Wayne State Students Collaborate with ELECTRI International

April 23, 2024

The NECA Student Chapter at Wayne State University was selected as the 2024 ELECTRI Student Passport collaborator to work with volunteer electrical contractors and industry partners from across the US on ELECTRI’s annual Cross-Border initiative. The students’ assignment was to design and install 36 solar panels for the Flowers Bay community center and new elementary school in Roatán, Honduras.

Flower Bay, one of the oldest communities in Roatán, serves a population of more than 3,000. With international tourism as the area’s primary industry and economic driver, all Flower Bay students receive a bilingual English-Spanish education experience. Its tuition-free elementary school, founded in 1922, has been rebuilt several times because of storm damage. As the school’s new construction gets underway, Flower Bay students attend classes at the community’s library and activity center.

Two months ahead of the solar panel installation, the four Wayne State students Ivan Alvarado, Uriel Barraza, Claudia Rea, and Traci Rogala worked with Roatán electrical contracting firm, Vegas Electric, to determine the details of this sustainable infrastructure initiative. The construction management students had access to the site’s civil engineering drawings plus the load evaluation form. This enabled them to evaluate the weight capacity load for the roof, determine what would be hooked up to the electrical system at the school, and estimate how much power would be needed. They then developed the site plan for the solar panels using Google maps and Revit to estimate the sun’s position.

Three electrical construction industry partners contributed all the materials required for the Student Passport initiative. ELECTRI extends its thanks to Sonepar for providing more than 45 needed items including the solar panels and off-grid batteries, Schneider Electric for furnishing the circuit breakers, smart switches and load center, and Buckingham for keeping the students safe with fall protection harnesses.

Students had extensive, valuable learning experiences – thanks to the generous time commitment from the electrical contracting professionals who worked side by side with them to complete the project. These volunteers, all members of the ELECTRI Council, are fully committed to providing students with first-hand opportunities that highlight careers open to them in electrical construction. This year’s volunteer group included: Bob Davies, Davies Electric; Paul Gocan, 77 Electrical Services; Kellie Holland, Empire Electric; James MacDonald, Miller Electric ; Ted Robertson, Fisk Electric; and  Dale Strothman, Sonepar.

Working together with the student team, they developed a schedule for the project duration, based upon local labor availability. Originally, the student team estimated one week for the installation. With close coordination, determined students, and good weather, the project was completed in two days.

The Student Chapter’s faculty advisor is Dr. Joseph Vaglica PhD., P.E, Program Director, Engineering Technology (Construction Management) at Wayne State University. He recently noted the valuable relationship between construction management and the ELECTRI International Cross-Border initiative:  “Participating offered Wayne State University students a hands-on experience. This practical involvement not only enriched their academic understanding but also provided valuable insights into sustainable engineering practices, potentially shaping their future career paths in renewable energy, electrical contracting  and construction management.”

Claudia Rea, Student Chapter President, is a Construction Management major, graduating in May 2024. She shared her enthusiasm for the entire project. “This experience was incredibly important to us. It was an opportunity to not only provide hands-on learning in renewable energy technologies and also inspired us to think about pursuing a career in the electrical contracting industry. We met so many incredible people, made valuable connections, and were able to showcase the exceptional work ethic and talent of the Wayne State Construction Management students.” The entire Wayne State student team thanked ELECTRI International, Vegas Electric, the volunteer EC industry leaders, industry sponsors for the project materials, and their faculty advisor, Dr. Joseph Vaglica.

Colleges and universities throughout the country are forming NECA Student Chapters to build new relationships with contractors and industry partners who are ready to help mentor these new professionals. For more information on the steps to create a NECA Student Chapter, read ELECTRI’s Student Chapter Best Practices Guide or contact Anna Jochim, ELECTRI’s Director of Future Workforce Development, at anna.jochim@electri.org.