News from the Education Front: HVAC Playground for Penn State Undergrads, Risk Training for A/Es


Here are but a few of the many educational activities going on in the engineering world these days. Another successful National Engineers Week just passed in late February, but engineering education continues year-round.

ASHRAE, hoping to provide students with a place where they can gain hands-on experience, has provided a grant for construction of an HVAC&R playground at Pennsylvania State University.

In fact, 26 grants, totaling some $110,000, have been awarded by ASHRAE to colleges and universities worldwide to promote the study and teaching of HVAC&R, encouraging undergraduate students to pursue related careers. The grants are used to design and construct projects.

Penn State juniors majoring in architectural engineering are exposed to HVAC&R equipment primarily through course lectures, a few site visits and weekly practicum where problems are solved on paper. As a result of the lack of hands-on experience, the field of HVAC&R loses students to other career specialization options, such as lighting, according to Jelena Srebric, Ph.D., Penn State.

“The lab will give students a place to interact and play with HVAC&R equipment and principles they learn about in their class,” she says. “It will promote HVAC&R while directly impacting students’ career decisions.”

The lab will include an air handling unit, two air-conditioning window units, a small heat pump, low differential pressure instruments and manometers, carbon dioxide meters, VOC meters and a human simulation device.

X.L. America, Inc., Monterey, Calif., has introduced four new education programs from the design professional unit of its insurance operations, XL Insurance. The programs are intended to help architects and engineers minimize the risks associated with day-to-day business practices such as client selection, negotiations, contract management, time management and project initiation.

"Architects and engineers are expert designers, but our claims study shows that we can help them improve non-technical skills, avoid claims and make their design practices even more successful,” says John Glancy, executive vice president and COO of XL Insurance. “In the more than 24,000 closed claims and loss prevention files representing over $1 billion in claim payments reviewed from 1989 to 2003, we found non-technical factors at the root of the claims."

A non-technical factor refers to a breakdown in project and practice management processes that may contribute to an environment in which a technical error may occur.

The initial course is "Client Selection: The First Step in Sound Risk Management," designed to help firms select good clients, manage expectations, improve billing practices and deal with the problems that result from poor client and project selection.

Additional courses, each designed to address a specific area of practice improvement, include:

  • Negotiations: Strategies for Better Client Agreements.

  • Contract Management: Risk Allocation by Design.

  • Time Management and Project Initiation: Tools and Tactics for Enhancing Project Management.

For more information go to .

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