Careers in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration can be found in many different places. A group of HVAC students visited Penn State's University Park campus and explored some of those areas: the Pegula Ice Arena, learning what it takes to prep, paint and maintain the 1.5-inch playing surface for the Nittany Lions hockey team and the Berkey Creamery, where freezers are integral to the sale of 750,000 ice cream cones each year.
- Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning
Down-to-earth dialogue and stories straight from the real world dominate discussions in Jason’s class. After graduating from Penn College in 1997, he gained 25 years of industry experience and helped grow his family’s HVAC business. And he worked on some cool projects along the way like renovations to Penn State’s Beaver Stadium. With all this experience, it’s no surprise that his students say his labs and lessons are real-world relevant and engaging.
Leading the Way
Q&A with Jason
AS AN ALUMNUS OF THE SCHOOL IN WHICH YOU NOW TEACH, COULD YOU POINT TO THE MOST NOTEWORTHY CHANGES SINCE YOU GRADUATED?
Pennsylvania College's ability to adjust curriculum and lab spaces to meet industry’s needs is amazing. The HVAC industry’s technologies are constantly changing to meet today’s energy standards and requirements for basic human comfort.
WHERE DID YOUR PATH TAKE YOU AFTER GRADUATING FROM PENN COLLEGE AND BEFORE RETURNING TO TEACH?
After graduating with a degree in Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Technology in 1997, I started my career as a HVAC designer, project manager, and estimator for a small HVAC Mechanical firm.
One year later, I decided to head back to my roots at the family business. My goal was to help expand the services we offered to the HVAC mechanical industry with the knowledge I gained from the Penn College HVAC degree program. The family business was started in 1942 by my great grandfather as a small plumbing and heating business and has been through three generations of family ownership.
The primary focus of the company was to design, fabricate, and install custom air distribution systems for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in commercial buildings. Throughout the years at the family business I was an estimator, project manager, designer and project coordinator that developed detailed drawings designing and laying out the complex systems for fabrication and installation. I still work at the family business today.
ARE THERE ANY TIME-TESTED ASPECTS THAT HAVE REMAINED THE SAME BECAUSE THEY WORK?
The HVAC curriculum evolves with the industry’s technologies, but provides students with foundational knowledge required to understand the fundamentals that remain the same. These basic skills, set into academic rigor, remain the same and must be understood even to work on the most advanced systems. The HVAC degrees are one of the foundation stones of the program's offerings at Penn College. The HVAC industry is a vital part of daily society and enables each of us to keep our everyday lifestyles intact.
PENN COLLEGE'S HVAC LAB LOOKS LIKE A LIVING SPACE. HOW IS A STUDENT'S EDUCATION ENHANCED BY A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT THAT SO CLOSELY RESEMBLES THE FIELD?
The minute one walks into Penn College's HVAC lab, it's obvious that it's intended to replicate an actual living space. The HVAC labs were designed to allow students to start gaining real-life experience from day one. Students' lab assignments, paired with simulated workspace, allow them to perform real-world work that enhances their knowledge. The HVAC laboratories provide students with state-of-the-art equipment displaying today’s HVAC technologies. Students who graduate from this program can hit the ground running on the very first day of their employment.
OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM, YOU'VE BEEN AN ADVISOR TO THE STUDENT CHAPTER OF THE ACCA. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT THAT?
ACCA is the Air Conditioning Contractors of America organization and Penn College has the first-ever student chapter of the ACCA. Our organization was established to promote education and awareness surrounding HVAC-related topics. Industry partners and employers look for students who go above just being a normal college student. Students who join these nationally recognized organizations are looking for additional networking opportunities and professional growth. These student chapters provide students with both of these opportunities.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR PENN COLLEGE STUDENTS TO HAVE SUCH RESPECT IN THE EYES OF A NATIONAL INDUSTRY GROUP?
They learn that these industry groups are formed from peers who develop standards and provide professional development to help keep knowledgeable about leading technologies. National industry groups recognize Penn College graduates as leaders who understand the principles of science and math with a focus on real applications in the HVAC industry. Students who pair college with nationally recognized groups become our next leaders in the industry.
HAS THE PANDEMIC IMPACTED HOW YOU PREPARE TOMORROW'S HVAC TECHNICIANS?
COVID-19 migration efforts continue to be highly fluid. We discuss standards that cover the importance of proper ventilation in HVAC design. I will keep a close eye on updates to these standards as the industry begins to strengthen policy. Students will have the working knowledge to review the current ventilation standards and be able to review and change their HVAC designs to meet the latest ventilation standards. One thing is for certain: COVID-19 will affect future HVAC design standards once we have a complete understanding of this airborne virus. HVAC systems will be designed with more zones to eliminate airborne virus spread and ventilation standards will change.
DID YOU WORK ON ANY COOL PROJECTS THAT YOU'D LIKE TO CALL OUT?
I have worked on many cool projects throughout the years. I was part of the team that helped renovate Beaver Stadium. I installed the ventilation system in the south score board, HVAC systems in Letterman’s Lounge and Team Store. Coolest to date was the Bedford Spring Resort Historical Renovation. I worked as a sub-contractor for GM McCrossin and was the lead coordinator that developed detailed drawings on installing new modern HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems into the historical 1809 building. The biggest challenge of the project was finding room to fit modern technology into existing spaces without impacting the historical elements of the buildings.
HOW DO YOU APPLY YOUR REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE IN THE LAB?
Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning
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