TROY, Mich. — One year ago,The Newsmade a commitment to help establish and develop a secondary HVACR training program in Oakland County, Mich. When this announcement was first made,The Newswasn’t sure if all of its work would pay off. But one year later, the question is no longer, “Will the program happen?” The new question is, “How long until the program opens?”

The unofficial goal for The News and Oakland County Schools is to have the new HVACR program up and running for the fall 2003 semester.

So far, both parties are confident that the deadline can be met. Several significant strides have been made in launching the program, but a great deal still needs to be done before students can begin to learn the trade this fall.

The To Do List

The Newsmet recently with Rob Featherstone, instructor for the upcoming HVACR program, and Bonnie Crowson, dean for the Oakland Technical Center in Royal Oak, Mich., where the new program will be located.

The News discussed with Featherstone and Crowson about the progress that has been made so far and what still needs to be accomplished.

Featherstone has been provided with approximately 2,300 square feet of lab space for the HVACR program. School staff members have worked for the last month to clear out the room and prepare it for the new program. Currently, Featherstone is teaching electrical to students in the classroom until the HVACR program is launched.

The News has sent out equipment requests to the Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute (ARI) and the Michigan Chapter of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (MIACCA). Equipment requests have also been run in previous issues of The News, but Featherstone is still in need of a variety of equipment in order to give students the hands-on learning they need.

Besides equipment, Featherstone needs some electrical wiring and a new gas line.

Oakland Schools has plans to renovate several of the construction trade programs. This would include providing the new HVACR program with a gas line, but renovations on the HVACR program have been scheduled to begin next year. That is why The News would like to find a contractor who would be willing to volunteer time to run a new gas line.

Featherstone said that if a contractor could not be found to perform the work, he could use propane tanks to operate the systems until Oakland Schools could get around to doing the work. He said using tanks would be an acceptable and safe alternative, but for teaching purposes it would be better if the equipment were run from a gas line.

Finally, The News briefly discussed with Featherstone and Crowson the issue of finding students to enroll in the program.

The Royal Oak campus will be holding its 2003 Career & College Expo on Feb. 13, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event will give students and parents the opportunity to learn more about a variety of career choices offered through the Oakland Technical Center.

Featherstone will be on hand to speak with students and their parents about the HVACR industry.

More Pledges Of Support

In the last few months,The Newshas been fortunate to hear from readers who would like to be involved with the Oakland School project. In fact, some companies have already shown their support by offering and sending equipment donations to Featherstone.

One of the largest equipment donations so far is from ECR International (Utica, N.Y.). Scott Dam, product manager for ECR International, read about Featherstone’s needs in the Nov. 25 issue of The News.

After contacting The News and Featherstone, Dam looked into what kind of equipment the company might be able to donate. According to Dam, the timing was just right for donating to the new program. He said the company was in the midst of going through some old inventory and deciding what to do with it.

Dam was then able to work with Jim Frick, a manufacturer representative from RJM Sales & Marketing based in Waterford, Mich. Dam secured equipment from divisions of ECR International. Frick then made arrangements with local wholesalers to deliver the equipment.

Two Olsen natural gas furnaces and two Olsen oil furnaces will be shipped out of York, Pa., to Giant Plumbing & Supply in Hazel Park, Mich.

ECR International will also provide a gas boiler and an oil boiler from Utica Boilers. The company will also supply equipment from Oneida Royal, including an oil furnace, a cutaway oil furnace, four A/C condenser units of varying tonnage, and 10 coils, both cased and uncased. The Utica and Oneida Royal products will be shipped from Utica, N.Y., to Samson Company in Detroit.

Frick said he will notify Featherstone when the items arrive at each of the wholesalers. He also said that he is grateful to Peter Shillingford of Giant Plumbing & Supply and Greg Morgan at Samson Company for accepting the equipment.

Besides supplying heating and air conditioning systems, ECR International will also be sending Featherstone some educational tools. The company will be sending a CD-ROM program used in calculating heat loss and sizing systems. Dam will also be sending Utica Boiler’s “Hooked on Hydronics” training program. The program consists of videotapes and charts that instruct contractors and technicians on how to sell to customers.

LAMA Books will be sending some educational tools to the program. Leo Meyer, owner of LAMA Books, said that he will be sending Featherstone several books from the company’s Indoor Environment Technician’s Library Series. The books include: Airflow in Ducts, Basics of Electricity, Fans and V-Belt Drives, Math for the Technician, Safety for the Indoor Environment Technician, Indoor Air Quality, and Variable Air Volume Systems.

LAMA Books has several other books scheduled for publication in the future. Meyer said he would send those books as soon as they are available.

Both Dam and Meyer said that they decided to make donations to Oakland Schools because they realize the importance of supporting HVACR education, especially at the secondary level.

“I have been connected with the HVAC industry for over forty years,” said Meyer. “I have worked in shops, taught in high schools, community college, and evening apprenticeship classes, and written training materials. HVAC is my life and my livelihood, so naturally I want to help where it does the most good.”

The News thanks ECR International, LAMA Books, and all the other contributors so far.

If you believe you can help The News support the Oakland Technical Center HVACR program, contact James J. Siegel at 248-244-1731, 248-362-0317 (fax), or

Publication date: 01/27/2003