Seth Allen stood in the Central Michigan University Student Activity Center mechanical room beneath the basketball courts and put on his gloves.
He then climbed a 10-foot ladder to finish installing an important piece of equipment that will conserve energy and already has saved CMU thousands of dollars.
It also will help Allen find a job.
Allen is a senior computer engineering major working with CMU Facilities Management to install direct digital control sensors on heating, ventilation and air conditioning units throughout campus.
These sensors will better adjust room temperatures based on the number of people in each room. They also can operate remotely by computer and warn of system failures.
"Learning the skills in HVAC and some of the low-voltage electric work will definitely help with making me more marketable," said Allen, of Kaleva, Michigan. "There are many other things that will play into becoming marketable as well, such as having the ability to work along with the diverse team of all the other Facilities Management tradesmen or the times when we get to work independently and develop our own schedule."
Kyle Lefor is a senior product design engineering technology major from Greenville, Michigan, who has worked alongside Allen. So far, they have switched the HVAC controls from air pressure to electronic in Rose Center and the
WCMU Public Media building.
Jesse Reed is the direct digital controls analyst at CMU — Allen's and Lefor's boss. To date, they have installed 75 controllers. Their work includes everything from removing dated equipment, analyzing HVAC drawings, rewiring as needed, and installing and testing new devices.
CMU already is seeing results, said Jonathan Webb, associate vice president of facilities management. Consumers Energy and DTE Energy already have given the university $16,000 in energy rebates. And Webb estimates the improved controls are going to reduce energy consumption in these two facilities by 25 percent. This will save CMU $10,000 a year in energy costs.
Savings are re-invested into the CMU energy conservation program, Webb said.
The digital control conversion started with the Rose, SAC and Public Media buildings because the systems are more complex.
Opening more doors to engineering experiences
Lefor knew this type of on-campus work would look good on his engineering resume, but he didn't realize how much it could build his career.
"A lot of engineering, especially automotive, has HVAC-type systems in them," he said. "When a potential employer sees you have had a previous HVAC job, they really take an interest."
Offering professional-related experiences is exactly what Mike Walton was hoping for when he hired the two engineering students to work with his team. Walton is director of energy and utilities at CMU, and switching to the electronic sensors is something he's wanted to do for years. But he didn't have the personnel to take on this new time-intensive project.
"We're talking about years to upgrade everything campuswide," Walton said. "I hope to have more students involved in energy management, where they can get experience at all levels."
Walton will continue to work with the
School of Engineering and Technology to connect with and hire more engineering students for this and other projects that will help improve CMU's energy efficiencies.