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Students achieve great heights

By Alisha Wright
On October 16, 2013

  • Daryn Dirks, energy production and distribution emphasis, on top of the wind turbine. Photos Contributed
  • Former students Lee Maxwell and Jeremy Perks. Photo Contributed
  • Tyler NeuCollins and Chris Gail, energy production and distribution emphasis, with a Renewable Concepts Inc. employee. Photo Contributed

The 268-foot wind turbine on campus is not just for show. The turbine helps pay for one third of the college's energy needs and provides hands-on education for students, according to David Bennett, instructor and director of the energy production and distribution technology program at Kirkwood Community College.

Each May students in the program participate in a controlled descent down the turbine as part of their safety training, according to Bennett. The training simulates a self-rescue in case of an emergency where descent from inside the turbine would be impossible, Bennett explained. He also mentioned students practice from a 40-foot drop off of Jones Hall multiple times before they descend from the turbine.

During a class discussion on safety, multiple students discussed their first ascent up the turbine. James Hart, energy production and distribution emphasis, mentioned, "It's not as scary as you would expect."

Bennett mentioned that several other colleges, including the University of Iowa, have smaller working wind turbines but Kirkwood is the only college in the United States to have a working utility class wind turbine on campus. The University of Minnesota has a utility class turbine but it is not on their campus, Bennett said.

Kirkwood students with an energy production and distribution technology emphasis aren't the only ones who benefit from the wind turbine. According to Bennett, other schools such as the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Iowa bring classes to the Kirkwood campus to do tours. In addition to tours these schools also tap into Kirkwood servers to gather information on the turbine and use it at their facilities.

Bennett commented on the number of students in the program stating, "It increases every year. We had 12 the first year, we had 18 the second year and we have 24 this year." Bennett stated his favorite parts of the job are seeing students succeed and getting phone calls from previous students talking about their current jobs.
                  There are 3,200 job openings in the United States for students who complete the program, as well as opportunities outside the country, according to Bennett. He remarked, "The first thing I tell students when they enter the class is to get their passports and pack their bags."


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