From journaltimes.com: “Help the world: Earth Day activities scheduled in Racine, Kenosha counties” — Racine and Kenosha counties offer plenty of opportunities to actively observe Earth Day again this year today and through next weekend.

And while most of these events are specific to Earth Day and the surrounding weeks, eco-friendly volunteer and learning opportunities abound at other times of the year — such as the May and June projects at Wheatland’s Woodland Education Center noted below.

Earth Day has a special place in Wisconsin history, as it was Wisconsin’s U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson who came up with the idea for a day — April 22 — for a “national teach-in on the environment” in 1970, according to earthday.org.

Want to do some good for the local environment or learn more about how to care for the Earth? Here are some options for you:

Today — Medicine Collection Day for Households, 6200 21st St. (west of Highway 31), Racine, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Prescription medication and over the counter medication, ointments, sprays, inhalers, creams, vials and pet medications are acceptable. Keep all medications in original bottles (cross out name but leave medication name visible). Put all medications in a sealed bag. Do not bring needles, sharps, biohazardous materials or personal care products.

Today — Cleanup and Ladybug Unveiling, 1-3 p.m. Volunteers are needed to fan out over streets surrounding the Wadewitz COP House, 1750 Mead St., Racine, to pick up litter and waste during a spring cleanup effort. A new art project will be unveiled at Hamilton Park. Youth-painted ladybug rocks will be scattered about the park for those to find. Ladybugs can be brought home and kept as a token of appreciation for the volunteer’s work. All ladybugs will be number and presented additional awards.

Today — The Racine Wastewater Utility household hazardous waste collection program will hold its collection from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the waste collection site, 6200 21st St., Racine. The program is open to residents of Racine, Caledonia, Mount Pleasant, Sturtevant, Wind Point, North Bay and Elmwood Park. Residents are encouraged to bring harmful chemicals from around their home to the permanent collection site. Collections occur every third Saturday through October from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, go to http://www.cityofracine.org/Wastewater.aspx.

April 22 — Party for the Planet, Racine Zoo, 2131 N. Main St., Racine, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Informational tables in the Vanishing Kingdom building letting people know what things they can do to help the planet and craft stations where children can create special crafts related to the theme.

April 24 — Drive up-drop off medication collection at Raymond Town Hall, 2255 S. 76th St., Raymond, 6-8 p.m. Racine County residents should bring medication in original bottles with patient names crossed out. The name of the medication should still be visible. Do not bring needles, syringes or any biohazardous materials. For more information, call 262-930-6380, or 262-763-4930.

April 26 — Reuse-A-Shoe, Cesar Chavez Community Center, 2221 Douglas Ave., and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, 1134 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Racine, 9 a.m.-noon. People can donate used athletic shoes. All brands of used, dry, mud-free athletic shoes are acceptable. The following items will not be accepted: Shoes containing metal parts; cleats, spikes, thongs, sandals, pumps, dress shoes and boots; shoes in plastic bags or tied together. The shoes will then be donated to the Nike recycling center.

April 26 — Raking leaves and spreading mulch at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, 1015 4 Mile Road, Caledonia, 10 a.m. Bring gloves and rakes. Children welcome if accompanied by an adult. Register by calling Mark Trinklein at 414-217-3043.

April 26 — Garlic Mustard Pull-A-Thon, 9 a.m.-noon, Colonial Park. Meet at West High Street parking lot, Racine. Contact Drew Ballantyne at drewbtyne@live.com; or Melissa Warner at melissa.warner3@sbcglobal.net.

April 26 — People can celebrate Earth Day while helping out and enjoying Wisconsin state park, forest, trail and wildlife properties during the sixth annual Work Play Earth Day from 9 a.m. to noon at Richard Bong State Recreation Area, 26313 Burlington Road, Bristol. Volunteers can help repair and enhance park, forest and trail properties. Activities include planting trees and shrubs, installing benches, removing invasive plants, painting picnic tables and other structures, raking and cleaning up leaves and picking up litter. Volunteers should wear work boots or athletic shoes, long pants and bring their own work gloves.

Refreshments will be provided and Friends of Wisconsin State Parks will also provide appreciation gifts for volunteers. When the work is done, volunteers can stay to enjoy hiking or biking park trails, visiting the nature center or enjoying any of the recreational opportunities available at the different properties.

To sign up, call Bong State Recreation Area at 262-878-5600. People should check in at the Visitor Center where they will be split into work crews for the morning. No state park vehicle stickers are required while volunteering.

April 26 — Gateway Technical College has expanded its Celebrate Earth Day activities and demonstrations for 2014 to include even more hands-on demonstrations, family-friendly activities and ways community members can be gentle on the environment at work and home.

The event will be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 26 at its Kenosha and Elkhorn campuses, featuring a number of Earth-friendly activities, informational booths and children’s crafts. For the entire event listing — including campus-specific activities — go to http://www.gtc.edu/earthday.

Visitors at each campus will receive a reusable grocery bag, courtesy of event sponsor, Snap-on Inc., as well as a variety of other “green” focused items. The event is free and open to the public.

April 26-27 — To celebrate Earth Week and Arbor Day, Apple Holler, 5006 S. Sylvania Ave., Yorkville, is inviting the public to visit the orchard and farm park, including the baby animals, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at no charge. Visitors will learn more about Apple Holler and their farm. Apple Holler will be planting 2,000 new fruit trees this year. Call 262-886-8500 for more information.

May and June — Seno Woodland Education Center, 3606 Dyer Lake Road, Wheatland, needs volunteers with many projects including pulling garlic mustard, cutting young box elder trees, cutting thistles in the prairie, tree planting, trim pea bushes and white pine branches, clear around trail signs, buckthorn and honey suckle cutting and spraying, rendezvous projects, public events, replacing barn entry doors, and repairing pavilion overhang and adding vents. Call 262-539-3222, or go to senocenter@senocenter.org.

From wxow.com: “Mary Burke visits college students, pushes jobs plan” – Governor Scott Walker visited on Tuesday, and democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke followed by bringing her “Invest for Success” tour to La Crosse on Wednesday.

Burke toured the Health Science Center on the UW-La Crosse campus on Wednesday, and spoke with health and science students.

Burke said she is committed to making Wisconsin a top ten thriving economy, creating more “good-paying” jobs, and making sure workers have the necessary skills to fill those jobs.

Burke also met with students at the Lunda Center on the Western Technical College campus, as she believes technical colleges plays a critical role in worker training—which would fuel job creation and strengthen Wisconsin’s middle class.

“We are constantly looking at how to produce more at a lower cost, and we have to approach education in the same way. We still want to keep quality really high, but we need to have more people to get skills and education after high school,” Burke said.

Burke said to help send the future workforce to college, she plans to increase tuition and fee deductions to help make higher education more affordable and available for middle class families.

“In terms of job creation, we are 9th our of ten Midwestern states. (Governor) Walker has cut funding for the technical colleges just at the point where we need to make sure we are investing in our students and investing in their skills,” Burke said.

Burke said 70 percent of new jobs created will require more education, and she said she believes the earlier they speak to high school students on what the next steps are ahead of them, the better Wisconsin will be able to create jobs.

From chippewa.com: “Workers in demand” — EAU CLAIRE — As a student in Chippewa Valley Technical College’s (CVTC) Machine Tooling Technics program, Eric Weining of Menomonie has a valuable set of skills for potential employers. Unfortunately, it was probably too late for the employers at the CVTC Spring Career Fair Wednesday, April 9, to entice him.

Weining will not graduate from the program until December, but that didn’t stop him from getting a job at Phillips Plastics in Menomonie. He started about four weeks ago.

“I work in the tool room as a mold machine technician,” Weining said. He heard about a job opening there and had some contacts in the company, but his plans to finish his degree at CVTC was key. “That was motivation for them. They had been looking to hire a student from CVTC for their program.”

Starting early

In a sign of improving economic times, participation in the CVTC Spring Career Fair was up once again, and the message to employers was clear: Start your recruitment efforts early, as skilled workers are in high demand.

Overall, 81 private and public employers set up tables at three CVTC facilities at this year’s Spring Career Fair, up from 69 last spring and from 58 in spring 2012. The 37 employers at the Manufacturing Education Center represented an increase from 30 at the Spring 2013 Career Fair. In spring 2011, only 22 manufacturing businesses participated.

Kuss Filtration in Bloomer had never participated in the Spring Career Fair before, but it was time for the company that was spun off from Cummins Filtration to get proactive.

“Now that we’re spun off, there’s no outside support for troubleshooting equipment,” said Ben Rubenzer, manufacturing engineering manager for the company. He’s looking to expand a maintenance team of 14 at the plant that employs up to 170 workers.

“We’re looking at exploding our capabilities and our skill set internally,” Rubenzer said. “We’re looking at Electromechanical (Technology) students.”

Kuss Filtration was not the only company looking for people with the training to design, program and maintain the often automated equipment found in today’s manufacturing plants, nor was Kuss the first new employer to take part in the fair. Universal Services, a power line installation company out of Hastings, Minn.; Crown Trucks, a lift truck manufacturer from St. Paul; and Koch Pipeline were among several new Career Fair participants looking for people with such skills.

Some employers are anxious to find applicants.

Increased demand

Brad Moran at the TTM Technologies table said he has 31 maintenance workers at the Chippewa Falls plant, but he could use 40. “We’re constantly adding equipment. We’ve been on the increase the past two and half years,” Moran said.

A crowd of Machine Tooling Technics students gathered around the Riverside Machine and Engineering table, examining some of the small metal parts the company manufactures. The plant, which will be moving from Chippewa Falls into part of the Hutchinson Technology building on Eau Claire’s north side, has needs for machinists, inspectors on all shifts and calibration technicians. A sign at the table requested applicants for those jobs.

“About 90 percent of our crew is CVTC graduates. We recruit very heavily here,” said Elisia Gonsowski of the Riverside team.

Giles Nielsen of Five Star Plastics in Eau Claire was looking for Electromechanical Technology students, but also had his eyes open for people with other skills as well. On his table were two plastic prototype parts made through use of two different kinds of three-dimensional printers. CVTC recently added one of those types of printers.

“We have a rapid prototyping department,” said Nielsen. “If they know about this process and how to run these machines, it’s all the better.”

Plenty of openings

Companies tended to be quite familiar with CVTC graduates.

“We hired a CVTC student last year who is a multi-craft technician. He does a little bit of electrical and instrumentation and mechanical. He’s doing a great job for us. We’re looking to see who else is available,” said Natalie Caldarera of Koch Pipeline.

Denise Nelson of Universal Services had openings for as many as eight Electromechanical Technology technicians, four aerial linemen and a diesel mechanic – all skills taught in specific CVTC programs.

Students in the sought-after programs found a lot of interest from potential employers, but, as in Weining’s case, it was often too late – for the employers.

Electromechanical Technology student Charlie Yohnk of Bloomer has been working at Catalytic Combustion in Bloomer since September. “I plan to stay there, but I’m going around seeing what everyone else is up to,” he said.

It’s not too late for companies to spark an interest with Sam Reider, who can bring a diversity of skills. The 2007 Chippewa Falls High School graduate attended CVTC in the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology program, then served his country in Afghanistan as a diesel mechanic in the service. He’s now a CVTC Industrial Mechanics program student.

“I like fixing stuff. I want to see what’s out there after I graduate,” Reider said. He drew some early interest from Five Star Plastics, even though he’s not graduating until May 2015.

For Career Fair employers, recruitment is a long-term project.

From fdlreporter.com: “MPTC eyes $1.5 million addition” — A proposed $1.5 million addition planned for Moraine Park Technical College will enhance the front entrance, centralize services and accommodate student veterans.

The addition will be located on the west side of the C-Building in close proximity to the C-Parking (visitor) lot. A ground-breaking ceremony is scheduled for June 2.

The Student Services Addition Project is pending May 6 approval by the Wisconsin Technical College System State Board.

The project will move MPTC from “good” to “wow,” said Stanley Cram, vice president of student affairs. The new “one-stop shop” includes a walk-up service area for enrollment and eliminates the current physical barriers between staff and the student.

“Like any business it is important that customers — in our case student learners — are able to quickly identify where they need to go for information and services they are seeking,” Cram said. “We recognized the Fond du Lac campus most obvious need is to have a clearly identifiable ‘Front Door.’”

There will be a concierge desk for visitors and students and offices for recruitment staff, academic advisors, and student counselors. The addition will provide a handicap-accessible entrance.

“We are creating the space with a Ritz Carlton concierge concept of service,” Cram said. “When individuals enter the front door they will be greeted by a concierge desk who will determine their specific needs and will guide them to the appropriate services.”

The space will also include a welcome center, which will be staffed with advisors, a veteran’s representative and trained recruitment staff. Cram said the plan includes technological features such as flat-screen meeting notices.

A separate area is dedicated to assisting veterans through the admission, enrollment and financial aid processes and introduce them to veteran services offered by the college.

The project will be funded with $300,000 from college reserves and $1.2 million promissory note borrowing.

Bids for the project will be opened at 2 p.m. April 24 during a public bid, and the project is expected to be approved at a May 21 meeting of the Moraine Park Technical College District Board. Bid requests were sent to 15 pre-qualified general contractors, said Tim Flood, director of facility services.

Somerville Inc. of Green Bay is the architectural firm that designed the 5,212-foot concrete block addition to match facilities at MPTC’s Beaver Dam and West Bend campuses.

“I think it’s an outstanding design that ties into the existing building,” Flood said.

The main entrance will be closed during construction and students will access the school through the C-2 entrance, which is off the main parking lot. The driveway will remain open.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of November and ready for students for the winter/spring 2015 semester.

Cram said additional services will be considered during the second phase of the project.

“I want Moraine Park to be home for our students and alumni. If you need us you have a home that will always strive to provide the best experience for a lifetime,” he said.

From greenbaypressgazette.com: “Area students learn about employment in agriculture” — Seventh- and eighth-grade students from five area public schools had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of 32 different agricultural employment fields at the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp.-sponsored Ag Career Days. More than 900 students gathered at Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy April 10-11 to learn about potential future careers based in agriculture.

“Today is about showcasing opportunities available in agriculture,” said Tori Sorenson, GreenStone Farm Credit Services and co-chair of the KCEDC Ag Committee. “Students are getting further away from family farms, and we want to make these local opportunities known.”

Students had the opportunity to rank four different “clusters” of careers: Dollars and Sense, Grinding Gear, Diggin’ Deep and Cow “Tipping,” with the intention of learning about specific jobs within those clusters.

After a bus tour of the Ponderosa, the students broke into their groups and had the opportunity to interact with local business people.

“We need to put the tools in the toolbox and offer the opportunity to learn about where food comes from,” Sorenson said.

Monica Streff, a nutritionist at Cornette Farm Supply, dairy farmer and custom calf ranch raiser, served as one of the stops in the Cow “Tipping” cluster, and she talked about mixing products to create a formula for calf nutrition.

“I look at kids as the future of agriculture. If we don’t educate them today, we may not have a future,” Streff said. “There are jobs that involve more than just animals, like in horticulture, crops, sales, mechanics, fruits and vegetables.”

Steve Bretl of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College was a presenter in the Grinding Gear cluster, informing students about the diesel technician program at NWTC. He was showing the students how to use a PTO dynamometer, which can calculate if a piece of machinery is producing the horsepower and torque it is rated for.

“The complexity of the industry requires students to have communications, math, and technical skills in high school to prep them for program soft skills,” Bretl said. “It is important to make them aware now of what they can do and how they can obtain their goals.”

Students from Luxemburg-Casco, Algoma, Kewaunee, Denmark and Southern Door attended the two-day event.

From greenbaypressgazette.com: “NWTC budget up slightly, but tax levy plummets” — Gov. Scott Walker’s property tax cuts mean a big change in the way Northeast Wisconsin Technical College balances its books.

The community college’s general fund budget for next school is expected to increase by about 1.8 percent from $77.2 million this year to $78.7 million for 2014-15.

But NWTC’s local tax levy will drop by about half, from $59.3 million to $27.6 million, under the Republican governor’s plan to use the state’s projected $977 million surplus to cover property and income tax cuts. The measure, approved by the state Legislature and signed by Walker last month, sends $406 million to technical colleges to reduce property tax levies.

That means the owner of a home valued at $150,000 in NWTC’s district would pay about $115 for that portion of their tax bill, compared with $240 last year.

A public hearing on the budget proposal is set for next month.

“It didn’t give us more money,” NWTC President Jeff Rafn said of the changes. “It just swapped state money for local money.”

NWTC will receive about 42 percent of its funding from the state, compared with 9 percent currently, he said.

“In my view it is good and properly re-balances things,” Rafn said. “The down side would be if they would eliminate property taxes altogether. Then we would become a state institution and would lose local control.”

Some people have expressed concerns that technical schools can raise taxes yet are governed by appointed bodies rather than elected officials, Rafn said. He noted the state’s 2013-15 budget limits property tax increases to value added by new construction in municipalities within the school’s district in the past year, which is anticipated to be less than 1 percent for NWTC.

“Property taxes aren’t going to go up,” he said. “But taking away local control would hamper our ability to make quick local decisions.”

Rafn cited expansion of nursing programs to meet higher demands at NWTC as an example.

The state Legislature has formed a Special Committee on the Review of Wisconsin Technical College System Funding and Governance — co-chaired by Republican Rep. John Nygren of Marinette — to review the process.

As part of next year’s budget, NWTC is looking to increase some offerings, including programs in fire-medic, therapeutic massage and software development.

The school also will expand some programming, such as its health and wellness program and joint programs with area high schools.

It will use grant money to fund a variety of learning coaches and tutors.

The school plans to eliminate a financial institution management program which is losing enrollment, but Rafn said students enrolled in the program still could finish.

From controldesign.com: “ABB enables students to utilize latest technology in lab” — ABB Inc. recently donated eight democases from a new DTC product line to Waukesha County Technical College’s Automation Technology Program, which will enable students to utilize the latest technology in lab work and applications.

With hands-on access to newer technologies, it is believed that the utility of learning will be accelerated in both the school and workplace environments.

Delivery of the democases, “enables us to upgrade our labs – and gives students enhanced hands-on training with the latest available drives technology,” said Jesse Stuller, automation instructor and supporter of industry-academic support programs at WCTC. “Our goal is to provide the highest quality education to our students. Our partnership with industry provides the avenue to accomplish that goal.”

The drives democases donated are from the new ACS880 high performance DTC product line.

“These units provide a simple, yet comprehensive, all-in-one solution that is specialized for training and learning,” said Dennis Miller, ABB Sr. Technical Instructor, who arranged the donation. “The democases facilitate a complete application simulation.”

Miller also said the older democases feature older technology and have been in use for over 15 years, making the upgrade current with the latest technology ABB offers end users and keeps the Automation Technologies Program up to date.

Self-contained Labs

The donated drives are extremely user friendly and ideal for students to use.  Students will be able to program and test them as they become familiar with drive technology for the first time.

The drive is connected to a small motor and has an external input/output control panel wired to the analog inputs, digital inputs, digital outputs and analog outputs.

Students can fully simulate use of controls for any given application, and spin the motor like in a real application. The democase’s user friendly properties is said to aid in the learning process, even in the areas of serial communications and PC interfacing. The whole gamut of applications can be simulated from basic speed-control to more complex torque-control applications. They are ideal for facilitating learning with parameter adjustments and incorporating drives into electronics projects/applications.

The drives also offer networking capability to DeviceNet and other communication module protocols, so students can see and understand how computers are used in industrial environments. Programming and monitoring of the drive can be accomplished via specific PC or Drive software.

Students will program the drives and operate motors that simulate real-world installations and loads.

Beyond an introduction to the technology, students will have an opportunity to drill into the equipment’s performance characteristics in order to understand what control features they will be able to access, modify and offer customers in the workplace. This shortens the distance between experience in school and the workplace. The ACS880 democase can be used to teach and illustrate “complete” motor control.

Benefits of Using Drives

The benefits of using drives also include teaching energy consumption to the students.  This fact is becoming more and more useful as the world becomes more energy conscious.

The Adjustable Speed Drives (ASDs) are drives that can be used in any application where mechanical equipment is powered by motors. They provide extremely precise electrical motor control, allowing motor speeds to be ramped up or down, or maintained. Utilizing only the energy required rather than having the motor run at constant, fixed speed saves an excess of energy.

The ability to manipulate motor control helps motor users realize 25 – 70 percent energy savings, according to ABB experts. Using an AC drive also prolongs the operation of small motors and reduces wear and tear in installations.

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