Mark Brower, a student in the HVACR program at Careerline Tech Center and a Hudsonville Unity Christian High School senior, participates in a lab assignment using one of the custom-designed training units.
HOLLAND, Mich. - Area high school students attending the Careerline Tech Center's HVACR program are preparing for future careers using cutting-edge training equipment that was specifically designed for use in their learning environment.

Tech center staff collaborated with a team from Thermotron, a Holland-based manufacturer of environmental test equipment, to custom design training equipment that simulates five different refrigeration systems in one unit: a household refrigerator, walk-in and reach-in coolers, and walk-in and reach-in freezers.

According to the program's instructor, Phil Breuker, the 10 compact, portable training units that were purchased from Ther-motron help maximize student learning by creating efficiencies in the learning environment.

"We are the only school using these trainers," said Breuker. "Thermotron manufactures re-frigeration environment test chambers, but worked with us to make modifications to an S4 chamber that would better suit our program training needs."

Thermotron's marketing manager, Kevin Ewing, said that their work with the education market on product development has previously been limited to universities for research purposes.

"We plan to turn this trainer into a routine product line that we sell to the education market," said Ewing. The manufacturer had the opportunity to present this new refrigeration trainer to a group of instructors in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI). One of the company's sales engineers, Jack Wiechertjes, also teamed with Breuker to present a Web seminar at Ferris State University on the trainer's features and benefits.

Thermotron and the Careerline Tech Center have had a long-standing relationship that continues to benefit both organizations. Breuker said Thermotron has a history of making generous equipment donations to the school's HVACR program. Thermotron president Dan O'Keefe said that relationship will continue, too.

"Trade skills in the area of refrigeration are always in demand and we want to help in any way we can," said O'Keefe. "Having the Careerline Tech Center in western Michigan is important in order to have highly skilled individuals available for hire. It's a tremendous advantage for us to have workers who are well-trained when they hit the shop floor."

Thermotron employs a number of Careerline tech center students through the center's cooperative education program, which allows students to gain on-site experience at local businesses. O'Keefe said bringing co-op students on board helps them train at another level and provides the company an opportunity to see how well the students' talents fit the company's needs.

"When I took my class on a tour of Thermotron earlier this year, I was amazed to see the number of co-op students and graduates from other tech center programs who were working there," said Breuker.

"In fact, the diagram for the refrigeration trainer that we are now using was drawn last year by a student in the Computer-Aided Drafting and Design program. I think it speaks to the quality of education students receive at the Careerline Tech Center and the impact that a solid business and education partnership has on students' educational experiences."

Visit for information on Thermotron. For more information on Careerline Tech Center, visit

Publication date: 04/03/2006