What does energy technology entail, exactly? John Roudebush hears that a lot when discussing the courses he teaches as Ivy Tech Lafayette’s Energy Technology program chair.
"We look at how wind and solar power can complement the use of natural gas," Roudebush says of the program, which started in 2010 shortly after wind farms opened in Tippecanoe and White counties. "But it boils down to letting people know this is an industry with future-proofed careers."
Roudebush and Coy Vance, the chair of Ivy Tech Lafayette’s HVAC program, are among those educating a new generation of professionals in energy production and the delivery of energy through heating and cooling systems.
Tipmont REMC has supported scholarships in Ivy Tech’s Energy Technology program through EnviroWatts, its renewable-energy grant program. Today, Ivy Tech’s program offers an associate degree in energy technology, as well as certificate programs for natural gas, power plants, electrical line work, industrial wind technology and renewable energy technology.
“If you look at the fastest growing jobs in the U.S. over the last five years, you always see wind technician and solar technician,” Roudebush says. “Solar and wind are focuses, but the program offers a broad variety of skills for students who are eager to work in a wide range of fields and it also helps them consider long-term career-path strategies.”
No matter their chosen path, Energy Technology students get interactive at the Craig Porter Energy Technology Center. Named in honor of a department head who passed away in 2011, the center represents a hands-on playground in which students can build, install, monitor and troubleshoot systems. It’s everything from wind and solar to electric car chargers … and not just for full-time students.
“People from the community come in and learn how to install systems at their own homes,” Roudebush says. “It helps them to benefit their life and be more sustainable for themselves.”
Roudebush’s students experiment with the same technologies that are increasingly defining the HVAC trade — where, at Ivy Tech, Coy Vance’s students learn the latest innovations behind more efficient operations and cleaner air.
In Vance’s lab, students work with solar-powered systems that could, in full summertime sun, work at 100% solar capacity. They get into the guts of hydronic systems for in-floor heating. Bluetooth-powered sensors provide real-time diagnostic lessons. WiFi-controlled overhead air-handling units help students learn about building automation. Soon, they’ll even be able to monitor the entire HVAC system across Ivy Tech’s campus.
“I’m starting an advanced control-systems course where we’ll have access to observe Ivy Tech’s HVAC system in real time,” Vance says. “So we’ll be able to see what’s happening with temperatures, blowers, pumps and other parts. And I’m working on getting our class to accompany our facilities crew to identify the components that might not be fully functional.
“I like to have students get hands-on to not only where they can install a system and learn how it works but also even build it so they can really understand how everything works together.”
Vance’s program offers HVAC certification, technical HVAC certification (which accounts for additional heat pump experience and additional electives) and an associate degree in HVAC technology.
Both Vance and Roudebush say the same thing about career potential for their programs: They can’t fill available positions fast enough. The Energy Technology program has a 100% placement rate, and Vance says many of his students start a job right out of his program due to the demand.
“If you’re looking for something that’s different and something that matters, energy is really an industry in which you can take your pick,” Roudebush says.
Rob Ford is Tipmont and Wintek's communication director, a role he's held since 2015.
Rob has a bachelor's and a master's in Communication from Purdue University. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and three children and has a life-sized Yoda statue in his office. Away from the office, you’ll find Rob working on his golf swing, jump shot, or hope for a Purdue basketball national title – all futile endeavors.