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Home Builders Institute (HBI) Job Corps program students from the Woodstock Job Corps Center in suburban Baltimore attended the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C., last month to learn about cutting-edge home technologies and show off some of their skills.
Led by electrical wiring teacher Robert Ponzo, about 20 students visited all the demonstration homes in the competition and saw examples of energy-efficient lighting, various types of solar panels, solar tubing that channels sunlight from a dome on the roof throughout a home, induction stoves and smart homes with lighting, appliances and other features that can be managed on a computer or iPad.
Most of the features they saw require electrical wiring to operate, a skill that the HBI Job Corps students are acquiring.
“Every student asked questions because they were eager to learn about the technologies used in the homes,” Ponzo said. “They really learned a lot and got to see great innovations for homes that they can use moving forward.”
“It was a great experience,” said student James Baldwin. “I got to see solar power, energy-efficient materials and other cool technologies that can be used in home building.”
While the students were there to learn, they also were there to teach.
In addition to touring the homes, the students set up tabletop displays of miniature solar cells to show how solar and wind technologies work. They also connected the cells to the light bulbs to demonstrate their practical use and shared their expertise on solar, wind and electrical wiring with Solar Decathlon attendees.
“It’s really good for the students to be able to articulate their lessons to others,” said Ponzo.
Seeing the green technologies in the demonstration homes at the Solar Decathlon “brings to life the lessons from our classroom and training book,” he said. “The students are able to see how their electrical wiring skills connect with installing these products in residential construction.”
They’re also able to put what they learned to practical use. As the Woodstock Job Corps facility transitions from incandescent and fluorescent to LED lighting, for example, Ponzo said students are also learning and applying the different methods involved in the wiring for these more energy-efficient lights in a residential setting and commercial applications.
“We’re planning on using a lot of the ideas we saw at the Solar Decathlon for future electrical wiring training projects, such as lighting through solar tubing, solar-powered attic fans and a solar water pump,” said Ponzo.
For more information, email Keith Albright at HBI, or call him at 800-795-7955 x8911.