Nearly 100 attendees gathered March 6-7 to learn valve and actuator fundamentals at VMA’s Valve Basics Seminar & Exhibits at the Hilton NASA Clear Lake in Houston. The 1½-day event included a Valves & Actuators 101 program that encompassed 10 hours of education, a “valve petting zoo,” an interactive panel discussion to test attendees’ knowledge of what they learned and a tabletop exhibition.
Participants came from all phases of the industry – valve and actuator manufacturing, end-user plants, engineering firms and distributors, as well as some soon-to-graduate students from Texas A&M University.
Ross Eppinette, a mechanical engineering (M.E.) student graduating in May, praised the program. He told VMA staff that: “This program is ideal for students and individuals entering the industry. They don’t teach you this stuff in school… As a student, I can’t say enough about how valuable this program is.” Fellow M.E. student Mauricio Figueroa commented: “I learned so much about things I had only partially heard about in school. It [the petting zoo] gave me the opportunity to see and feel all the components.”
Gaurav Patel, a piping engineer from Linde Process Plant Inc., said that it was “a great seminar,” and he had really learned a lot from the experts. Mark Sauter of Pioneer Industrial, a distribution firm, wrote that the event was a “well organized and worthwhile program,” and he is looking forward to VMA developing another level of classes. And Melanie Romero, Kinetrol USA, said: “Attending the class was surprisingly informative to me even though I have been in this industry for many years! There is something about seeing all the data in one concise presentation that brings everything home and solidified my knowledge in many respects.”
A number of attendees at the Houston and previous basics events have been asking for additional courses, and VMA expects to roll out more education programming in the next year. Greg Johnson, chairman of VMA’s Education & Training Committee, said: “We’re planning to add an optional half-day to the end of the 101 course, made up of some select topics that we haven’t been able to cover in our regular presentation.” Among topics under consideration are modules on Sizing & Selection, Codes & Standards, Materials, Repair & Maintenance, Industry Applications and Valve Accessories.
In addition, “we are beginning to work with VMA member companies to prepare a variety of short courses in PowerPoint, which will be sold in The VMA Store as downloadable PDFs. We hope to start rolling these out within the next couple of months,” he said. These “mini courses” are expected to cover a wide range of subjects and will be prepared so each topic is covered in an educational and non-proprietary manner – which is the criteria the committee has used from the program’s start to develop and assess course content.
Recognizing that online training is an essential part of any training offered in today’s world, the association is now in the process of developing a narrated, online program for those who want to learn about the industry on their own time and at their own time. The Valve Industry Basics Training program is expected to launch in the latter part of 2012. Watch Valve Magazine and VMA.org for additional information.
The Evolution of Valve Ed
The Valve Basics program began in 2009 as VMA’s leadership as well as its members began to recognize that no other organizations or companies offered an entry-level course on valves, actuators and controls for those new to the industry. Why was this so important? “With so many baby-boomers poised to retire, it seemed essential that VMA take the lead in developing a valve education program featuring the basics,” Johnson said. “As much as we would like to think industry pros from the older generation are passing on their legacy knowledge to new employees, in too many cases – especially as busy as everyone is – that just doesn’t happen,” he continued.
Now, three years later, “Valve Ed” (as the program has come to be known) is clearly a success. Bill Sandler, VMA president and a long-time proponent of entry-level valve education, observed: “We’ve gone from a committee discussion several years ago to a full-fledged education program, and VMA and its board couldn’t be more pleased. Nearly 700 people have taken the Valves & Actuators 101 course in locations across the U.S. and in Canada, and we’ve awarded scholarships to about 55 M.E. students.”
In addition, VMA has sold more than 50 Valve Basics in a Box programs (for teaching multiple individuals at facilities or plants) and hundreds of Back to Basics article compilations, as well as the downloadable presentation An Introduction to the Valve Industry.
Sandler noted that everywhere VMA staff travels, people ask about the association’s Valve Ed program. “We’ve had orders for our education products from all over the world, and people have traveled from South America, Europe and Israel to attend our Valves & Actuators 101 course.”
Plenty of Support
Friends of the Crawford Library, VMA’s non-profit educational foundation, which provided initial funding. As the program grew, it was moved under the association’s umbrella. However, the foundation continues to support the Valve Ed program by offering scholarships for as many as 20 senior- or graduate-level M.E. students to attend the seminar. The program also has received financial support from VMA member companies. (View a list of donors.)The Valve Ed program was originally launched under the auspices of the
The program’s content was developed by members of VMA’s Education & Training Committee, who have spent hundreds of hours over the last few years – much of it during their spare time – writing and reviewing content and making presentations at 10 different venues. They have been assisted in their efforts by many other VMA members. “You can’t underestimate the contributions of these folks,” said Bill Sandler. “It’s difficult to imagine how much blood, sweat and tears went into the making of Valves & Actuators 101.”
Next Up: Denver