Author Archives: Brian Hayden

About Brian Hayden

Brian Hayden is one of the founders of HeatSpring Learning Institute. HeatSpring has delivered certification and training in geothermal heat pumps, solar PV, solar thermal, and energy efficiency to more than 16,000 students via their Cammpus software platform. President at HeatSpring Learning Institute. Founder at Cammpus. Faculty Affiliate at University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship. Board Member at Invest in Girls. Interstate Renewable Energy Council Committee on Standards.

Free 25-Question Practice Test for the Upcoming NABCEP Installer Exam

HeatSpring NABCEP Prep Test DriveFor the next month, we’re offering a free 25-question practice test for the upcoming NABCEP PV Installation Professional certification exam. All of the questions are here. For hints, answers, explanations, and a free lesson on battery systems, follow this link to the “Test Drive”:

  1. Fill in the blank: NEC section ________ shows the requirements for working spaces around live electrical equipment.
  2. What is the maximum latitude at which the sun can achieve a 90º altitude angle?
  3. If the open circuit voltage of a polycrystalline silicon PV module is 37.0V, the module Vmp is 29.9V, the inverter max voltage is 600VDC and its MPPT voltage range is 300 to 480VDC, and the minimum temperature is -24°C. What is the maximum number of modules per source circuit according to the NEC? List the NEC section where the answer is found.
  4. A PV array of Suniva 300 Watt modules consists of 3 rows and 10 columns of racked modules mounted in landscape and facing south at latitude 30°. The modules are tilted at 20⁰. The mounting posts are installed 3 ft. deep. How long must the posts be? Module dimensions are 77.6” x 38.7”.
  5. At 43⁰ North latitude on the winter solstice, the solar altitude angle at noon is____.
  6. An array is comprised of 22 modules. Each module is 64.5” x 38.7” and weighs 44.1 lbs. The site will experience 50 psf. of uplift force. What is the approximate total uplift on the array?
  7. What is the temperature correction factor if the module correction factor is -0.335 %/⁰C and the cell temperature is 54⁰C?
  8. A module has dimensions of 64.5” x 38.7” and is in a landscape orientation on a flat roof. The position of the sun at 9am on Dec 21 is 11° elevation and 130° azimuth. What is the maximum tilt angle the modules can have so that there is no inter-row shading? (A 2 foot walkway is required between adjacent rows)
  9. Where no overcurrent protection is provided for the PV dc circuit, an assumed overcurrent device rated at the PV circuit Isc is used to size the equipment grounding conductor in accordance with NEC ____.
  10. There are to be two critical loads on a PV system. Your analysis shows that one uses 1900 Wh/day and operates for 6 hrs. per day and the other uses 1200 Wh/day and operates for 3.5 hrs. What is the weighted average operating time?
  11. What is the combined effect in wattage of the 2 loads in the previous question?
  12. The critical design month is the worst case scenario where the load and the _____________ are used to design the PV system.
  13. Active means of charge control is required by the NEC unless the maximum array charge current for 1 hour is less than ____ % of the rated battery capacity measured in amp/hours.
  14. When battery temperature is high, temperature compensation ________ the VR set point to minimize the excessive over charging and reduce electrolyte losses.
  15. A 48 volt battery bank is used to provide power for critical loads requiring 7458 Wh/day. Three days of autonomy are required. What is the required capacity of the battery bank?
  16. Critical loads operate for 12 hours. Three days of autonomy are required and the preferred depth of discharge of 50%. What is the average discharge rate?
  17. A battery bank of 500 Ah is required. The depth of discharge is 50%, the minimum operating temperature is -10ºC and the average discharge rate is C/128. According to the manufacturer’s specs. this yields a temperature and discharge rate derating factor of approximately 73%. What is the required battery bank capacity?
  18. A battery bank must supply 1200 Ah and will operate at 48V. The battery selected is an 800 Ah battery. How many 6V batteries will be required in this battery bank?
  19. A PV system needs to supply 5834 Wh per day. The daily average insolation is 4.8 peak sun hours. The battery system charging efficiency is 0.9. The nominal voltage is 48V. What is the required array current not including any additional deration factors?
  20. You are an installer called to move a residential two-axis tracker system from Yuma, AZ to Duluth, MN. Before reinstalling the system what should you check?
  21. For a PV array to directly face the sun at 11 AM solar time on June 21st at 30⁰N latitude, at what tilt and azimuth angles should the modules be mounted? Use the sun-path chart provided.
  22. The purpose of a linear current booster is to:
  23. Where the removal of the utility-interactive inverter or other equipment disconnects the bonding connection between the grounding electrode conductor and the photovoltaic source and/or the photovoltaic output circuit grounded conductor, a____ shall be installed to maintain the system grounding while the inverter or other equipment is removed.
  24. In addition to NEC Article 690. where else in the NEC are over-current devices are addressed?
  25. An array located at 30⁰N latitude consists of two rows racked facing south. Both rows are on a level surface and the height from the ground to the highest point on the module is 39.7”. Calculate the minimum distance in feet needed between rows so the modules will not be shaded at 9AM on December 21. Use the sun chart provided.

Click here to take this free NABCEP practice test. You’ll receive a full score report, including correct answers. You can take it as many times as you like. It’s being offered as part of a “Free Test Drive” of our NABCEP Solar PV Installer Exam Prep course that runs through September up until the next exam on October 4th. The course is a structured study group, and it’s led by ISPQ Certified Master Trainer Ken Thames. It includes over 20 hours of video lectures by Ken as well as 50 additional practice questions.

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Interview with Jason Riback, Co-founder of Vulume

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I don’t build buildings, but a lot of my colleagues and customers do. So I spend a lot of time at building conferences, reading about buildings, and listening to the most knowledgeable people in the industry teach the skills and concepts for buildng better. When my friend Jason Riback sent me an email about the launch of his new business, I thought it was interesting to see a tool for building professionals coming from a group of techies. I was curious why they picked this opportunity and how it might represent something new and interesting for the architects, builders and contractors I work with every day. Below is the transcript of an interview I did with Jason.

First, you need context on the company and what they do:

Can you tell me a real story that illustrates the pain you saw that inspired you to build the Vulume platform?  

The inspiration for Vulume came during the design and construction of a Colorado residence. Tracking the design concepts, redesigns, all discussions, the day to day construction progress and updating all team members was cumbersome and unorganized. Emails would get lost and project site visits were difficult from far away. In addition, sourcing, proposing, and approving the right eco friendly materials and unique products proved to be extremely time consuming. With Vulume everything is centralized. Vulume provides the ability to keep everyone involved during the planning, design and construction of any small or large project with a simple, visually friendly interface. Vulume helps you design smarter while tracking the life of your projects.

Can you describe, in detail, just one most important thing that Vulume does?

Vulume keeps you connected to your work and gives you quick access to social knowledge and inspiration. It keeps you informed and up to date on real projects with in line feedback, which means discussions and decisions are not lost in emails helping you save time and money. Throughout each project you have an archive of all the work that was done and a very visual way to share it with colleagues and clients. This is great for managing ongoing relationships with clients and sharing selected projects publicly helps you get noticed amongst the growing community.

Building software requires balancing simplicity with features – can you talk about a really hard decision you had to make about whether to build a feature into the platform or leave it out? Why did you decide to include it or leave it out?

When it comes to software you never finish building. The decision to add the ‘Capture’ feature was very tough because it needed to touch so many parts of the site. When we took a hard look at the design, planning and execution process from end to end it was necessary to include a feature that really streamlines the research and discovery aspect of construction throughout a project. Today users can start the idea generation and design process quickly by capturing content from all over the web and from other projects they discover on Vulume, moving them away from tearing out magazines, pasting links into emails, and wasting valuable time on research that may have already been done and shared by other members of the community.

If you look at the building industry in five years, what evidence will you look for to prove that Vulume has had the impact you hoped for?

We want to see our users leverage more sustainable materials and smarter design. We want to reduce the time and cost for each project and improve connections between forward thinking designers, developers, clients and other building professionals. By tapping into the human desire to contribute to a common goal, we aim to radically accelerate the process of creative and sustainable development in relation to the built environment.

Here’s the official Vulume pitch

Vulume helps designers, architects, builders, and clients collaborate more efficiently. It is an online community for smarter design and keeps everyone involved in a project on one platform by connecting all project data, discussions, and people in one place.

  • Store images, documents, and discussions on all your projects
  • Share learnings and product information
  • Collaborate privately or showcase your work for the entire community to see and follow.
  • Improve team engagement
  • Save time and money

You can sign up for a free public account by clicking here

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‘Commercial Roofing Boot Camp’: A new online workshop from Jim Hoff, ARW Magazine, and HeatSpring

Commercial Roofing Boot Camp

Jim Hoff is the VP of research at the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing (The Center) and a longtime industry executive. This spring, he’s teaching a ten-week, advanced design course online for 50 professionals.  It’s a details-oriented design course that combines video lessons, reading assignments, and hands-on calculations and homework. Dr. Hoff says: “There’s so much detailed, technical information and skill required in commercial roofing today. It’s exciting for me to put it all together in this one course.”

The “Commercial Roofing Boot Camp,” starting April 2014, is offered in partnership with BNP Media, parent company of Architectural Roofing & Waterproofing and Roofing Contractor magazines. BNP’s CE Campus is an ongoing source of professional continuing education. Group Publisher Jill Bloom says: “ARW has been a trusted source of technical information for decades – this new format allows us to go deeper and get even more technical for those who really want to dig deeper.”

HeatSpring has published and delivered more than 14,000 courses for high performance building professionals. HeatSpring President Brian Hayden says: “I’m proud that we can give everybody in the commercial building industry a chance to learn directly from Jim Hoff. Learning from the best teacher in your industry can change the way you think about yourself and your career.”

About the Course: “Commercial Roofing Boot Camp”

This is a rare opportunity to take a comprehensive commercial roofing course with Dr. James Hoff. In Commercial Roofing Boot Camp, you will learn the key principles of modern roofing as well as the best tools to put these principles into action. In addition, you will practice applying these key principles and tools to every major type of roofing material available today – including the latest in membranes, insulations, and accessories. Finally, you will have the opportunity to complete an individual exercise tailored to your current area of expertise or interest to demonstrate your understanding of key roofing principles and your ability to exercise sound roofing judgment. The goal is to equip students to design state-of-the-art commercial roofing systems. The Capstone Project is a portfolio piece that demonstrates mastery of commercial roofing design.

About Dr. James Hoff

Jim Hoff is an experienced executive and researcher in the building materials industry. He retired as vice president of technology for Firestone Building Products in 2007 after 23 years of service. Dr. Hoff currently serves as Vice President, Research for the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing in Washington, DC and as President of TEGNOS Research, Inc., a consulting organization dedicated to expanding understanding of the building envelope. Dr. Hoff holds undergraduate degrees in psychology and architectural design as well as a master’s and doctorate in management, and he has published numerous articles on building system performance, quality management, and life cycle analysis.

About BNP Media

BNP Media is a fourth-generation, family-run company with more than 50 publications catering to 11 distinct industry markets. Since 1926, BNP Media has been serving multiple industries with leading business-to-business publications that are a vital information source for businesses both nationally and globally. They are committed to helping industry professionals succeed in business by providing superior information through industry expertise.

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Part Two of John Siegenthaler’s Free Hydronics Lesson: Pipe Expansion

John Siegenthaler is the grandmaster of hydronic heating systems and in our last video, he covered fittings. In this 12 minute segment, John discusses pipe expansion. This is obviously critical information for anyone designing high-performance hydronic systems.

Click here to learn more about John’s ‘Hydronics Master Class’

Click here to review Part One – the free lesson on fittings.

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Free Hydronic Design Video From John Siegenthaler

This ten minute video is all about fittings. Fittings can be an afterthought, but they are a critical component for designing a high-performing hydronic heating system. In this video, John Siegenthaler outlines the universe of fittings, and even tells you which fittings you should avoid when designing a hydronic system.

This video comes from John’s ‘Hydronics Master Class’ – an advanced training for hydronic system designers. Click here to learn more about the Hydronics Master Class.

Posted in Building Efficiency | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Success Begets Success: Why Your Trip to Ball State’s GeoCon is a Great Investment in the Future of Your Business

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I’m not a fisherman, but I have plenty of stories about the one that got away.  Big, fantastic opportunities don’t come along frequently, so they tend to catch us off guard.  Ball State is the one that didn’t get away.  3,600 bore holes, $88 million spent, 8% ROI, 2,300 new jobs created, $2 million reduction in annual energy costs: this is the whopper we – the high performance building industry – caught.  It’s the single biggest success story in the history of the U.S. geothermal industry, and I believe the secrets to industry growth can be uncovered by dissecting how this project came to be.

On November 7th Ball State University is hosting it’s first Geothermal Conclave (GeoCon) – a one-day conference and trade show for anyone interested in high performance buildings.  This is a free event that includes lunch, networking, educational sessions and a tour of the largest geothermal heat pump installation in the United States.  We at HeatSpring are proud to be partnering with Ball State to make this event a success.

Click here to register or learn more about GeoCon.

Here are six reasons why you need to attend GeoCon this year:

  1. It’s the professional equivalent to visiting the Grand Canyon.  Can you really call it a life well-lived if you haven’t seen this thing with your own eyes?
  2. Ball State is recruiting other universities and academics to attend – can you imagine if a college near you decided to do the same thing?  Ball State has explicitly said this is a goal of theirs.  This is your chance to be a part of those conversations from the earliest stages.
  3. You’ll make new, potentially valuable, business contacts.  Since this is a new event it’s going to pull a diverse group of folks together who may not already know each other.  That’s an exciting and potent formula for finding new opportunities.
  4. We’re using education technology to make the event even more interesting.  We’re donating the use of our Cammpus training software to make this more of a ‘blended learning’ opportunity.  You’ll be able to start learning about the Ball State system and chatting with other attendees online before you ever set foot on campus.
  5. The focus is on big systems, not residential.  Sometimes selling residential systems feels like herding cats – I find it refreshing to talk about how to sell IKEA and Ball State on geothermal.  It’s harder, but has such a massive impact on the industry when it happens.
  6. We’ll be there discussing the future of the industry, not the past.  Almost all of the young geothermal professionals I know are anxious about their future in the industry.  They want to do work they love, but also need to make a living.  That’s going to be the focus of several breakout events, including the session on geothermal design led by IGSHPA author Ryan Carda.

Success begets success.  I’m excited for this opportunity to learn more about one of the best things that ever happened to the high performance building industry and to support Ball State’s effort to spread the word about what’s possible.  Joining me in that costs you zero dollars.  I hope to see you there.

To register or learn more about GeoCon click here

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Curriculum is an Instructor-Owned Asset that Accomplishes a Specific Goal. Can You Visualize It?

Instructors: owning your curriculum is like owning rental property.  It’s an asset that you can build and invest in – it can depreciate or appreciate over time based on how you manage it.  Most instructors can’t see what I’m talking about.  My goal for this article is to help you ‘see it’.

It took me 34 years to visualize what the word ‘curriculum’ actually means.  ”What is the physical manifestation of curriculum?” I asked repeatedly and everybody looked at me like it was a weird question.  Last week I had a major epiphany because I have been building out my entrepreneurship course using Cammpus.  As it started to come together, I realized, “I’m building my own curriculum!” and it’s an asset that delivers a learning outcome.  Here’s how it happened:

This intro class meets every Friday for 13 weeks – my job is to create a spark for undergrads to become interested in entrepreneurship and begin to learn tangible skills that can be applied within existing companies or in a start-up.  My goals are to have the highest student ratings possible and measure the spark to prove the class is working.  Students will watch all of the video lectures, some delivered by me and some are just links to existing videos, for homework.  Almost no lecture will be delivered in class.  All we’re going to do in class is group work, discussion, and produce tangible products.

From what I understand, ‘curriculum’ used to be a detailed course outline.  That’s almost exactly what I’ve done in Cammpus, but instead of static text every line is a dynamic link. It’s an interactive experience that includes videos, PDF reading assignments, surveys, and exercises that we’ll do in class.  The outline has come to life, and we all – students and instructors – have access to everything.  Here are some things I’m most excited about:

  1. It’s going to save me a time this Fall, when I’m otherwise super busy.  I love that I can create all of this and let it guide me as the course unfolds.  Any updates I make along the way are instantaneously available to students.
  2. I can show it to my colleagues at U-M.  Everybody there is smarter than I am, so I’m certain they’ll have lots of suggestions for improving the flow and content.  Having it organized in digital form provides greater visibility to them so they can make more informed suggestions about how to improve it.  We can also collaborate to make sure my course contains the information students need to succeed subsequent classes.
  3. It’s totally transparent to the students, so they know what’s coming and what’s expected.  Since they see everything I see, they’re not relying on me to dispense knowledge at a tightly controlled rate.  They can go nuts, and even dialogue with each other within the course interface.
  4. I own it, and can re-use it.  This is an asset I can continue to refine over time that will reduce execution risk and improve value for the students.
  5. I can measure outcomes, so I can prove that my class is working.

Can you visualize this same thing for your course?  For your sales presentation?  Teaching and coaching is such a universal pursuit and my mind is exploding with all the opportunities to implement this type of a curriculum delivery tool.  If you’re not really excited when you read this, let me know.  It means I’m failing to help you build the most valuable professional asset you can own.

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Five Best Tips I Learned at TechSmith’s Screencast Camp

photo (1)“Geek” is the word I heard most frequently when people described themselves this past weekend at TechSmith’s Screencast Camp in Okemos, Michigan.  Screencast Camp is a ‘participatory unconference’ where enthusiasts gather to teach and learn from each other. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I walked away completely in love with TechSmith and the greater screencasting community.  It was the most useful free professional event I’ve ever attended.

One of the best parts of any conference is learning new tricks for doing your job better.  Here are five tools I learned about this weekend that I think will make our online teaching better right away:

  1. Touchcast - For years I’ve been saying we’re in a golden age of education technology and it doesn’t make sense to over-invest in any technology.  Watch the intro video about Touchcast and you’ll know what I mean.  This is the best proof I’ve seen that it doesn’t make sense to over-invest in the production quality of online videos because they’re depreciating assets.  What’s more important is getting in the habit of producing digital content and becoming an effective communicator and teacher across platforms (including face-to-face).  My brain exploded when I saw this.
  2. Keynote – Wait…Keynote isn’t new!  Actually, what I learned is that you can use this standard Mac program to build interactive learning paths and choose-your-own adventure lessons.  By creating a Table-of-Contents and linking all of the slides to each other in creative ways, you can create a learning path for users with different skill levels.  I love this because I love using super-basic technology to do interesting things.
  3. Aurasma – Have you heard much about ‘augmented reality’?  You will.  Augmented reality is the concept behind Google Glass, and it’s already widely available on iPads and other similar devices.  When I heard about Aurasma, I immediately thought about reading John Siegenthaler’s ‘Modern Hydronics’ text book and having my iPad automatically pull up a video of John explaining something especially tricky, but important.  Video isn’t replacing reading, just making it better.
  4. Screencast-O-Matic – We love Camtasia for creating video tutorials, but sometimes I need a free, super-simple option for teaching new instructors.  This weekend I downloaded this free program and got my five year old son using it no problem.  It’s lightweight and gets you creating digital content fast.
  5. Articulate Storyline - This one is overkill for anybody working on a tight budget, but if you’re working at a company with deep pockets, then buy this for sure.  This is a training department’s equivalent to the private jet.  You can use it to create high-end digital content and everybody seemed to agree that they have great customer support.

TechSmith is co-teaching our ‘How to Create Amazing Technical Videos’ course, along with Wistia.  I’m such a big fan of both companies, I guess it’s time to start applying the ‘geek’ label to myself.  Click here to learn more about this cool new course.

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Two Things You Should Know About the Michigan Solar Industry

The Open PV Project ranks Michigan as the 28th best state for solar PV with 7.09 MW of installed capacity.  Here are two things you might not know about the Michigan solar industry if you’re not spending a lot of time in the state:

#1 – Michigan Solar Installed capacity is going to double fast


Thousands of solar panels stacked floor-to-ceiling at McNaughton-McKay’s Ann Arbor warehouse.

Last week I saw more solar panels than I’ve ever seen in one place – surprisingly, here in Ann Arbor. In 2011 McNaughton-McKay won a solar panel contract with DTE for a series of projects totaling nearly 15MW in installed capacity. That’s a huge number, and the evidence is on display when you walk the aisles at McNaughton-McKay: thousands of panels stacked floor-to-ceiling in their Ann Arbor warehouse.

So when I say capacity is going to double fast, it’s not a hope or a dream.  DTE has committed to achieving 22 MW of installed solar PV in the state.  McNaughton-McKay is part of DTE’s team for these projects and have built a knowledgeable team to facilitate these massive installations.  Spending time in the warehouse made me feel like I was standing at the epicenter of Michigan’s solar industry.

HeatSpring is hosting a NABCEP solar installer training in Ann Arbor this Fall – click here for more details.

#2 – Community solar in Michigan is driving the residential market

Most of the DTE projects are commercial and utility scale, so what about the residential solar market?  The most promising initiative driving the adoption of residential solar in Michigan is the push toward ‘community solar’ kicked off by Cherryland Electric Coop’s Community Solar program.

Matt Roush with CBS Detroit and Dave Konkle from the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association (GLREA) do a great job describing community solar, how it works, and the basic financial impact in this article.  The Michigan Energy Office awarded GLREA a $33,304 grant to compile a best practices report for community solar in Michigan.  This fall we’ll be creating a free course to walk through the feasibility and economics of community solar, including all the numbers for planning community solar projects.  We’ve covered successful community solar projects in Vermont in the past, and also acknowledged that community solar can be a pain.  The new information isn’t that community solar works, it’s that it’s working in Michigan.  And the state is funding exploration so more of it can happen.

62% voted ‘no’ on last year’s ballot initiative to amend the state constitution and mandate 25% renewable energy by 2025.  Exit polls made it pretty clear that voters favor the adoption of solar, but rejected the notion that the constitution needed to be amended to make it happen.  DTE is quietly plowing forward with their solar carve-out, and GLREA is spearheading grassroots efforts on the residential side.  For contractors taking a look at solar, my advice is to stay open and vigilant for opportunities.  Licensing and certification requirements are light because the Michigan solar industry is still in it’s infancy.  As some of these projects start to flow, there will be opportunities for those who know the local market.

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Meet Tom McCormack, HeatSpring’s First ‘Student Advocate’

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It’s no secret we’re excited about online and blended learning. Education is going digital – everyone knows it, but there’s a ton of fear and uncertainty about what that future looks like. If online training is the Wild West, then Tom McCormack is the new sheriff in town. He recently joined HeatSpring with the title of ‘Student Advocate’. This is a new position that we think will become standard industry practice as more organizations begin investing in education technology.

Why Hire a Student Advocate?

Everybody knows what to expect in a seminar or classroom: a comfortable, distraction-free learning environment and an instructor who is knowledgeable and respectful. If these things aren’t provided as part of a program, people notice quickly and are generally comfortable speaking up and advocating for themselves. We’ve found people to be more tentative and less vocal in an online setting.

For many people, their first HeatSpring class is also their first experience with good online learning, so they don’t know what to expect. The results we’re seeing in our classes are better than average for online programs: 66% successfully finish their paid trainings and our average student ratings are 9.2 / 10.0. Not bad. But that 34% who don’t finish the class looms large for us – and that number is even higher for the free classes we offer. The Student Advocate’s primary job is to decrease variability across the classes, and improve our class completion rate.  Completion rates of 90% are unheard of for online training, but that’s where we want to be.

Even more exciting than a higher completion rate is what a Student Advocate can do to increase the market value of each learning experience. Because we can measure and validate new skills gained through training, we can help students tell a more compelling story to customers or employers. Most people aren’t used to marketing themselves and their education that way – something a Student Advocate can help with. Ever have somebody ‘endorse’ you on LinkedIn? That’s a small, tangible example of how professionals are beginning to help each other demonstrate expertise. We’re going to start helping students show the world the awesome things they do in class – an effort that will be led by our Student Advocate.

Why Did We Pick Tom?

Tom HeatSpring headshotTom likes people, he’s organized, and he gets why this is a unique and exciting position. He also happens to have Masters Degrees in Teaching and Urban Planning – so he’s wicked smart. Tom taught high school for several years, developed curriculum for the University of Illinois-Chicago, and managed social media for the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

We’re lucky to have Tom in this pioneering role. I encourage all of you HeatSpring instructors and alumni to reach out to Tom – he’s accessible, hungry, and there to help make sure the time you spend in a HeatSpring training results in real, human relationships, and is a great investment in your career.

Tom McCormack can be reached at or 800-393-2044 x66.

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