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Higher Ed Is Not Just For College Students

By Sharon Chen
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At Mendocino College, the Sustainable Technology program is the very definition of hands-on: the college offers a Sustainable Tech demonstration house, which students plan, design, and build – over and over again. Designed to attract college students wishing to enter sustainable construction (one of the fastest-growing job sectors), or homeowners who want to improve their energy efficiency, the college’s Sustainable Technology program provides people with transferable, practical knowledge that is highly valued in today’s job market.

Hands-on, practical knowledge is exactly what we need today. Clean energy is on the rise, businesses and municipalities are increasingly focused on sustainability, and our global community is taking the first steps in addressing our climate challenge. To meet our growing need for sustainable buildings and green living, we need to train college students – but we must also remember that homeowners, business owners, and local leaders need this type of education as well.

In addition to the millennial generation of college students, higher ed needs to remember that sustainability can – and should – be taught to a diverse student body. Homeowners, business owners, and local decision-makers all impact the way we approach our climate challenge. By offering practical, hands-on knowledge like the Sustainable Tech demonstration house, or providing evening courses and professional certificates, higher ed can ensure that sustainable knowledge permeates our communities and is truly transformative.

Sustainable Technology course enrollment begins at Mendocino College

Carole Brodsky | The Ukiah Daily Journal | January 15, 2016

Mendocino College’s Sustainable Technology program continues to attract interest from a broad section of the community: homeowners wishing to upgrade or improve energy efficiency, students looking for construction-related career options and even out-of-towners who have sought out similar courses in their hometowns, only to find that programs like this don’t exist in their communities.

Richard Silsbee is the co-owner of Radiant Solar Technology. For the past four years, he has instructed the Residential Solar Thermal class at the college, which in this era of federal and state mandated energy efficiencies plays an important role in the construction of new homes and businesses, as well as providing existing residents with real solutions for improving home efficiency.

The Thursday class, which begins Jan. 28, consists of a morning lecture in the classroom and hands-on training in the college’s Sustainable Tech workshop, with an additional focus on continuing projects taking shape in the program’s demonstration house.

Silsbee pulls out a piece of copper pipe. “One of the first things we learn is soldering. This is a skill you need to be a solar installer. This piece of pipe demonstrates what happens when you have a frozen copper pipe,” says Silsbee, pointing out a small break in the pipe.

“That’s a real learning experience for a beginning installer. This break occurs from water expanding in the pipe when it freezes. We show students how to design a system so this doesn’t happen in the first place, and how to repair pipe breaks if it does occur.”

The lecture portion of the course includes theory, concepts and the history of solar hot water, with technological advances, science and some physics thrown into the mix. The material is adjusted to the level of understanding of the majority of the class attendees.

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