DH Story: LBCC Diesel Program Readies for New Facility

Bryan Schiedler, LBCC Transportation Technology
faculty chair, talks about new diesel training building.
Driving their futures: LBCC's diesel students get ready for new facility
by Jennifer Moody, Albany Democrat-Herald 
Photo: David Patton, Albany Democrat-Herald

LEBANON — According to the calendar, Monday was the first day of class for students at Linn-Benton Community College. But to diesel program students, it actually felt closer to Christmas Eve.

On Wednesday, the students will get to move into the newly completed building for the Heavy Equipment Diesel program at the Advanced Transportation Technology Center, part of the LBCC Lebanon branch.

In the meantime, they spent part of Monday touring the grounds and at least getting a look at the new 37,000-square-foot building from the outside.

"They're excited. They can't wait to get in there," said Bryan Schiedler, department chairman of Transportation Technology. "It's almost like it's Christmastime for them."

The community college's emphasis on its industrial programs has drawn increased enrollment. Out at the Advanced Transportation Technology Center, an additional first-year diesel program is beginning this year, doubling the first-year class to two. Next year, the college will offer two classes each of the first-year and second-year programs.

Enrollment is also up at LBCC overall for fall term. As of Monday morning, the count was up 0.4 percent overall from last year and 2.5 percent for full-time-equivalent students, said Dale Stowell, executive director of Advancement/Foundation.

Stowell said that translates to a total of 7,850 actual bodies, 1,667 of them full time, for all four campuses: Albany, Sweet Home, Lebanon and Corvallis. New students this year: 2,212 compared to last year's 1,962.

Monday and today, diesel classes were to meet in the automotive portion of the Advanced Transportation Technology Center while the finishing touches are put on the new diesel building and Innovation Center.

The $5.7 million project was supposed to be ready in time for classes to start — and it almost was, Schiedler said.

Just a few small jobs remained Monday, including completing the flooring so that equipment can be moved in, checking all the electronic and networking systems to make sure everything works properly, receiving the fire marshal's OK for a temporary occupancy permit and installing the rolling doors.

"When we talked to the contractor, he said we'll have them in three weeks. Well, their three weeks was eight weeks," Schiedler said with a sigh. However, he said, the doors will be in place by the time of the center's grand opening celebration, planned for 11:30 a.m. Oct. 20 at the center, 2000 W. Oak St.

The new building will house classrooms, lab space, storage and shop floors for both the diesel program and for the Innovation Center, a place for industry partners looking for a space to check equipment or train employees.

Diesel students had been taking classes on the Albany campus, but moving them to Lebanon will benefit everyone, Schiedler said. Not only will diesel and auto programs benefit from the efficiency of a shared campus, the move frees up space in Albany to expand welding and machine tool programs.

"All the industrial programs are going to benefit from this," Schiedler said.
The idea to expand the college's automotive program through an Advanced Transportation Technology Center dates back to 2008.

The Technology Center's first building — the renovated PACE manufacturing site — opened for classes in the fall of 2013. Construction of the Heavy Equipment Diesel Program/Innovation Center was made possible in part through $2 million from a $34 million bond measure that voters passed in 2014.

The new building is the last step in the project, at least for now, Schielder said.
Increasingly, LBCC is working with partners in the transportation industry to maintain vehicles that run on fuels other than traditional petroleum products. The new building expands on that ability, Schiedler said.

If a vehicle is leaking gas or diesel, that fuel falls to the floor, so shops are equipped to handle a downward leak, he said. But a vehicle powered by compressed natural gas — CNG — has to be treated differently because its fuel leaks drift upward instead.

Working on a vehicle such as the Freightliner Sd-114 parked outside the Technology Center on Monday means having a shop equipped with special vents and a detector system that will open doors and kick on fans if it picks up a methane leak, Schiedler said. "That's one thing our old building could never do."

LBCC works closely with leaders in the transportation industry to train students on what those programs will need, he went on. In turn, the employers snap those students up as fast as they can get them.

"Half of the students already have a job before they start," Schiedler said.

At the Technology Center, students will be working this year on brand-new Isuzu truck engines, one diesel and one gasoline, donated by FMI Trucks. If they can learn their way around those engines, Isuzu has jobs available for all of them, Schiedler said.

"The whole thing is getting quality people, so they can help keep that customer service in a positive tone. We're working with industries to help meet that goal," he said.

Of the Advanced Transportation Technology Center as a whole, he said: "We've really worked to make this make sense, not only for us and the students but for the industry."

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