Interactive computer learning center opens

October 29, 1997


Staff Writer

The first segment of the four-year journeyman electrician course is supposed to end in the spring.

But based on the pace he's been keeping since the course started three weeks ago, apprentice electrician John Butts is starting to think he might finish a lot sooner than that.

Being able to control the pace of your learning is one of the advantages of taking courses through the interactive computers at the new Cumberland Valley Technology Center, said Butts, 19, of Inwood, W.Va.

"Sometimes you get bored with a teacher... This is pretty interactive. I like it," said Butts, whose goal is to one day own his own electrical business.


Butt was demonstrating the system Wednesday afternoon as Tri-State area politicians, business leaders and educators toured the new center on West Howard Street in Hagerstown during an open house.

It took three months to transform the Associated Builders and Contractors office into the new technology center, said Cumberland Valley Chapter President John Barr.

The project, requiring total renovation of the old building, was accomplished entirely through contributions of materials and labor, Barr said.

Most, but not all, of the contributors were association members, said Joan L. Warner, executive director of the chapter.

Warner estimated the project value at more than $150,000.

At this point, the center - believed to be the first of its kind in the country - offers electrical and maintenance courses via interactive computer programs, Warner said. There are 30 students.

Other skilled trades will be added, said Warner, who said the ABC chapter has been offering training since 1964.

"It's the future of training in the industry, really. It's the next major step in getting as many people trained and in quality training in construction and other related fields," said Greg Brown, president of Waynesboro Construction and a past president of the association.

The first computer room, containing 16 interactive CD-ROM terminals, was dedicated to John Barr's father, the late Jack Ellsworth Barr, a charter member of the chapter.

Barr said he felt it was an appropriate tribute to his father because he had been instrumental in the chapter's training and areas in the 1970s and 1980s.

The room is already booked solid with students, Barr said.

The plan is to similarly equip a larger room next door with 30 computer stations, he said.

After cutting a hot pink ribbon to open the center, Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II praised the association and spoke of efforts to make the area friendlier for development.

"To have this open and show the partnership between education and industry is, I think, fantastic," Bruchey said.

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