New equipment for the Machining program (above) and the HVAC program (below) were recently delivered to the College.
When HVAC instructor Terrence Scott and two of his students recently drove to Chesapeake to pick up some donated equipment, he didn’t know what to expect.
“At first, I thought it probably was just some junk they wanted to get rid of,” he said. “So I said we’ll just go over there and see what they have and be thankful for that.”
He couldn’t believe his, and Thomas Nelson’s, good fortune.
“We hit the jackpot,” he said upon seeing the donations from Lennox, one of the largest heating, ventilation and air conditioning companies in the world. “I said let’s hurry up and get this stuff on the truck before they say (they) made a mistake.”
As it turned out, Lennox donated more than $10,000 worth of equipment (some of it brand new, others with minor dents or scratches), including gas and electric furnaces, heat pumps, and updraft and downdraft units.
“We gave them a little bit of everything so they could get an idea of air handlers and furnaces and heat pumps and everything else,” said Karrie Sicely, the store manager of Lennox’s Chesapeake location. “We were excited to do it and we’re very happy to do it.”
According to Seyed Akhavi, the dean of Science, Engineering and Technology at the College, the donation of equipment is invaluable. The students now will receive hands-on experience on current equipment.
“If you have an actual heat pump donated to you, you can tear it apart and put it back together,” said Akhavi, who has been with the College almost three years. “So the advantage of having these types of donations is that it allows our students to work on the type of equipment they are going to see once they graduate and get a job.”
Akhavi said he had heard from industry partners a few years ago who noted that while Thomas Nelson students were very knowledgeable, they weren’t as familiar with the latest technology and equipment as they could have been. This donation will change that.
Sicely pointed to that as another reason Lennox made the donation, noting students often have to learn on beat-up or worn-out equipment.
“I suggested that we donate it to the school so that (students) could see updated equipment that’s not been used. That they could see it, feel it, touch it,” she said. “I’d rather the equipment go to good use. ... I think it’s important.”
Scott, who has about 30 students in all his classes, also noted donations such as this are far more valuable than the cost of the equipment.
“It gives (students) the confidence to know that they’re working on brand new equipment,” said Scott, who joined the Thomas Nelson faculty in August 2018. “When they go to a (job) interview, they can say they have worked on equipment that’s only a year or two old.”
Akhavi also said faculty members Rich Wilcox (Mechatronics) and Jean Frank (Industrial Technology) shared some of their allocated budget to upgrade the HVAC program.
“The faculty members were really generous to share the funds that were given to their areas,” Akhavi said. “It was great teamwork.”
The donation from Lennox wasn’t the only good fortune for the College’s Science, Engineering and Technology department. In June 2018, the Thomas Nelson Educational Foundation Board of Directors approved the allocation of $154,000 from its equipment endowment fund earnings for the new dual enrollment Machining program on the College’s Hampton campus. Additional support from this fund also was designated for upgrades to the Commonwealth classrooms at the Hampton and Historic Triangle campuses.
“The challenge with machining is that it’s brand new,” Akhavi said. “The good news is we’re working with New Horizons and we’re offering dual enrollment classes.”
Akhavi said since the world of machining is largely automated, students need to know about mechanical, electronics and programming.
“They need to have the foundation,” he said. “Some of the dual enrollment mechatronics students are interested in going to the machining, and vice versa. They are not that far apart from each other.”
With the financial support from the College’s Educational Foundation, and donations from companies such as Lennox, Thomas Nelson students are getting an updated and hands-on look at two important and growing programs.