green tech

A taste of green

By Bill Knief

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This Saturday plan to drop by Taos High School between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to check out the free Taste of Green open house in the Green Technology Education Center at the back of the THS campus. That’s where UNM-Taos provides the vocational training courses for high school and college students that are going to sustain the next generation of families in our community. If you can make it, you’re going to find out what real, hands-on education is all about.

I was especially interested in talking with Directors Karlis Viceps and Mark Goldman about green technology because it is one of the many, lesser known programs that make UNM-Taos such an exceptional learning institution.

“I was at Harvard University over Thanksgiving,” Goldman said, “and although the level of sophistication was higher there, the students were using the same construction software system that we use here, and the one that is in use throughout the country. Our students have to be fluent in that language or they can’t communicate with engineers, bankers, architects, building inspectors. The language changes rapidly, and if you don’t get on the right side of the curve you might end up in the more menial positions in the trades.”

Viceps, too, takes pride in the green technology program, and feels that the experiential approach pays great dividends. “It all starts with plumbing and electrical,” he said. “We concentrate on core skills, teaching students how to use tools, how to be safe on the job and raise their awareness in the workplace. Just those three things will put you a step ahead of anyone who just walks in off the street asking for a job. The beauty is yes, you have to have theory, but the rest is hands-on work in teams. It really broadens their approach to education. We have great support from people in the construction trades on our advisory board and also in our internship program.

“On Saturday afternoon we will open up the Green Technology Center to the public. Many of our instructors will be there to demonstrate what their classes will be like. We encourage people to participate, and since the classes will be done in sequence, if you come in for the whole afternoon you can experience all the classes.”

I asked Viceps to describe some of the offerings.

“We have well over sixty students in the program now, ranging from 16 year olds to adults. The electrical wiring class has no extra seats; it fills every semester, and Introduction to Plumbing is generally full. In addition to these standard classes we have many more options. Building Science is the study of how buildings function under varying conditions. In the weatherization class you’ll study the science of materials systems, and learn how to pressure test buildings to assess how tight they are, in order to reduce heating and cooling costs, and then explore low cost solutions.

“For the first time we are teaching a sustainable farming class and farm lab, focusing on the local application of sustainable and organic farming and gardening practices. And because this town is full of independent thinkers—people who want to run their own business and be their own boss—we have Introduction to Green Business.”

According to their course schedule, this class will look at green business networks, associations and trade journals, and each student will create a viable business plan from idealistic vision statement to a three year plan, budget, market analysis and pilot project.

Drop by Taos High on Saturday and sample some of the sustainable options offered at the Green Technology Center. And don’t forget: registration for Spring Semester classes is already under way at UNM-Taos. Like the green tech slogan says: green and renewable education leads to many professional trade opportunities.

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