Riverland students assist Rendezvous

Published 9:30 am Thursday, September 24, 2009

The 2009 Big Island Rendezvous met its electrical needs Wednesday for the October festival thanks to electrical engineering students from Riverland Community College. 

Why does a reenactment of early America require electricity? The rendezvous participants don’t use electricity, but 12 food vendors at the site will need power. Some of the vendors have increased power demands. For example, Piggy Blues Bar-B-Que plans to sell fresh baked bread at the site.

Second-year electrical engineering students from Riverland Community College connected four new temporary electrical panels at Bancroft Bay Park Wednesday for the Big Island Rendezvous on Oct. 3 and 4.

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However, the biggest reason for the new panels is that the previous temporary service outlets no longer meet the standards of the National Electric Code.

Big Island Rendezvous founder Perry Vining discussed the idea with Albert Lea Riverland Dean Steve Bowron at the Big Island Barbeque.

“It’s a great partnership. It saved the Rendezvous thousands of dollars, and they got great experience out of it,” Vining said.

The city bought the materials for the project through Thompson Electric of Albert Lea, but the partnership with Riverland saved money on labor.

That labor was beneficial for the students, as it was an opportunity to gain first hand experience outside the school building.

“It’s much more hands on,” said student Nick Sorenson.

The old boxes are now illegal because they didn’t have covers to protect outlets from the weather when cords were plugged in. There were just lids that closed when the outlets weren’t in use, so they were exposed to the weather, said electrical instructor Dan Rayman.

The new outlets are ground fault circuit interrupter outlets, which are often installed in bathrooms or in areas with moisture to protect against electrical shock.

Each of the four new temporary service boxes were built onto new boards, but still include the original breaker boxes, but the students attached new outlet boxes.

Each box has 100 amps and about eight outlets connected to 20-amp breakers, but each of the services boxes is designed differently. Some of the boxes include 50 amp outlets to meet different needs.

“They’re helping the community out, obviously. So it’s a community service learning project. They also get to see how you’d put together a temporary service like this. A lot of temporary services are only going to have a couple outlets on them, like for building a new house,” Rayman said.

Temporary service outlets are common on many construction projects, Rayman said, so it’s something the students will often work with during their career.

“They learn how you hook these up, the actual wiring of it, the new code requirements, so they’re learning about the code. They’re learning the hands on of the actual installation. Projects like this are just hard to duplicate in the shop,” Rayman said.

Rayman said there’s also pride in serving the community in this way.

The students’ work started at the Riverland shop, where they disconnected the breaker box and attached and wired it into the new panel.

The temporary service boxes connect to black cables that screw into a main service panel. This is especially difficult to simulate in the shop, Rayman said, because of the expense of the cables and connectors.

This is not the students’ first hands on learning experience. Riverland construction students built a house in Austin, and the electrical students installed temporary service boxes at the site. They will wire the house, too.

The state inspector came to approve the boxes around 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Vining handed out Rendezvous tickets to the students for their work, and he told them about some of the festival’s events.

“We wouldn’t have had any food at the Rendezvous if you guys hadn’t done this,” Vining said to the students with a laugh.