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, June 25, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.
Amy Kox - Dean, Academic

About the Expert

Amy Kox - Dean, Academic