Category Archives: Summer 2012

STEM scholar coordinates energy ball lab to power college KNOLL

John HofmanJohn Hofman, 35, a STEM student majoring in engineering and an intern at Centralia City Light, has been instrumental in coordinating a clean energy working lab that will be installed in and provide electricity for the Kiser Natural Outdoor Learning Lab (KNOLL).

“There are only two solar houses in Centralia,” John stated. “With this lab, we’ll learn how clean energy generation will work in our area.”

As the KNOLL energy project manager, John has researched and acquired all of the material and labor needed to complete the lab, which will open at the corner of Washington Ave. and Centralia College Blvd. in June.

“This project has been waiting for someone with driving enthusiasm to take it and go,” Barbara Hins-Turner, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy (PNCECE), at Centralia College, said. “This has been a great partnership.”

The lab will feature a state-of-the-art wind turbine called The Energy Ball. It measures 6-1/2 feet in diameter, will sit upon a 45-foot pole and will produce up to 2,500 watts of energy in ideal conditions. Designed for minimal sound and vibration, the Energy Ball will produce power at wind speeds more than 6.7 mph. The turbine will be working alongside 175-watt solar panels.

Funds for the energy ball project were donated by Mark Johnson, a former college staff member who headed the Center of Excellence for Energy Technology when it first came to the campus. The unit is expected to be operational by June 8, when the college will dedicate the KNOLL in honor of long-time physical science instructor Rufus Kiser. The power that will be produced here will be sent back into the local power grid to be used by those closest to the system, which happens to be the college.

Centralia College energy technology students will measure the power production over time and will report on the potential for solar and wind power generation in Lewis County. They will review effects of extended overcast days, windless days, dirt, and angle of the solar panels—which at certain times of the year may or may not reach maximum production. The college will receive rebates from the state based upon actual production of this combined generation system.

Hofman will graduate from Centralia College with an Associate in Science–Electrical Engineering degree this spring. His classes include physics, differential equations, electrical circuits and calculus 4. He works 69 hours each month as the Centralia City Light intern (coordinating more exciting projects such as a vehicle re-charging system next to Wendy’s restaurant). He is the father of four home schooled children, ranging in ages 2 through 9; and a project coordinator for the free Health and Hope Medical Outreach clinic.

“I like to be involved with local projects because of my beliefs,” John said. He has always been involved with church and his community. John became interested in energy through a volunteer project, which introduced him to Ed Williams, general manager of Centralia City Light.

John found the biggest challenge of the energy lab was working with policies and learning the state’s purchasing system. His second challenge: balancing school, work, family and volunteering. “I’ve gained experience, training and self-confidence at Centralia College,” he stated.

Hofman, originally from Minnesota, was home schooled his last year of high school. “I came back to college after 15 years,” he said. Hofman is the first in his immediate family to become a college graduate.

Originally a Civil Engineering Technology major, his instructors recognized that John was good with numbers and encouraged him to continue school to earn his bachelor’s in engineering. His pre-calculus teacher encouraged Hofman to apply for the STEM scholarship. He won the tuition/books award which pays for two years of college. “If it wasn’t for the STEM scholarship, I wouldn’t be able to finish my degree,” Hofman said. “I changed my focus, so I ended up staying at Centralia College an extra year.”

He’s recently been accepted to attend WSU/Vancouver to earn a bachelor’s in electrical engineering. Classes will begin in August and he hopes to finish in two years.

“I owned and operated my own construction company for years,” he said. “My new degree and experience, that began at Centralia College, will guarantee my employment wherever I go.”


Welder turns STEM student to pursue passion

Ross GleasonRoss Gleason, a 2009 Centralia High School graduate, is enjoying his experiences at Centralia College while letting his passion drive his college education. While still in high school, he took welding classes as part of the Tech Prep program offered through Centralia College. He was learning a great trade skill and earning college credits that applied toward his first college degree.

After graduating from high school, Gleason continued on at Centralia College where, within one year, he completed training for his welding degree. Armed with that he could have entered the workforce with skills that would serve him well. But that wasn’t enough and it certainly didn’t alter his career goal.

Gleason then came back to Centralia College as a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) student and is working toward his degree in biology.

“Wildlife biology is my passion. I really want to be a biologist and possibly work in wildlife and fisheries,” Gleason said. Centralia College is a great place to lay the foundation in that field.

But why welding? Primarily it was because of Tech Prep. His summer work with a construction company also played a part. “I started working (in construction) with a buddy washing trucks and have worked there every summer since. After receiving my ATA (Associate in Technical Arts) in welding, I’ve stepped up from washing trucks to welding for them.”

He proved to be a very adept welder. “I was active in our Skills USA club at the high school and competed on the regional level in welding skills. I didn’t quite make it to the state competition, but I was close.”

His focus now is on biology and the education he needs to help him fulfill his career dreams. “In today’s society, to even be considered for higher level positions, you have to have secondary education. Plus, the connections you make with other students and faculty create a support network for the future.”

“Here at Centralia College the faculty is willing to help me in any way necessary, whether it be academic or non-academic questions I might have. I would like to thank Dr. Jody Peterson, my advisor for Phi Theta Kappa, and Dr. Steve Norton, who is a fish biologist, for all the encouragement they have given me. And, Teresa Ireton, my English teacher makes English class more fun than it should be!”

Gleason also appreciates some of the other characteristics of Centralia College.

“Compared to big universities you get more one-on-one time with the professors, which is a key asset to success. I didn’t know until I started attending classes at Centralia College that it offers such great educational programs. I found out that we have quality instructors who have chosen to teach at Centralia College.”

Gleason also believes he’s getting some great training and opportunities in leadership. He is president of the PTK, the college honor society, and one of the society’s projects this year is to help raise money for a fallen officers memorial. He serves part-time as a math tutor and works with the Associated Students of Centralia College on a variety of projects.

“Being involved in these activities on campus allowed me to interact with lots of successful people in the community. I am able to see what skills and attributes made them successful and I’m striving to have those same attributes and skills,” Gleason said.

Centralia College is a great school. It gives students every opportunity to succeed—helpful staff, programs like math and the writing center, lots of extracurricular opportunities, and quality facilities. The science center is amazing! Tuition is affordable. I would recommend Centralia College to others. Choosing to further my education at Centralia College is the best decision I ever made!”


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