PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A Presque Isle native is paving the way for students at Northern Maine Community College to get more advanced training thanks to a generous donation made through a foundation she established.
Officials at Northern Maine Community College announced late last week that its wind power technology program had received a $50,000 contribution from the Troutbeck Fund, an advised fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The gift is designated for the purchase of needed instructional equipment for the only academic program of its kind in New England.
The Troutbeck Fund was established by Mary Smith of California, a native of Presque Isle, as an advised fund in memory of her husband, Rodney Smith, and her parents, Hope and Robert Akeley, both of whom were born and raised in central Aroostook County.
The $50,000 gift was received by the NMCC Foundation, which supports the college’s commitment to providing educational opportunities in the community.
Specifically, the contribution will allow the college to purchase a mechanical drive system trainer that will be used by students to learn the fundamentals of mechanical transmission systems used in wind power and other industrial settings. Last summer, NMCC purchased a single unit to be used by the 36 second-year and 18 first-year students enrolled in the wind power technology program. The units cost $43,000 each.
Tim Crowley, the president of NMCC, said the college was “profoundly grateful” for the donation.
“The growth of northern Maine is tied directly to our ability to develop the knowledge and skills needed within our work force to utilize our abundant natural resources to create alternative energy sources for our state,” he said. “This support will enable the college to purchase needed equipment to train future wind industry technicians.”
In 2008, Northern Maine Community College launched the first program of its kind in New England geared toward training wind power technicians to operate, maintain and repair wind turbine generators. Members of the pioneer class who entered in 2009 are working to become the first wind power technicians educated in New England. The inaugural class is expected to graduate in May.
The program quickly became popular, helping to boost enrollment at the college.
Wayne Kilcollins, the NMCC wind power technology instructor, said having a second trainer will be most beneficial to the students by providing for more individual learning opportunities and making for a more efficient use of lab time.
“The addition of this equipment will reduce the amount of time it will take students to become acquainted with the mechanical systems they will be exposed to in wind turbine operations from 16 weeks to 12 weeks,” he said.
Using the trainer, students will learn skills that include how to operate, install, analyze performance and design basic mechanical transmission systems, Kilcollins said.
College officials said that they intend to use the remaining $7,000 balance from the Troutbeck Fund contribution toward purchase of a multimedia interactive programmable controller unit. This equipment will allow students to program a controller and connect different motors, switches and other devices to see how the program they created interacts with these components.