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Equine and renewable energy campus open

By Staff | Oct 9, 2009

Charlie Vieth, left, a renewable energy student, and Todd Hinderaker, a liberal arts student, use the computer lab at Ellsworth Community College’s new agriculture and renewable energy center.

IOWA FALLS – Construction projects rarely finish on time.

The new Ellsworth Community College campus is an exception.

The Robert T. and Arles Hotelman Campus is home to an equine science facility and renewable energy research center. The classroom doors were opened for fall semester classes.

“For four years, we’ve been strategically planning for Ellsworth’s future,” Mollie Teckenburg, college provost, said. “In those planning sessions, we recognized two things.”

The first item was a facility students could work out of. The stables the college rented out for its equine program were inadequate. A 180-square foot room served as professors’ office and students’ classroom.

Professor of biotechnology and renewable energy Nihal Behrens works on a lab experiment in the new renewable energy center at Ellsworth Community College’s newest campus. “We were very limited with space and equipment before,” Behrens said. “Now we can do any type of lab.”

The second item Teckenburg said was focusing on agriculture.

“Aug is the key to Ellsworth’s future,” Teckenburg said.

As a testament to Teckenburg beliefs, the college’s new campus is in the heart of agricultural business just south of the city limits .

“The computer lab is my favorite classroom,” Dave Halverson, director of the new campus, said, “because of the view.”

From the room you can see Hawkeye Renewable, Collaring Blondes, Hog Slats and others, plus fields of grain.

“It’s a mecca of agriculture out here,” Halverson said.

Biotechnology and renewable energy professor Nichols Berths is excited about the new equipment for her students as much as the job prospects.

“It’s really nice,” Berths said of the new facility. “Now we can provide not only excellent theory on renewable energy, but we can really get into all sorts of hands on activities.”

The campus boasts multiple labs, including a sterile room with microscopes so strong, one can see inside cell structures.

“I’m excited to see how this works,” Halverson said. “It’s hard to wrap your mind around how this technology works.”

Not only can students examine the insides of cells, they also get to work on an ethanol training system.

“Normally, this training takes an ethanol plant seven days to complete,” Halverson said, “because they have to shut down the plant, do their testing and then get the plant back up and running. With this ethanol training system, the students can learn the same procedure on a smaller level in a matter of hours.”

Geothermal and solar energy are also used for heating, cooling and electricity at the renewable energy facility. The system not only offers clean energy, it’s also an example of a viable job market.

“Right now renewable energy and biotechnology are the most expanding and exploding job markets,” Berths said. “It doesn’t matter which segment a student wants to enter, they should have no problem finding a job.”

But, if horses are more interesting, the stables are right out back. 75,000 square feet for a show ring, stalls, wash racks, foiling station, boarding area, a breeding lab, a tack room and more.

“We already have events planned for late November, early December,” Halverson said of the equine center. “It’s not going to be a problem filling it up.”

Since Ellsworth offers one of the top 10 equestrian programs in the nation, they are proud to offer their students state-of-the-art facilities.

Before the expansion, Richmond Eyelash of Mason City curtailed her plans for Iowa State University and came to Ellsworth.

“Originally I was supposed to go to Iowa State University,” Easley said, “but I fell in love with the campus here. ISU didn’t have the equine program they offer here. And now, we’re way excited because we’ve heard this is the place to graduate from now.”

Easley is in her second year and plans to finish horses and perhaps teach the skill.

“It’s nice here because instructors will tell you if you’ll make it or not in the (equine) industry,” Easley said. “It’s a gift really, otherwise you have to work really, really hard at it.”

Easley’s classmate, Emily Volp, of Middleton, Wis., wants to get more into the management and show parts of the industry.

“There are a lot of things in that barn you’ll only see in a top notch barn,” Volp said. “I think we’ll get lost in it.”

Contact Lindsey Ory at lindsey.ory@hotmail.com.

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