Carroll County heating and air-conditioning program wins award from state

November 01, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

When July rolls around and sweat rolls off people's brows, Charles Colson's alumni become wanted men and women.

They know how to install and repair air-conditioning units.

"People will do without heat before they'll do without air conditioning," said Mr. Colson, whose program won an award Oct. 21 as one of the state's top two vocational programs.

Mr. Colson has 23 students in the H-VAC program at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center. The acronym is short for heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

A panel of judges from business and education chose Mr. Colson's program and an interior design program in Prince George's County as winners of Career and Technology Awards of Excellence. The awards are sponsored by Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., the Maryland Department of Education and the Governor's Work Force Investment Board.

"The students, when they graduate, can go out into the work world," Mr. Colson said.

One reason the judges chose Mr. Colson's program was the high placement rate of his students, said Gerald Day, of the Maryland Department of Education's Division of Career Technology and Adult Learning.

Mr. Colson said that 95 percent of his students go directly into jobs or continuing education.

Dr. Day said the program teaches skills employers want, such as the ability to work on a team.

The judges also were impressed by Mr. Colson's dedication. "He's really a master teacher," Dr. Day said.

Students in Mr. Colson's classes learn algebra and physics, which some said they never would have taken independently.

"This is different from an ordinary physics class, because what you learn, you get to use right away," said Tom Myers of Hampstead, a senior in the program.

Mr. Colson said most of his students have taken only general math before entering his class and don't realize they're doing algebra until after they learn it from him.

"This program is an outstanding one, because it really is teaching students how to solve problems so they can go straight into a technology workplace," Dr. Day said.

Dr. Day said the judges also were impressed with things Mr. Colson's program does that very few others do statewide.

When the career center builds a house every year, Mr. Colson's students design and install the heating and air-conditioning system. Other schools contract out part of the work.

Dr. Day said Mr. Colson uses cutting-edge technology. All students must design and build a passive solar heating unit.

"And it has to work," Mr. Colson said.

The Carroll center was the first in Maryland last year to ensure that all of its students are certified in refrigerant recovery. Air-condition ing technicians can't release gases such as Freon into the air; it's illegal because the gases harm Earth's ozone layer.

If a technician has to remove refrigerant from a home air-conditioning unit, the gas must be recovered through hoses and valves into another tank so it can be reused.

The process requires students such as Tom Myers to draw on physics and chemistry, matching temperature with pounds of pressure per square inch for each gas they encounter.

The certification is one all air-conditioning technicians will need by 1994, Mr. Colson said.

If he doesn't train his students in the technique, employers will have to train them. Leaving school with their certifications gives them a better chance to get jobs, he said.

Most students leave the program and go straight into technician jobs. But Mr. Colson's classes include special education students who learn the mechanical aspects of the field so they can get jobs as helpers or installers working with certified technicians.

Dr. Day said the judges praised the special education support teams of teachers, tutors and others who help the students.

"They also have very active business partnerships," Dr. Day said.

"These businesses hire our students," Mr. Colson said. "I interact with them to keep myself updated. Also, they supply me with things."

He said he recently received an $800 state-of-the-art oil furnace. R. E. Michaels, a local distributor, paid for the shipping.

The manufacturer gave him a discount on the furnace, and several local businesses and oil dealers paid for it.

Nearly all of Mr. Colson's students work during their last year in the program.

Mr. Myers, who is 18, works for a dairy, tending its refrigeration machinery.

Alumnus Gary Chamberlin Jr. of Manchester went into full-time work at Modern Comfort Systems after he graduated in June with his refrigeration-recovery certification card in his wallet.

Mr. Chamberlin joined the Navy last week, but plans to continue a career and education in heating, air conditioning or engineering.

He follows in his father's footsteps.

The senior Gary Chamberlin is a heating-air-conditioning technician for Montgomery Ward. The son chose the field because of its employment prospects.

"You know you've got work all year long, and it's pretty good pay," the younger Mr. Chamberlin said.

Mr. Colson worked at Modern Comfort Systems for 20 years before he began teaching seven years ago.

"After spending 20 years in the field, I just wanted something more to get involved in," he said.

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