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Project President

When Dr. Feltham assumed his role as NAIT’s sixth president and CEO, he made getting to know the institute – its students, faculty, staff and some 200 programs – his first order of business.

To do that, he immersed himself in various programs, and experienced first-hand the real-world education the institute offers. We called this hands-on orientation Project President.

While it’s not a typical introduction to a workplace, it is something he felt he needed to do. Not only did it provide Dr. Feltham an opportunity to learn about all the things that make NAIT great, it provided students, faculty and staff an opportunity to get to know him – and other NAIT programs.

Take a closer look at the programs Dr. Feltham visited over the nine weeks of Project President. These weekly updates capture the activites that took place for each program along with photos from every visit.

Week 1

Personal Fitness Trainer

A priority for Dr. Glenn Feltham in assuming the role of president was to develop healthy eating and exercise habits from the outset. As he noted, “NAIT and I were born in the same year – but NAIT’s holding up better.”

Like other leaders of large and complex organizations, Dr. Feltham understands the importance of health in being an effective leader and has decided to make health and fitness a priority.

To help him with this quest, Dr. Feltham teamed up with NAIT’s Personal Fitness Trainer program staff, who completed physical and nutritional assessments, including VO2 max testing, a definitive measure of fitness.

“To be perfectly honest, I was kind of nervous, knowing there would be many tests – some very hard. I was actually quite pleased to find that I did well on a few of them. On the strength test, I scored an eight out of eight."

Personal fitness trainer Kevin Murray, a 2009 graduate of the NAIT program, will work with Dr. Feltham over his first eight weeks and instructor Karena Apps Eccles will design a nutrition plan.

“His blood pressure and heart rate are good, and he’s strong – for a man his age,” says program chair Leanne Telford. “But his flexibility is poor, his diet needs work and he needs to be much more active. He has a lot of catching up to do.” Dr. Feltham is excited even though he knows he faces a challenge in getting back in shape.

EMT-Paramedic

Dr. Feltham joined Emergency Medical Technology – Paramedic program students in two simulations; a simulation is a learning tool that recreates real-life experiences in a controlled, safe environment. One scenario was a stabbing in a bar fight in the student lounge, The Nest, and the other was a simulation of an executive having a heart attack in the President’s Boardroom.

Playing the role of fire captain in the bar fight simulation, Dr. Feltham worked alongside paramedic students and helped to ventilate the victim. 

Participating in the simulation gave him a greater understanding of the relevance of NAIT programs.

“If someone is having a heart attack, it’s going to be someone from NAIT that saves you. Ultimately there’s a doctor somewhere along the line, but that first response, that’s NAIT,” he says.

At the end of week one, how did our president fare? “I’m pumped. I’m really looking forward to getting to understand a lot more about other aspects of NAIT. There are so many cool things happening here.

“In each activity I’ve done, I came away not only with a far greater appreciation for what our students go through and an understanding of how strong our programs are, but also a broader sense as to where that activity fits within our institute and our society. I look forward to telling Alberta and the world about the great things we do at NAIT.

Week 2

Forest Technology

Dr. Feltham joined second-year Forest Technology program students, who were participating in a week-long survival lab at Kidney Lake, 57 kilometres northwest of Whitecourt.

Simulating a winter survival situation, the students spent the week living in lean-tos they built. Other lessons included how to build a snow quinzhee, how to build a signalling fire and a wilderness first aid scenario.

The lab provided students with the skills they would need to survive while awaiting rescue, should they end up stranded in a remote location due to bad weather or mechanical problems with an ATV or helicopter.

“We want to give our students the survival skills to take care of themselves should they have to stay overnight at a job location because of extreme weather, with the hope that they won’t end up in a situation where they have to use them,” says instructor Chris Klitbo.

During Dr. Feltham’s visit, the students participated in a survival challenge, competing in teams to be the first to start a fire, melt snow and bring the water (mixed with dish detergent) to boil over.

After the competition, Dr. Feltham handed out a reward to all participants – doughnuts (a welcome treat after four days at camp).

Dr. Feltham was impressed with what he saw. “The students learn very practical lessons that could someday save their lives, as well as life lessons such as teamwork and leadership. Surviving with a partner in 20 below weather for a week – very nifty.”

Digital Media and IT

Next, Dr. Feltham helped students studying video and animation in the Digital Media & IT program as they produced a music video for local band Chasing Jones.

Dr. Feltham took on various roles, including directing a scene alongside a student director and operating a camera under the direction of an instructor. He was even made to look like a partial zombie thanks to special effects makeup.

“There were probably about 20 people on set, each with a very defined role, all of whom had to work effectively together to make this work.

“There’s going to be all sorts of animation added to this and all sorts of special effects. I really look forward to seeing the final product. MTV watch out.”

Dr. Feltham wasn’t the only one who was impressed with the opportunity. Digital Media and IT instructor Cheryl Dalmer was glad to have the new president join her class for the day.

“It was good for us to meet him and it was nice to be able to give him some knowledge about our program and industry,” she says.

Personal Fitness Trainer Update

One of Dr. Feltham’s priorities in assuming the role of president is to improve his health and fitness. His first day on the job, Dr. Feltham met with Personal Fitness Trainer program staff who completed physical and nutritional assessments.

The second week of March, he started his exercise regime with personal fitness trainer Kevin Murray, a 2009 graduate of the NAIT program.

In their first one-hour session, Kevin led Dr. Feltham through stretches. “He kept asking, ‘Does this hurt? Does this hurt?’ And I kept saying, ‘No.’ About an hour later, I just went, wow, everything kind of aches.”

Dr. Feltham also visited the Medical Laboratory Technology program to have his blood taken so he can measure the impact of exercise and the diet plan on his health.

While drawing blood is “absolutely not my favourite thing in the world, they did give me a plush Ook to hold on to, so it really wasn’t that bad.”

Week 3

Welder

The week started with a visit to the Welder program at Souch Campus. Dr. Feltham was struck by the size of the facility and how clean and organized it was. But what excited him most was the chance for some friendly competition: a “weld-off” with Peter Lawlor, dean of the School of Trades.

Under the guidance of program instructors, Dr. Feltham and Lawlor attempted three different types of welds, which were then graded by the instructors.

“I clearly lost,” Dr. Feltham admits with a laugh.

“I don’t know about that,” says Lawlor. “I thought he did really well.”

Either way, the impression the facility and the staff made upon Dr. Feltham left him feeling great about the experience. “It was a wonderful time,” he says.

Millwork and Carpentry

Later that day, Dr. Feltham returned to Main Campus to visit the Millwork and Carpentry program. There, he made an interesting observation on the nature of the work carried out in its shops.

“The academics there really aren’t academics in the conventional way,” says Dr. Feltham. “They’re artisans. They’re people who fall in love with a piece of wood, who work magic with the grain – and they work with the students to help them understand that.”

The program, he says, is a fascinating combination of the old and the new: instructors and students create pieces that maintain the centuries-old traditions underlying their craft, but also use the most modern technologies available.

Again, the visit played out as a challenge between Dr. Feltham and Lawlor, in this case to pour a concrete countertop – a trend in home design that reinforced the president’s assessment that NAIT is preparing its grads for the job markets of today and the future.

“We are absolutely on the cutting edge,” he says.

Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts

Next, Dr. Feltham spent the morning in the kitchen with chef Susur Lee, assisting with the plating of the meal for an exclusive luncheon, a marquee event of the Hokanson Chef in Residence program. It was a pleasure for him to see the Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts programstudents at work.

“There’s every bit as much artistry and precision in what they do as there is in fine art,” says Dr. Feltham. The president likened the process of preparing and presenting the three-course meal –including a delicious lobster salad – to nothing short of “choreography.”

The value of the having Lee at NAIT was clear to Dr. Feltham. “He is a great chef,” says the president. “Moreover, he is a great teacher.” He noted Lee’s expertise, calming presence and patience. Overall, the event, says Dr. Feltham, was more proof “of our ability to be relevant at the highest level.”

Animal Health Technology

Dr. Feltham had his eyes opened to the valuable contribution NAIT grads are making to Alberta’s veterinary clinics.

“We all understand the role veterinarians play in the care of animals,” says the president, “but we don’t think about the role others play in working with the animals.”

And those roles, he points out, are very important: preparing animals for operations, drawing blood, doing tests – all the vital maintenance that keeps clinics running and animals healthy. "Veterinarians would not be able to do what they do in this province without NAIT grads.”

During his time with the Animal Health Technology program, Dr. Feltham helped with dental work for dogs, spent time in the X-ray room and was amazed and impressed by the students’ ability to put the animals at ease throughout the work.

“Our staff is really proud of what they do,” says Jocelyn Forseille, chair of Animal Health Technology. “It was nice to have the president there to see us in action. He was a really good sport.”

“I really gained an appreciation of what it means to work in this area and, once again,” says Glenn, “of the quality of the students and faculty members.”

Personal Fitness Trainer Update

In addition to these program visits, Dr. Feltham continued with his personal training program under the guidance of certified trainer Kevin Murray (Personal Fitness Trainer ’09). The workout at the end of the week proved the hardest yet. The night previous, Dr. Feltham attended an exquisite gala dinner hosted by Susur Lee.

“My trainer – and I absolutely think the world of him – he didn’t cut me any slack,” says Dr. Feltham.

Nevertheless, Dr. Feltham looks forward to getting back in the gym.

Week 4

Petroleum Engineering Technology & Chemical Engineering Technology

“Ever wonder how a refinery works? I had the opportunity to find out by visiting the Petroleum Engineering Technology and Chemical Engineering Technology programs,” says Glenn.

Dr. Feltham started up the pilot plant, which resembles a real-life natural gas sweetening plant. Sweetening is the removal of toxic and acid gases from natural gas. Dr. Feltham participated in a process, using an absorber stripper unit, in which carbon dioxide was removed from air, simulating sweetening.

“It's all about removing the bad things from what comes out of the ground. The process reminded me a bit of the nuclear power plant in The Simpsons. A lot of computer-assisted activity, fluids boiling in cylinders, and valves and motors.”

Personal Fitness Trainer Update

Next, Dr. Feltham had his nutritional consult with Personal Fitness Trainer program instructor Karena Apps Eccles. During the consult, Apps Eccles reviewed the food diary Dr. Feltham had kept for four days to see how his eating habits compared to Canada’s Food Guide and his own nutritional requirements.

In the diary, Dr. Feltham recorded everything he ate and his portion sizes, as well as how much water he drank.

Dr. Feltham did well with vegetables and in meats and proteins category.

Apps Eccles suggested that Dr. Feltham increase the amount of breads and cereals in his diet, drink more water and expand his snack choices beyond granola bars.

“We want this to be a lifestyle change for him and we are striving for a balanced diet,” says Apps Eccles. “As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to eat foods in the closest possible form that you would find them in nature.”

As Dr. Feltham often has to eat out, Apps Eccles also made some suggestions for healthy eating when dining out.

  1. Eat fish twice a week
  2. Soup – eat broth based not cream soups
  3. Pasta – choose tomato over cream sauces 
  4. Salad – stick to romaine or spinach salads 
  5. Eat more fruit

After meeting with Apps Eccles, Dr. Feltham says, “It's amazing I have lived this long with my eating habits. But now I will 1. Eat breakfast, 2. Drink milk every day, 3. Eat fruit and 4. Eat more often (i.e. snacks). I know now that meals must consist of more than three granola bars and a diet coke!”

Water and Wastewater Technician

For the last visit of the week, Dr. Feltham went on a tour of the NAIT Calgary Campus. One of the highlights was visiting the Water and Wastewater Technician program, which launched in Calgary in September 2010 and has been offered in Edmonton for many years. Dr. Feltham was very impressed with the lab and the amount of hands-on training the students are exposed to.

“There is nothing more precious than water. Our safeguarding of this resource, providing Albertans a safe secure source, is something we should all be proud of,” Dr. Feltham says. “It was interesting to talk to some of our students in the program and learn about their passion for the environment and for water.”

Adds Darren Demchuk, chair of the Water and Wastewater Technician program, “The technical training that we provide is ensuring that our industry will be in good hands for years to come with the next generation of operators.”

Week 5

Dental Assisting

Dr. Feltham began the week in the Dental Assisting program lab where he learned how to place a dental dam on a mannequin working with two students (and under the guidance of instructor Joanann Bowen).

The dam, which is cut to fit around teeth needing treatment, isolates the tooth – blocking the tongue, preventing debris from entering the throat, and keeping a clean workspace for the dentist.

One of the challenges in making a dental dam is cutting holes in the proper location on the dam to correspond with the arch of the mouth and location of the teeth.

"I was amazed by the complexity of this task and the skills required to do something this elaborate and to do it well," says Dr. Feltham. "It was really quite humbling as I tried to do it myself."

The other challenge is fitting the dam in the mannequin’s mouth. As Dr. Feltham stretched the rubber gums and lips of the mannequin to fit the dam, Bowen says, "You have to be aggressive enough for the dam to stay put, but gentle enough not to cause discomfort."

Dental Technology

Next, Dr. Feltham moved to the Dental Technology program where associate chair Jason Lohr taught him how to fabricate a dental crown.

They cast a molar by melting an alloy (silver, copper, zinc) that resembles and acts like gold using a very hot torch (1400ºC). After they cooled it, they used an air blaster to remove the mould residue. Dr. Feltham enjoyed using the tools and couldn’t wait to finish making the molar (which is sitting on his desk).

Next, a student taught Dr. Feltham how to prepare a porcelain crown. “There’s a lot of science involved in this program. Once you take an impression of a tooth, you can use the computer to create the new tooth,” says Dr. Feltham. This new technology scans the tooth and uses software to design an implant, which serves as the underlying structure for the porcelain crown.

“In both dental programs, the level of technology that we provide means that our students are learning not just for today, but they are learning the techniques and the tools that are going to take them well into their career,” says Dr. Feltham.

Autobody Technician

In the Auto Body Technician program Dr. Feltham learned about auto body painting, spot welding and airbag deployment working with apprentices and instructors Bryce Nelson, Ryan Poledni and James Foss.

Dr. Feltham continued his competition with School of Trades dean Peter Lawlor in a paint-off. They each spray-painted car hoods using the latest waterborne paint technology combined with the advanced blower systems in the paint booths.

Two apprentices did a blind judging of the paint jobs, giving Lawlor 75% and Dr. Feltham 60% (his paint job, they said, was blotchy).

“To say I lost would be the world’s greatest understatement, despite what the apprentices and instructors say. I think everyone tried to assure me that it was a good effort,” says Dr. Feltham.

The highlight of visiting the Auto Body Technician program was learning about airbag deployment. “I got to blow off two airbags by igniting them with a car battery, which blew out the windshield. It was way too cool for words,” says Dr. Feltham.

One thing that stood out to Dr. Feltham was the technology that allows apprentices to check the frame of the vehicle after an accident to see if it has been affected.

Dr. Feltham learned about measuring damage to an automotive frame using a laser measuring system that provides pinpoint accuracy and shows the actual dimensions, which are displayed on an iPad the technician can use while underneath the vehicle.

Dr. Feltham was impressed to find that less than 5% of auto body shops will have equipment this advanced.

“These young individuals will be bringing best practices to their workplaces when they graduate,” says Dr. Feltham. “NAIT is an accelerator of best practice. We are bringing Alberta forward and we’re creating wealth and future prosperity.”

Sheet Metal Worker

Dr. Feltham also visited the Sheet Metal Worker program in his tour of Patricia Campus and worked with instructor Grant Craplewe and apprentices to learn how to make a dustpan and create an air duct.

Dr. Feltham and Lawlor’s assignment was to learn some basic sheet metal skills by creating a dustpan. Dr. Feltham finished his dustpan before Lawlor and, according to the apprentices, his was the best. “I won my first contest against Peter,” says Dr. Feltham. “And now I have a gift for my mother for Christmas.”

Dr. Feltham was amazed by the skill necessary to complete this task and the different equipment that had to be used. “The number of folds I had to make in the metal and the amount of equipment I had to use, and use appropriately, to make this dustpan surprised me. I wouldn’t have thought it would be so complex.”

The biggest learning in the sheet metal program for Dr. Feltham was the amount of mathematics involved. “You don’t realize the mathematics behind making a dustpan. One of the first things we had to do to was determine how we were going to lay this out and there was a fair degree of geometry involved in doing that.” 

Radio & Television - Television

Dr. Feltham worked on preparing a live story for NAIT NewsWatch, a half-hour news magazine produced weekly during the school year by students specializing in Radio & Television - Television program.

His task was to create a story, research it and work with a student videographer to film interviews and b-roll footage. He then wrote the story, edited it and presented it on the April 1 NAIT NewsWatch show.

Dr. Feltham decided to do a story about Project President, how it’s progressing and the impact it is having. Dr. Feltham developed the interview questions and then conducted an interview on camera with Dallas Stoesz, senior manager of Marketing and Digital Media.

Dr. Feltham also talked to students on camera in the bytes cafeteria asking about their NAIT experiences and why they came to school here. He also asked students if they knew NAIT had a new president. He batted about 50%.

Dr. Feltham returned to the Television program at the end of the week to shoot his on-camera interview for NAIT NewsWatch.

To prepare for the live newscast which was shot over the noon hour, Dr. Feltham sat in on the production meeting with the students. With assistance from instructor Jeannette Cable, one student led the meeting, running through everyone’s parts for the entire newscast.

Dr. Feltham learned the different production aspects involved to bring a segment together for television. “The use of technology in this program is great,” says Dr. Feltham.

Radio & Television - Radio

One of the first songs playing while Dr. Feltham was in the radio booth for his visit with the Radio & Television - Radio program was Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.”

After the song wound down, Dr. Feltham went on air, introducing himself as Glenn ‘Freight Train’ Feltham, president and CEO of NAIT. He then delivered a smooth introduction of the next song – Pat Benetar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”

Dr. Feltham was fascinated with the process of being on the radio and the number of buttons he was required to push. “It was all pretty neat, but actually kind of stressful because it has to move along so quickly,” he says.

Most of all he was impressed with the high level of comfort the students had in talking on the radio. The students led him through the whole process, with Patrick Galenza, chair of the Radio program, poking his head in every so often to offer any assistance.

“I got to try my hand at radio. I think I am probably better at radio than television. To have to concentrate on looking good and speaking well is a lot. I think I do best at just speaking. I really enjoyed the radio side of the Radio and Television program.”

Thinking about everything he did in the past week Dr. Feltham says, “The more programs I visit, the more I find that people really find their calling at NAIT. They match their passions and competencies to a career.”

Week 6

Crane and Hoisting Equipment Operator Boom Truck and Mobile Crane

Dr. Feltham started the week in Nisku with the Crane & Hoisting Equipment Operator – Boom Truck and Mobile Crane programs, where he received instruction and hands-on experience with the equipment alongside first-year apprentices.

“It’s funny that we don’t really think about how cranes are operated when it’s something that is integral to all construction,” Dr. Feltham says.

Dr. Feltham and Peter Lawlor, dean of the School of Trades, operated a Liebherr 1045 all-terrain crane with a boom tip that reached over three storeys off the ground (about 32 metres high). Their task was to move a large bucket around cones — something they both found challenging to do smoothly.

Comparing the oldest crane at Nisku to the newest one, Dr. Feltham noticed a big difference in the technology used — from clutches and pulleys to joysticks, but recognizes the value of both for the apprentices.

“With the very old crane we can see how the industry was 30-40 years ago. This is important for apprentices to learn as some of these cranes are still in use today. And with the new cranes, they learn the cutting-edge technology too.”

Dr. Feltham and Lawlor continued their competitive tradition with a skid-steer challenge. Their task was to change the attachment on a skid steer from a forklift to a bucket, then scoop a bucketful of snow and dump it on a pylon.

Dr. Feltham was the quickest to complete the challenge, but Lawlor had the most snow. In the end, Dr. Feltham won this challenge because time was the most important factor.

The biggest observation Dr. Feltham made from learning about these programs is the finesse it takes to operate this machinery and the importance of mathematics.

A lot of time is taken to ensure the equipment is positioned and set up perfectly, the loads are calculated right, and every part of the operation is meticulously planned before any actual lift takes place.

“Unlike some other professions where you can make a mistake and just get a new piece of wood or start over, if you make a mistake with a crane, it ends up on the front page of the paper,” says associate chair Lorne Strachan.

Electrician

Dr. Feltham began his visit to the Electrician program with a tour of the heating controls lab from instructor Kendall Solback, who explained different furnaces and heating systems.

Next, instructor Wilbur DeVries taught Dr. Feltham how to program a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). This device can be used to computerize controls for electricity and services in a home or building. For example, it can control alarms, heat and lights. Nearly anything electrical can be connected and controlled through a PLC.

Associate chair Kevin Harrison worked with Dr. Feltham on generator sets and taught him how to bring up a second generator and parallel it with the first to increase available wattage. Both generators need to be paralleled (matched), and if it’s not done correctly, it can cause serious problems including equipment damage, possible explosions or widespread brownouts.

“I got to see the importance of simulation as a learning tool at NAIT. Apprentices can simulate different types of systems in a fairly risk-free environment to determine what they would do for a particular wiring job before they do it,” says Dr. Feltham.

Dr. Feltham also learned how to adjust the frequency and when to parallel the generators (which can be required for buildings and plants that have their own generation and power grids). Once the generators are matched correctly, the first is running and the second is waiting on the line to flow power as increased demand requires.

“It was very cool to learn how a power grid works and how backup systems would work in a larger commercial organization. Once you understand how easy it is to have a brownout, you quickly gain respect for what these individuals do,” says Dr. Feltham. 

Biological Sciences Technology - Laboratory & Research

Next, Dr. Feltham spent time with second-year biological sciences laboratory and research students where he had “the great pleasure of extracting DNA from a banana.”

To do his banana DNA extraction, Dr. Feltham worked with Biological Sciences Technology program associate chair Jim Wickware. First, they mashed up bananas, then they added detergent and salt to help separate out the cells, before heating the mixture for 10 minutes.

Once that was done, they strained the mixture to capture the liquid, added ice cold ethanol and mixed. Then they were able to extract the DNA (which looked like strands of mucous) and load it onto a gel.

“When you are watching all these television shows, like CSI New York, you don’t normally think about who it is that runs all these tests and how do they actually do all this stuff. It’s really neat to learn about it and see NAIT students doing it,” says Dr. Feltham.

Next, Dr. Feltham went to the second-year lab where students were sectioning rat pancreases and preparing them for viewing. The lab assignment required students to cut two thin sections of a rat pancreas, place the pieces on separate slides and embed the pancreas tissue.

Dr. Feltham worked with instructor Karen Wendt to place a block of rat pancreas tissue in a microtome (an instrument that cuts thin slices for microscopic examination). Then they loaded the slices onto a slide and embedded the tissue in wax.

After this, the tissue was stained and later the students looked at the cells to see the concentration of proteins. This is done to determine if a patient is diabetic – looking at the pancreatic cells’ shapes will indicate if the patient has diabetes.

Most students in this program will end up as technicians in universities, the diabetes institute or the provincial microbiology lab.

Ironworker, Boilermaker, Structural Steel and Plate Fitter

Dr. Feltham visited Souch Campus to learn about three closely aligned programs: Ironworker, Boilermaker and Structural Steel & Plate Fitter (Steel Fabricator) programs. Boilermakers fabricate and fit boilers, ductwork and pressure vessels; ironworkers stand and erect steel skeletons; and steel fabricators prepare and assemble structural steel and steel vessels.

This is the only campus in Alberta where all three trades receive technical training.

The first stop was the steel fabrication shop where first-year Boilermaker apprentices were working on various projects, including making anchors. By making different projects apprentices learn the importance of angles, of proper orientation and of making things straight.

Watching the apprentices working carefully on their projects it was clear to Dr. Feltham that they were focused and dedicated in their studies and enjoying what they are learning.

To experience a task as a Boilermaker apprentice would, Dr. Feltham and Lawlor took turns tightening a flange on a pressure vessel.

Program chair Glen Gibson taught them first how to perform the task correctly and safely and then how to get an even flat squeeze on the pressure vessel by using a hammer wrench and impact wrench.

As no visit to a trades program would be complete without a competition between Dr. Feltham and Lawlor, the two competed against one another to roll a piece of metal into a circle using the Heller plate rolling machine (a task a steel fabricator would do).

Boilermaker instructor Marvin Androschuk gave a quick safety lesson about the plate rolling machine and then demonstrated how to use it to roll a flat piece of steel into a circle.

Dr. Feltham let Lawlor try first and when time started running out, the two worked together, along with a bit of coaching from Gibson and Androschuk, to achieve a near perfect circle.

To learn about the Ironworker program, Dr. Feltham and Lawlor headed outside to a very different kind of classroom.

Another competition was set up for them; this time they had to lift and fasten a rafter to two columns. The structure itself would have been built by a steel fabricator in the shop, while the act of putting it together is the job of the ironworker.

Dr. Feltham and Lawlor were paired with apprentices and put in lifts alongside the columns. After safety checks were made, they were lifted to the tops of the columns; the rafter was lifted by crane.  Dr. Feltham and Lawlor worked from the lifts and raced each other to secure their side of the rafter to the column first.

A few minutes later the work was complete. “It was a tie,” said Dr. Feltham, but Lawlor argued that Dr. Feltham actually won as he was better at tightening.

While this competition had the two trying to beat each other, in the end they were working as a team, something very important in these programs. “These trades are all about teamwork,” said Lawlor.

The final stop was a quick tour through an ironworker shop, where Dr. Feltham learned about some of the work the ironworkers would do, such as working on swing stages, walking up I beams, and learning how to read blueprints and be able to notice errors.

“Beyond the details and technical knowledge these apprentices learn in their programs, what was clearly reinforced today was the importance of safety in doing this work,” said Dr. Feltham as he left Souch Campus in his steel-toed boots, safety goggles and hard hat.

Chemical Technology

To start his visit with the Chemical Technology program, Dr. Feltham worked in the analytical spectroscopy lab with second-year students.

In the lab, he used an Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrophotometer to analyze samples of water from the water cooler in the executive office, as well as from the tap. He was looking for trace heavy metals and chemicals.

“We decided to analyze what’s in our water and we did it using some truly amazing equipment. I learned that we are probably the only technical institute that has equipment of this nature, at such a high level. We could pick up trace amounts in water that were so minute — it was really interesting,” says Dr. Feltham.

“Essentially, I learned what we should all know, that water is awfully good out of the Edmonton system, and comparing water from the tap to bottled water, it was basically the same,” says Dr. Feltham.

Next, Dr. Feltham visited the organic/inorganic chemistry lab and talked to two students who won third place at the Western Canadian Society of Chemical Technologists Western Students Symposium for their project to make a first-year organic chemistry experiment greener by using fewer toxic chemicals. 

Finally, Dr. Feltham visited the industrial and physical chemistry lab where students undertake experiments related to oil sands research and fertilizers.

One student team was working on a green chemistry project to replace harsher chemicals used in the labs with safer alternatives, removing safety hazards from the lab and reducing raw material waste.

One of the goals of the research is to reduce waste products from NAIT, something that can be transferred to large-scale production in industry.

Electronics Engineering Technology

Dr. Feltham stepped into the classroom and saw what he would love to be his new toy — the police robot prototype built by NAIT researchers. 

Dr. Feltham was fascinated by the robot prototype and keen to take the controls.

He opted for the more traditional steering wheel and pedals instead of the gaming control as he felt it was more natural. “Let’s do this!” he said as he sat down at the wheel.

Dr. Feltham took the robot for a spin down the hall and gradually learned not only how to handle the controls, but how to navigate by the view through the video camera  that is mounted on the robot’s zipper mast and projected onto a screen in the darkened classroom.

Helping Dr. Feltham learn to operate the robot was Maysem Saleh, a technical researcher for the School of Information Communication and Engineering Technologies  and a 2009 graduate from the Electronics Engineering Technology program.

Dr. Feltham clearly enjoyed driving the robot, even though it took him a while to drive the robot back into the classroom.

“Is that the poorest attempt you’ve seen at operating this robot?” Dr. Feltham asked students and instructors when the robot finally made it back to home base. 

“No, that would be me,” assured program chair Mark Archibald.

Sumo robotics

Dr. Feltham then went for a lesson in sumo robotics with second-year Electronics Engineering Technology program students, who had just finished designing, building and programming robots within the rules and guidelines of sumo robotics.

Once the students completed their robot projects, they let their robots duke it out to determine a winner.

During Dr. Feltham’s visit, it didn’t take long before the students brought out their creations and put them back in the ring (a circular piece of wood painted black with a white ring around the edge) for a rematch.

Dr. Feltham talked with one student to learn how he programmed his robot. The student then put the robot in the ring. The competing robot didn’t last long.

Dr. Feltham enjoyed watching the students’ robots battle it out and the students interact easily with him, explaining their particular design choices and advantages of their robots.

“If [School of Trades dean] Peter [Lawlor] and I are slightly competitive, then this group of young men is absolutely off the charts,” Dr. Feltham said.

At the end of the last robot match, Dr. Feltham asked the students what they will do when they graduate. They all responded: “Build robots!” 

Instrumentation Engineering Technology

Dr. Feltham started n his visit to the Instrumentation Engineering Technology program with an overview from associate chair Robbin Law of the computer system used to operate the distillation unit . The first exercise they did simulated a common troubleshooting scenario an instrumentation engineering technician might face.

In the simulation, they identified an error in the unit itself, but there was a problem on the computer, which indicated a problem with the transmitter.

Dr. Feltham worked with program chair Andy van der Veen on the distillation unit, while communicating with Law in the lab to ensure everything was working properly.

Law also did an experiment with Dr. Feltham where they improved the quality of alcohol by adding in reflux, a typical exercise students would perform to learn troubleshooting skills. Dr. Feltham manually adjusted the unit to complete the experiment.

Next, van der Veen gave Dr. Feltham a tour of the distillation unit and explained how each part operates, along with the safety systems in the lab.

Dr. Feltham also toured a number of different areas, including the process instruments lab where students measure temperature levels, turbines, tanks and flows, as well as the instrumentation maintenance shop where NAIT staff build instrumentation equipment for use in the program or to sell.

“I learned that instrumentation engineering technologists are the individuals who are trained to make sure equipment, after it is put together, is running properly,” says Dr. Feltham.

 “NAIT has one of the larger programs in the world and we are producing a significant number of very qualified individuals, who are capable of determining when things are working properly and are able to shut things down if they’re not.”

Week 7

Electrical Engineering Technology

Dr. Feltham’s first visit of the week was to the Electrical Engineering Technology program and before starting anything, Dr. Feltham reviewed safety measures with instructor Susan Peterson. Peterson walked Dr. Feltham through the steps of preparing a safe work plan, listing the hazards and equipment being used, what they do to mitigate hazards and contingency plans.

In this program, students are taught to keep their hands in their pockets while working around the equipment so no one reaches out to touch anything that might be energized.

Dr. Feltham was shown the proper and safe techniques for installing and removing high voltage vacuum power circuit breakers and using a breaker analyzer to perform operation timing tests.

This type of unit is typical in a power distribution hub in a large facility, such as a refinery or hospital.

The first part of the test had Dr. Feltham removing the vacuum breaker unit. He was fitted with an arc flash suit (a Kevlar suit), along with gloves and a helmet, which are worn when performing this task. Dr. Feltham had to turn the crank on the unit 60 times to remove it.

Once the unit was removed, Peterson walked Dr. Feltham through the process of using a breaker analyzer to test the unit. 

“This visit was very different than what I expected. From the size and weight of the equipment to the checklists to be completed just to get next to any of it and the Kevlar suit I had to wear – the seriousness of it surprised me,” says Dr. Feltham.

Retail Meatcutting

Dr. Feltham worked each of the three tables in the Retail Meat Store lab – beef, pork and sales with assistance from chair Dan Westgeest.

To start, Dr. Feltham rolled up his sleeves and learned how to make rouladen - a German meat roll that usually contains bacon, onions, mustard and pickles and is wrapped in a thin slice of beef. Next, he cut t-bone steaks with a student and learned how to scrape them for presentation and merchandising. Then, Dr. Feltham helped students at the pork table make fresh pork chorizo sausage.

After that, Dr. Feltham moved to the sales table where he learned how to bone and section a chicken.

There, he met a student who graduated from Culinary Arts in December, and decided to take the Retail Meatcutting program to gain more knowledge about meat. This student wore his dedication to NAIT on his arm: “He has the best tattoo yet on a student in this program – he has the NAIT shield on his forearm,” Dr. Feltham says with a big smile.

After Dr. Feltham was finished, Westgeest packaged all the meat Dr. Feltham had cut and gave it to him to take home.

“I was surprised by the amount of science there is in cutting meat. The angle that you hold your knife at is just as important as where you put your knife. I also saw how incredibly proficient our students become in a very short period,” says Dr. Feltham.

As a testament to the popularity of the Retail Meat Store, there was a lineup before the store opened on Tuesday morning.

Before Dr. Feltham went in, he waited for the first rush of customers to get their meat and was stopped by a lady who asked him to help carry her purchases to her car. Dr. Feltham helped her to her car and learned that she has been buying meat for her extended family every Tuesday for the past 20 years.

Machinist - Part 1

Dr. Feltham made his first of a two-part visit to the Machinist programs – the CNC Machinist Technician (full-time certificate) and the Machinist apprenticeship program.

To begin, instructor Phil Stagg took Dr. Feltham on a tour of the shop, where they watched apprenticeship students work on their final practical test, making and assembling parts. For this, each apprentice was given a blueprint and had seven hours to machine the part.

Next, Dr. Feltham got to try his hand at making a part. Instructor Jerry Muise started by teaching Dr. Feltham to write a program to set up the Haas TL1 CNC lathe to produce the part.

Muise and Dr. Feltham ran the program in graphics mode to view what the part would look like before they machined it so they could make adjustments or correct errors if needed. Then, Muise showed Dr. Feltham how to run the lathe to machine the part.

Lastly, Dr. Feltham was taken on a tour of the other labs and shops in the NAIT Sandvik Coromant Centre for Machinist Technology.

“Now I understand what a machinist does and how very detail-oriented this trade is. Also, watching these apprentices in the shop, I notice an incredible ability to define metal to such a fine degree,” says Dr. Feltham.

Diagnostic Medical Sonography

“Today, we’re going to see if the president really has a heart,” quipped Dr. Feltham as he headed into the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program lab.

Dr. Feltham began by having a cardiac ultrasound performed by instructor Eileen Knops. Since ultrasound can’t see through ribs and lungs, she had to position him on his side to find a window through which she could get a good view of his heart.

Positioning is very important as every patient’s heart may be in a slightly different location in their bodies, depending on body size, type and genetics. Sonographers have to learn how to find the optimal position to get the best scan for each patient.

The ultrasound works by using colour doppler to see blood flow through the heart. As blood is pumped out of the heart through the aorta, it will appear red on the machine. As it comes back into the heart through the veins, it will appear blue.

Knops gave Dr. Feltham a very detailed tour of all the parts of his heart and what each part does, as well as how and where the blood flows and what she would expect to see on this type of scan.

Next, Knops measured Dr. Feltham’s blood flow to determine if his heart was functioning properly. She also measured his heart and performed electrocardiography, which determines what phase the heart is in to ensure that measurements are being taken at the right time.

What was the verdict after the tests? “The president has a heart and it’s beating just fine,” says Dr. Feltham.

Later on, Dr. Feltham had a chance to perform a cardiac ultrasound on Tom Hayduk, who has been modelling for the program for about a year to help train students.

Knops taught Dr. Feltham a left-hand scanning technique, what questions to ask the patient, showed him how to find the window on the patient and how to add the colour doppler effect to the scan.

“It was really neat to do the cardiac ultrasound because we could see just how the heart was performing. I found that a person needs talent to find just the right spot to do the ultrasound properly,” says Dr. Feltham.

Personal Fitness Trainer Update

Dr. Feltham, who hasn’t been able to step on a scale since his initial assessment six weeks ago, was very excited for his interim assessment.

Some highlights included:

  • Heart rate – a drop of eight beats per minute in his resting heart rate
  • Blood pressure – a drop of 12 in his systolic pressure and 10 in his diastolic pressure
  • Weight – a loss of 16 pounds
  • Waist circumference – a reduction of four inches
  • Body Mass Index – a nine per cent improvement

“Dr. Feltham has improved greatly over the last few weeks, with the most important indicators of health being the change in his body composition and the reduction in his waist circumference. His rate of weight loss is good and his cardiac measures are lower, which means his heart doesn’t have to work as hard,” says Leanne Telford, chair of the Personal Fitness Trainer program.

“Working with a personal fitness trainer twice a week has allowed me to focus on fitness goals and has helped push me further. I have been given a cardiovascular workout schedule and have been really following that and found that it has been getting a lot easier for me.

“Also, I have probably never eaten as much food in my life. I used to skip meals all the time and now I eat at least three times a day. But the biggest change has been switching up the mix of foods I eat and
eating more vegetables,” says Dr. Feltham.

Week 8

Respiratory Therapy

In the Respiratory Therapy program, Dr. Feltham participated in a patient transport simulation lab with the students. Each team had a critically ill, intubated asthmatic patient (mannequin) in respiratory distress who needed to be moved from the simulated intensive care unit to a simulated CT/MRI suite for scanning.

Dr. Feltham played the role of a buddy student while the students prepared the patient, transferred him to a stretcher, and transported the patient. First, they set the patient up on a bag valve mask, intubated him, decided how to ventilate him, and put him on a ventilator.

Next, they attached an in-line suction to prevent the patient from aspirating on vomit and switched to portable oxygen in preparation for transport for a CT scan.

Then they transferred the patient to a stretcher, during which Dr. Feltham was responsible for keeping the patient’s head and neck stable. During the transport they moved all the equipment attached to the patient, and monitored vital signs.

“During this simulation I was able to see the level of complexity involved in transporting a patient. It was really a learning experience. I learned about what our students will do to make sure the patient’s heart continues to beat normally and what to do if the patient should go into cardiac arrest.”

As the students and Dr. Feltham travelled the hallways during the simulation they had to deal with various challenges, including the patient going into ventricular tachycardia (a dangerously fast heart rhythm), the portable oxygen tank running out, and the accidental removal of the ventilation tube, which caused the patient’s heart to stop.

“Again, what came through loud and clear was, just as I have said previously, that this is all about working together effectively as a team,” says Dr. Feltham. “It’s about incredible communication and really ensuring that everyone knows what their role is. It’s also about delegating and ensuring that everyone is empowered to do what they need to do. That was very neat to see.”

Materials Engineering Technology

“I must admit that before I visited this program, I wasn’t sure what the Materials Engineering Technology program was, but it was very interesting to learn how fundamental their work is to a whole host of disciplines.”

Before starting anything, Dr. Feltham was suited up with the necessary safety gear, including a radiation detection unit that would go off if he was exposed to radiation and a film badge, which is sent to the government every two weeks to monitor how much radiation the staff and students are exposed to.

Using the welds that Dr. Feltham and Peter Lawlor, dean of the School of Trades, made in their visit to the Welder program, instructor Steve Triolaire showed Dr. Feltham a number of different methods for testing metals for structural integrity, both in a non-destructive and destructive fashion.

In the radiographic inspection lab, Dr. Feltham X-rayed their welding samples in the radiation bunker, which has lead windows and doors, as well as lots of other safety and security measures.

In the magnetic particle inspection area, Dr. Feltham was shown how to magnetize a part to look for breaks and cracks, a procedure commonly used in the field. Dr. Feltham magnetized the weld in two directions to find all potential ways it could crack, applied a fine powder to see the cracks and then looked at the defects that appeared.

Afterwards, Dr. Feltham went to the “wet bench,” where he used a machine to see even finer cracks than those revealed by the dry powder method. In this test, 700 amps per inch of material thickness is used to magnetize the material and then particles mixed with water are applied. The material is then viewed under black light to see fine defects.

Dr. Feltham also visited the metallurgy lab, where metals are examined with microscopes. Here, Dr. Feltham competed with a student to take a metal sample, polish it to a mirror finish, and using the microscope, determine the composition.

Dr. Feltham’s metal sample had a composition of ferrite and pearlite, which indicated that it was a low carbon steel sample. The student’s metal sample had a pearlitic background and graphite, indicating that it was a cast iron sample.

“Essentially, what materials engineering technologists do is determine the properties of different metals. They’re the ones who will tell you whether the I-beam you are putting in has the strength to carry the load it is expected to carry or whether a weld will actually hold,” says Dr. Feltham. “Our students understand the properties of metals, what happens when you combine different metals and what happens under different environmental conditions to those metals.”

Week 9

Machinist - Part 2

Dr. Feltham was eager to head back to the Machinist program, this time with the CNC Machinist Technician program (full-time certificate). This visit took place in a lab with many horizontal and vertical milling machines and looked more like a science lab than a machine shop. Stewart Cook, chair of the program, says, “This is probably the cleanest machine shop you will ever see.”

Machinist instructor Phil Townsend told Dr. Feltham that his project would be to make the amazing “cube inside a cube.” Dr. Feltham was immediately excited and wanted to get started right away.

Townsend explained to Dr. Feltham how they needed to set up the horizontal milling machine to make the project and Dr. Feltham placed some of the metal cubes inside the machine.

“It was interesting because this is one of the exercises that students in this program have gone through, even manually, for many years,” says Dr. Feltham. “It requires a great deal of thought to figure out how to keep the block of metal stable as you carve the inside out. I was told the secret of how to create the cube within a cube and it’s pretty cool, kind of like the “Caramilk secret.”

Dr. Feltham worked with instructor Ryan Reeves on his next project, using a complicated lathe to make a wine stopper out of a long piece of food-grade stainless steel. “This is the best wine stopper I have ever seen. It’s absolutely beautiful to be able to make something like this out of a piece of steel,” says Dr. Feltham.

“What did I learn this time in the Machinist program? I learned just how far technology can take us in terms of being able to mill incredibly complex things to tens of thousandths of an inch,” says Dr. Feltham. “This is really what allows us to move forward as a society, the ability to manufacture at this level.”

Medical Laboratory Technology

Dr. Feltham also made a third visit to the Medical Laboratory Technology program (his previous two trips, on March 3 and April 18, were for blood samples for his lipid profile test).

During his second visit, Dr. Feltham worked with a student to program a blood analyzer to run 10 different tests on six samples. Dr. Feltham and the student loaded the samples from test tubes into tiny vials to place on the analyzer. The samples were yellow in colour because the patient’s whole blood samples had been centrifuged to separate the red blood cells from the serum.

Then it was time for Dr. Feltham’s lipid profile test to compare his March 3 sample to the one taken on April 18. At first Dr. Feltham was reluctant to go over his results, but once he learned they were good, he asked the group of students in the class to explain what the numbers meant.

As one would hope, Dr. Feltham’s good cholesterol (HDL) was slightly higher than the threshold, while his bad cholesterol (LDL) was slightly lower. As for his risk factor for a heart attack, Dr. Feltham found out that he had a 3% chance of developing coronary heart disease in the next 10 years – a very good result.

Afterwards, Audrey Dyke, associate chair, explained what the other students in the class were doing. One activity in particular piqued Dr. Feltham’s interest: the students were testing different blood samples for THC (the active ingredient in marijuana).

Students are also able to determine blood type, perform thyroid tests, kidney function testing as well as many other tests. In fact, 85% of a doctor’s diagnosis is based on medical laboratory analysis.

“It was interesting to learn how they actually perform the tests and to understand a little bit more about how these diagnostics happen,” says Dr. Feltham. “For example, when a medical laboratory technologists or assistant draws your blood in a clinic, what actually happens to your blood? I found it absolutely fascinating to learn how they run all of these different tests and how they analyze this information.

“Once again, there is a tremendous amount of science involved in this, including understanding all the toxicology and other tests. There are incredibly interesting things that our students are learning to do at a very, very high level.”