J.F. Drake State Technical College: Drake State Gets Involved With Two New Initiatives

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J.F. Drake State Technical College in Huntsville, Alabama, is a member of the Alabama Community College System and is one of several higher education institutions serving the Madison County area. The enrollment is approximately 1,300 students of very diverse backgrounds. The college focuses on technical programs, offering associate degrees and certificates in the areas of Business, Engineering, Health Sciences, Manufacturing, Salon Management, and Culinary/Hospitality Services.

Renewable Energy Partnership

In the past year, Drake State has been fortunate to involve itself with two new initiatives. The first is a partnership with Nexus Energy, a nonprofit organization engaged in energy efficiencies and energy conservation initiatives in north Alabama; Still Serving Veterans, a national nonprofit formed to assist veterans in their transition from military assignment to civilian life; Southern Solar, a solar energy contractor; and the Huntsville Career Center. The goal of the partnership is to train 200 individuals who are currently unemployed, underemployed, or displaced, or who are veterans seeking entry into the renewable energy profession. The partnership activities are underwritten by a U.S. Department of Labor stimulus grant of $458,300 awarded to Drake State by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The college has developed an outdoor renewable energy lab to demonstrate renewable energy systems and train participants in the installation and maintenance of geothermal heating and cooling systems, solar photovoltaic panels for generating electrical power for in-grid and off-grid systems, and solar thermal systems for generating hot water. The college is offering courses in energy efficiencies and conservation, geothermal systems, solar PV systems, and solar thermal systems with opportunities for completers to be certified by nationally recognized renewable energy certification agencies.

Electronics Partnership

The second initiative is serving as a lead institution of a multi-region partnership that includes the University of New Mexico, Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Arizona, and Michigan Technological University. The partnership will providing training labs, curriculum expertise, and workshops designed to train electronics industry workers in the new, advanced forms of electronics being used in a myriad of modern applications. The devices used in this new technology are field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and microcontrollers. These devices consume less power than previously used technologies, enable greater miniaturization, and can be reconfigured in the field by software download distributed via Internet links. This program has been in place for 18 months and has conducted train-the-trainer sessions in six states. Over 75 community college and university faculty members have been trained to use the special lab kits and curriculum in training more than 700 industry technicians by the end of 2013. According to Bill Curtis, Senior Project Engineer for DRS Technologies in Huntsville, Alabama, "This project is vital to generate the number of technicians needed to support contractors working on Department of Defense projects to support our military programs and the war fighters in the field."

The renewable energy initiative project lead is Ricky Willingham, Director of Workforce Development. The electronic industry workers project lead is Karl Henry, Division Chair and Electronics Instructor.