December 2010
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DeKalb Technical College Starts Building Automation Program
This new program offers a diploma as well as an Associate in Applied Science degree.  The program can also be done online.
Stephanie Brown
Stephanie Brown
Student
DeKalb Technical College
 
In the Fall Quarter of 2009 DeKalb Technical College, located in metro Atlanta accepted its first cohort of students in the Building Automation Systems (BAS) program.  This new program offers a diploma as well as an Associate in Applied Science degree, and can be completed online with three, multiple day visits to the college per year.  This is a very unique program in that it’s industry specific, and the only program of its kind in the U.S.
  
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There is tremendous support from leading controls companies with donations to the state of the art laboratory, guest lecturers from industry, as well as a highly effective advisory board which provides guidance for curriculum and student learning outcomes, making the program responsive to rapid changes occurring in the field.

Courses taught in the BAS program cover HVAC/R principles, commercial HVAC/R systems, introductory control principles, AC & DC electronics, control systems logic, networking, design, installation, programming, commissioning, and integration methods.   The program also includes instruction on pneumatics, electric, and digital direct controls.  At the end of the program students will be able to understand the fundamentals of controls to be able to secure entry level positions.

The program is also being offered online with short-duration trips to Atlanta 2 or 3 times per year.  It works by having live video lectures in which students can ask questions and participate during class.  The lectures will also be recorded for further review.  The student will complete all work as required on the syllabus.  There will also a couple intensive multiple day lab sessions in which the students will be required to come to the campus.  Once all the requirements are fulfilled a degree or diploma is awarded. 

My Experience
I am one of the first students in the program and being the only female it has been an amazing experience.  I followed the traditional educational path attaining a BS in biology then an MBA.  I wanted to learn a skill which is not usually gained in the traditional path and I saw lots of opportunity for growth and also a way to put everything together that I have learned in the BAS program.  The program has been enhanced since I started but I was still able to learn the fundamentals working with various trainers and learned troubleshooting skills while working a variety of leading controls products. An internship is required at the end to complete the program.  I will be starting at Siemens to gain experience in the field and put everything together.

Director of Program
Brian Lovell is the director of the program and has more than 15 years of industry experience.  After being in business and seeing the needs of the industry, the main one being not being able to find qualified help, he had a vision to create something that would aid the industry and also help others have successful career paths.

He is also the director of the Green Technologies Academy which is an online certificate program that looks into sustainable technologies and LEED certification.

Project Based Learning
PlantPROCOREAnother aspect of the program that makes it very unique is that the majority of coursework is delivered using the project based learning method.  This means that the instructor provides traditional classroom instruction on core principles and then assigns a term project for each course in which the core principles manifest themselves in a real, operable device or system.  The students are assigned to teams for a division of labor similar to how real-world projects are completed.  These typically include a project manager, engineering team, technical team, quality control team, logistics team, marketing team, and other teams necessary to complete the task.  One of our projects consisted of designing, installing, and commissioning a controls system throughout our building.  We also designed and built an 8-bit adding machine using relay logic and pilot lights which is currently used in the program by subsequent cohorts for troubleshooting.  After completing the project we presented it to other students, administrators, and industry representatives to develop our communication skills.

We collaborate with a two year college as well as a four year college to work on projects as well.  They bring the theory to the project and we deliver the technical skills.  We will be designing and installing a water harvesting system for our building as well as installing solar panels.  This is also part of the Green Technologies Academy which includes the BAS program.  There is a National Science Foundation grant that is currently pending that will greatly enhance these joint projects.  We also have a stimulus grant that we will be utilizing to reach our goals of becoming LEED certified.

Summary
I have had a very positive experience in this nascent program and it continues to improve in a ‘closed-loop’ fashion due to constant industry feedback and guidance.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the industry and also for learning about sustainable concepts in the Green Technologies Academy.
I can be contacted for any questions at jukorra@yahoo.com.  Brian Lovell can be contacted at lovellb@dekalbtech.edu

Website Links
http://www.dekalbtech.edu/
http://www.dekalbtech.edu/academics/program.php?id=213 (BAS Degree)
http://www.dekalbtech.edu/academics/program.php?id=212 (BAS Diploma)
http://www.dekalbtech.edu/academics/program.php?id=226 (Sustainable Technologies Certificate)

Note:
A word of caution to those who may be interested in the program... We are changing over from a quarter to a semester system in the Fall of 2011.  As part of this conversion, the BAS program has been enhanced and courses have been modified.  I say this because the DeKalb Tech. website doesn't reflect these changes as yet, so anyone interested should contact the school, and/or me, directly.
 
Brian J. Lovell
Director - Sustainable Technologies Academy / Building Automation Systems
DeKalb Technical College
495 N. Indian Creek Drive
Clarkston, GA  30021
404-297-9522 ext. 1265
770-815-7671 (cell)

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