By Jeffrey Granger After the madcap years of ARRA training, New Mexico EnergySmart Academy (NMESA), like many other training entities, has settled in and been able to spend some time refining our trainings to truly fit the needs of our network, as well as provide the required Tier One IREC accredited trainings. While we do live in a beautiful part of our country (breathless, high-elevation headaches for some, not-withstanding), travel, room & board, and time away from the office is not always an ideal mix for success (or production!). Enter hybrid approaches. Why not combine eLearning and webinars with in-person training? Our Director pushed for change and oversaw curriculum development. The result? Students now had a self-paced, eLearning environment with a weekly webinar run by the course instructor. The ability to knowledge test on-line and the option to include student assignment submittals – written & videos – was followed by a much shorter stay in Santa Fe with much more available time for hands-on field based learning. We made it to the mountain top. Time to sit back, have some New Mexico green (or red) chile, and wait for the phone to ring, right? Well, it did and fortunately, still does. But, what’s next? Road trips for the NMESA instructors to bring new, focused training to our customers. One of the newest classes, Materials & Documentation , is focused on two main questions. Material Selection – When to Use What & Why Documentation – Who Needs it? The schedule allows time to discuss materials typically used by agencies and also some affordable tools or gadgets unfamiliar to them that just might assist them in the field. For instance, a simple attachment to a can make spraying foam in tight spaces easier. The photo to the left shows a simple 2×6 prop that simulates a band joist. The ‘straw’ foam can be applied in controlled passes. Is it a better solution? Maybe or maybe not. The main point is to present another installation option to consider in the field. Sample foam can attachments samples are given to crew leaders so they can decide if the device is a viable option or just a gimmick to be tried once and discarded. An activity was added to this class that helps to gauge student understanding of material selection and heat loss. We purchased the Insul-learner™ from EnergyWright. Four cavities, three with insulation materials, all contain a thermometer. With an incandescent light bulb as the central heat source, students are asked to predict the temperature, over time, for each type of material and the air-space. Actual temperatures are recorded every 15 minutes. At some point in the discovery and data recording process, condensation can form in a cavity. The result is another opportunity discuss building science, moisture, etc. In a recent class, a graphing activity was included to help students visualize the results. Documentation Do you ever find information missing from a client folder? Or, maybe there is a work order that somehow doesn’t quite seem to fit the assessment or audit? The cascading importance of documentation is stressed all throughout the class. A mixed group consisting of crew leaders and auditors can reveal potential communication barriers and discussion time for solutions. A win-win for the client and the agency. Class topics can be modified to meet specific findings or issues that have been observed through agency quality control activities. Do you have blower door targets that are not being met? This class provides an opportunity to review appropriate material properties, installation techniques, and the blower door testing process. Whenever possible, the Materials & Documentation class coincides with an audit. Opportunities exist to ‘build’ a work order for the home, with appropriate discussion of materials, quantities, and installation considerations. The importance of taking photos and documenting work is an integral part of the class, with students taking and discussing their own photos along the way. I must say how gratifying it is to see how many students, many who are ‘graduates’ of our in-person and online classes, enjoy discussing the merits of applying what they previously have learned in class and what modifications to acceptable techniques work in the field. The future will undoubtedly bring more challenges, opportunities, and successes. We will continue to share our lessons learned with EOW participants so all can benefit. Now, time for some chile….