By Amy Hudnor

Sluzenski (left) and Paradis (center) teache solar installation to SCRTC building trades students
Sluzenski (left) and Paradis (center) teach solar installation to SCRTC building trades students

Because KVCC is in central Maine and serves the Northeast region, our travels with the mobile solar lab typically start ‘southbound on the turnpike’—by hopping on I-95 and heading south. Not so in November when the KVCC solar road show headed east—as far east as we could go without being stopped by customs officials—to St. Croix Regional Technical Center in Calais, Maine.

St. Croix Regional Technical Center (SCRTC) gets its name from the St. Croix River which you can see from campus as it flows by, dutifully forming the boundary between Maine and New Brunswick, Canada before it flows into the Bay of Fundy and then the Atlantic Ocean. This region is part of eastern Maine often called ‘Downeast’ and known for remoteness, rugged coastline, blueberry barrens, fishing communities and a tenacious people committed to maintaining strong communities despite the economic hardships of recent decades.

Students who attend SCRTC come from Calais High School (with which it shares a campus), and Eastport and Woodland High Schools. SCRTC Building Trades Instructor Stan Sluzenski has worked with the Solar Instructor Training Network at KVCC for the past two years gaining skills in solar and ideas for how to incorporate it in his classes. KVCC’s visit in November was a chance for Stan Sluzenski and Mike Paradis (former KVCC solar instructor) to work together, team-teaching students and using solar equipment provided by KVCC’s mobile solar lab.

Mr. Sluzenski and his building trades students—who range from sophomores to seniors—built their own mini-mock roof to use for solar and other roofing projects in the classroom. When the KVCC mobile solar lab arrived, it was time for Mike and Stan to give the students lessons in the basics of solar PV, and experience mounting a solar PV system on their mini-mock roof. Many of the students were eager to know more about the electrical aspects of solar as well as the mechanical ‘on the roof’ installation. Levi Staples, a sophomore, said he found solar PV interesting because of its simplicity and efficiency. “This is a fun skill that will help me later in life—and a skill I can boast about’ he said after the solar installation experience”.

As a bonus, a building construction technology class from Washington County Community College, which shares a driveway with SCRTC, was able to attend a solar class in the afternoon with Stan and Mike. Close access to the community college is a boon for SCRTC, and Stan regularly collaborates with Richard Ramsey, building construction instructor at WCCC. Mr. Sluzenski, who won the 2014 ‘Teacher of the Year’ award from the organization Maine Career and Technical Education, is always striving to keep his program current. In the coming year he plans on acquiring solar training equipment to make solar lessons a regular feature of his building trades program.

In Stan’s words “Solar PV is a wonderful addition to my Building Trades program.  The new content is definitely cutting edge.  It is helping me to stay current with the industry and, best of all, my students are excited about the new skills they are learning.”