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Construction Technology professor teaches "with two hands"

May 6, 2002

When Wayne Jones' students walk into a classroom, chances are it's one they've built themselves.

Housed in Fort Campbell's World War II-era buildings, the classrooms and labs used by Austin Peay construction technology students match the Post's plain structures on the outside.

But beyond the standard white siding and heavy, industrial doors lie modern workstations that are uniquely the students' own.

"All my students have a hand in building these classrooms," said Jones, manager of the construction technology program at the Austin Peay Center @ Fort Campbell. "That's the best way for them to learn-to take what they're taught in the books and apply it hands-on." Students in carpentry , masonry , electricity, plumbing and heating and cooling courses participate in the ongoing construction.

In addition to estimating materials and gutting buildings, they install insulation, sheetrock, paneling and wiring. They also hang doors, lay carpet and floor tiles and install lighting, bathroom and air conditioning units.

Jones is quick to downplay his role in the projects, which include new faculty offices. "The students are some of the hardest workers I've seen. I'm just there to make sure they have the knowledge and can use it properly and safely.

"I'm a pretty simple guy with a simple teaching style. The best way for me to train them is to show them with my two hands."

But Jones' modesty doesn't hide his accomplishments.

From small bathrooms to massive warehouses, he has led the remodeling of 12 buildings on the post during his 15 years at APCFC and estimates a $100,000 savings to the University through student participation in construction projects.

Despite considering retirement next year, he hopes to establish a concentration in welding before he leaves.

"We just spent about $40,000 to buy top-of-the-line equipment, and I have one of the best welders around signed on to run the program," he said. "But I'm worried the project might stall with the budget problems the University is having."

Jones also is setting up an air conditioning lab with air conditioners and heat pumps donated by Trane, so students can practice troubleshooting and handling cooling gases.

Mini-home models for a specialty lab are in the works as well. Complete with kitchens and laundry rooms, students will be able to carry out plumbing and electrical exercises in them.

"It's important the students have a strong handle on all the skills they'll need when they leave. That's why I want these labs and the new welding program to be up and running by the time I go," he said.

Before coming to Austin Peay, Jones worked as a utilities and mechanics engineer in the Air Force for 14 years and the Army for 10 years.

"Construction always has been part of my life, whether for work or at home. You should see the 'honey-do' lists my wife leaves me-painting ceilings, building a bonus room, putting in plantation-style blinds. It's what I love, so I'm happy to do it, and I can honestly say I've never had a repairman in my house other than to fix the TV."

Construction technology is one of numerous technical education programs offered by the Austin Peay Center @ Fort Campbell to all members of the community.

For more information about the construction technology program, telephone (931) 221-1400.