GCC Staff Collaborate with Franklin County Tech Students on Energy Management Project

October 2, 2015

The joke says “How many people does it take to change a light bulb?” but at GCC’s East Building, the real questions are “how much can people learn while changing light fixtures and how much energy and money can be saved when they change them?”

The short answer to those questions is “A lot!”

Here’s the long answer: In late September, Franklin County Tech School juniors and seniors joined GCC staff to change all of the light fixtures in GCC’s East Building to LED lights that use less energy, save energy costs, and provide better quality light. The FCTS students learned from working on a real-world project alongside GCC’s Electrician, Tony Torres, a 1985 FCTS alumnus. Over the next ten years, the new lights will save GCC almost $150,000 in energy and maintenance costs and reduced energy usage will reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced. The project is just one of many FCTS students will complete in the coming academic year in the 19 towns that send students to FCTS. This year, FCTS students will also serve as interns in GCC’s Plant Operations department, including one electrical student, one HVAC student, and two grounds students.

In the hands-on GCC East Building energy management project, the students learned how to retrofit existing light fixtures and how to program the lighting systems to meet the specific lighting needs of different spaces, including offices, hallways, and classrooms. They were able to see immediate results of their work. After a half-hour of work changing the fixtures in one section of a hallway, they turned on the lights, looked one direction down the hall where lights had not been changed, then back the other direction where the lights had been replaced, seeing better light for less energy.

The students weren’t the only ones to learn through the project. When FCTS Principal Shawn Rickan came to observe the job site, Corey Johnson, an FCTS student from Erving, invited him to learn how to change the fixture. The students set up two ladders, and Rickan went up one ladder with the tools and Johnson went up the other ladder. Johnson coached the principal through changing the light fixture.

Torres said, “The students learned more than how to retrofit these light fixtures, they learned about working on a real job site, dealing with the public, and maintaining a safe worksite. Opportunities like this help the students get more perspective on the wide range of possibilities in electrical work. For GCC, working with FCTS students both fits our mission of providing educational opportunities for our community and saves us money.”

FCTS Electrical Shop Instructor Todd Weed sees many benefits for the students who worked on the East Building project. He said, “It’s great for the students to work with Tony, to learn from an FCTS alumnus about his work in the electrical field. Also, while we were working, GCC students who are FCTS alumni stopped to talk with us about their experiences working on FCTS projects in the community. FCTS juniors and seniors spend 90% of their time learning on projects in the 19 towns that send students to the Tech School. We work on municipal projects, in schools, fire departments, and more. The work FCTS students do in the community provides a concrete way for FCTS to return value to the towns that fund the school, invaluable lessons for our students in real-life working environments, and cost-savings for the institutions in which the FCTS students work.”

By McClintock, ’82

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