Powering Chicago, which brings together IBEW 134 and the Electrical Contractors Association of Chicago, introduced its new “field trip truck” to 3,500 Chicago Public Schools students in March 2022 at the Skilled Trades Career Fair at Chicago’s McCormick Place.
“We're here to tell students about opportunities in the electrical field and let educators know the truck is available to visit their schools,” said Elbert Walters III, Powering Chicago’s executive director.
“We don't have shortages of apprenticeship applicants, but the truck allows us to bring the experience of learning about the electrical field to schools,” said Gene Kent, training director for the IBEW-NECA Technical Institute in Alsip, Ill., which is the apprenticeship and education center for members of IBEW 134. “We realize some marginalized schools may have difficulty paying for field trips, especially with the cost of diesel these days and shortages of bus drivers.”
The 73-foot semi-trailer rig contains a miniature village showing power distribution from a nuclear power plant going through a high-voltage power distribution station, through transformers and powerlines, and on to the service entrance box of a downscaled home. The home reveals a wiring system that includes conduit, power outlets and lighting.
“When we visit schools, students get to bend conduit for a hands-on experience, and we’ll review related math so they can realize why math is important,” Kent said.
The field trip truck includes a communications network cabinet, like those found in office buildings. It also features controls used in manufacturing for a conveyor and robotics equipment, as well as an electric vehicle charging unit.
The traveling exhibit, which debuted February 2022 at the Chicago Auto Show, also includes a residential solar panel system and battery for students to assemble and connect with assistance from an IBEW 134 journeyman.
Miles Heard, a 19-year-old senior at Richards Career Academy, wanted to learn more about the solar panels, and planned to ask his teachers about bringing the truck to his school.
Beth Lee, who teaches aquaponics to juniors and seniors at Lane Tech High School, also expressed interest in the solar installation. She plans to invite the truck to visit her school so students can get a sense of what would be involved in setting up a solar installation for powering pumps, aerators and lighting for fish tanks used to raise tilapia.
Beyond enabling students to encounter innovative technologies and learn how power is delivered, the truck also features a repeating video of Kent explaining the benefits of a career in the electrical field.