Chad Wunsch, a student from Wildwood, Mo., runs a cycle test on a heat pump during a class at Ranken Technical College. (Photos by Ken Meyer.)
ST. LOUIS - The HVACR Technology Department at Ranken Technical College will have plenty to celebrate before 2007. That is saying a lot, especially since this private, nonprofit, degree-granting institution of higher learning will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in two years.

What is making HVACR department head Chris Brueggeman gung-ho now is that his program is getting a much-deserved and much-anticipated overhaul. Remodeling of the current 11,000-square-foot campus space is under way, and Brueggeman plans on making the necessary changes to put Ranken on the cutting edge of technology in the 21st century.

"I like what we're doing, and they went along with most of our ideas," said Brueggeman, referring to the powers that be at Ranken. "We put a lot of time and effort into making this happen. We had to know every piece of equipment we had and what we needed to get. I'm looking forward to the change."

Jim Faughn, vice president of institutional advancement at Ranken, admits that it has been some time (approximately 30 years) since the HVACR department, a part of the Construction Division, has been upgraded.

Jim Faughn (left), vice president of institutional advancement at Ranken Technical College, examines the blueprints of the changes that are scheduled to take place at the college’s HVACR department. Looking on are architect Rick Hill (center) of Hill Partnership and Chris Brueggeman, HVACR department head at Ranken.
Because the campus is in constant change, and because it does take money to make changes, it took some time before the HVACR department's turn came around.

Ranken offers 13 other industry trade programs in the automotive, construction, industrial electricity and electronics, information technology, and manufacturing divisions.

"This is going to be an exciting space," noted Faughn, looking over the HVACR department's floor plans.

"Every time Ranken updates its space, that gets us back to the value question. We are a non-profit organization and we still compete for students. We have to have a program that is not only up to date, but surpasses that. I believe the changes the [HVACR] department is about to undergo will put it over the top."

A new energy management lab, an ambient room for commercial equipment, a unitary ambient room, window units, a refrigeration area, a rack systems row, and more have been figured into the equation.

Students Ryan Kohnen (left) from Germantown, Ill., and Brad Drum from Cape Girardeau, Mo., run a Maytag heat pump through a defrost test during class at Ranken Technical College.
"Having a room for the outdoor environment is a needed addition," said Brueggeman.

"We are going to actually have our heating and cooling systems located in a different environment than in an indoor setting. This way, we can raise or lower the temperature in this room, much like a psychrometric room that many manufacturers have."

In the interim, the department is in the process of inventorying equipment, keeping that which is still useable or pertinent and replacing that which is not.

"We need to add some modern, state-of-the-art pieces of equipment, while at the same time holding on to some of the old. This industry has equipment in the field that may be 20 to 30 years old and you still have to teach older concepts, such as standing pilot furnaces, etc.

"We also need to teach more on indoor air quality, variable-speed blowers, R-410A systems, and multistage heating and cooling. There is just so much to keep pace with the times, and it does take equipment and money to do it."

Jason Muntz, a student from Jerseyville, Ill., checks power on a package air conditioning system during a class at Ranken Technical College.

Work Ethic

The college administration is confident the upgrade will only bring more positive results. As it stands, the department is at its capacity, able to teach 24 students per semester.

Brueggeman, who became the head of the department a year ago, in April, said Ranken's three-pronged teaching attack stresses technical knowledge, general studies, and the proper work ethic.

"It is an important part of their grade," he said of the work ethic. "To most employers, this is a very important part. They tell us they like the fact that we have graduates who are going to show up and are clean cut, because this is a customer-based business. You deal with customers, and if you don't represent yourself well, it doesn't matter how good of a technician you are because they are never going to call you back if you have poor work ethic traits.

"A student gets a work ethic grade each semester at Ranken. It is a good measure that is often overlooked at a lot of other schools."

Generally a student experiences three hours of hands-on work in the shop to one hour of classroom instruction. Students also can go to the college's intranet system and get the instructor's presentations for reference and to prepare for tests.

"I think the students today are definitely more computer literate," Brueggeman said.

"They want to use the computer. I think the industry is turning more and more to computers with energy management, load calculations, etc. We are also going to have computer programs set up in our energy management lab for troubleshooting. Students should have a good mix between live and simulated equipment to work with."

School seeks donations: Ranken Technical College is in the midst of remodeling and upgrading its HVACR Technology Department. The school is looking to have its renovations completed by the end of 2005 or early 2006. If you would like to help with the reconstruction effort or set up an equipment donation, please contact Ken Meyer, director of annual giving, at 314-286-3649 or

Publication date: 05/02/2005