IEC of Oregon Uses Volt Wagon for Recruitment and Training


IEC of Oregon secured victory in the IEC SPARK 2022 raffle, winning the coveted Volt Wagon / Mobile Training Lab designed and built by the 2022 Emerging Leaders cohort. This triumph not only highlights IEC’s commitment to excellence but also underscores its dedication to advancing education and training within the electrical industry. 

At the heart of winning the raffle lies the Volt Wagon — an invaluable resource that revolutionizes education and training within the electrical community. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology and hands-on learning resources, the lab provides unparalleled opportunities for skill development and professional growth. 

One of the most significant advantages of the Volt Wagon is its ability to bridge geographical and logistical barriers to education. By bringing training directly to IEC members across Oregon, the lab ensures that no one is left behind, regardless of their location or circumstances. This democratization of learning promises to empower individuals and communities alike, opening doors to new opportunities and pathways to success. For example, each summer IEC of Oregon is invited to Sutherlin, OR, for its Throwdown event. Roughly 5,000 people attend this fundraiser for trade school scholarships. People from all ages, all walks of life, experience the Volt Wagon and learn about the industry. 

Middle and high schoolers also are able to learn from the Volt Wagon during their visits to IEC of Oregon. Each year, hundreds of students take part in the National Apprenticeship Week events. We always have the Volt Wagon set up for demonstration. 


What’s in the Volt Wagon? 

It starts with the weatherhead, where the utility company ties the power lines to the electrician’s wiring. From the weatherhead, the electricity flows through the service conductors to the meter. The meter tracks power usage so the utility company can charge the customer accordingly.

After that, the meter is wired to the main disconnect. The purpose of the main disconnect is to protect all the equipment from short-circuit ground faults. If there is a surge of electricity from the utility company, it will blow the fuses in the disconnect cutting all power from the disconnect forward. 

The last piece of equipment is the power panel. This is where the electricity is split into multiple smaller circuits called branch circuits. These branch circuits are distributed out to power your outlets, lighting, heating, and anything else that needs electricity. 

This power panel display also features three different installation methods of wiring: 

  • Nonmetallic-sheathed cable (NM Cable), a flexible cable. 
  • Metallic cable (MC Cable), a flexible cable. 
  • Electrical metallic tubing (EMT), a type of raceway. 

The power panel showcases components and concepts people commonly associate with the electrical world. Switches, boxes, conduit, and wire are components people see and this board gives them an opportunity to go “behind the wall” to see how their lights turn on. 

Additionally, it shows the different types of conduit and junction boxes that electricians use in the field. The first conduit and junction box are EMT. It is the most commonly used raceway in commercial buildings and is typically run in the ceilings or surface mounted to the wall. Its purpose is to protect and route conductors throughout a building. You can use set screw or compression fittings depending on the application. In dry areas we use set screw fittings, which tighten to the conduit by using one screw. In damp locations we use compression fittings, which are installed in pieces and then tightened to the conduit by threading the pieces together. 

There is more to the Volt Wagon displays to educate potential electricians: 

The fire alarm control panel (FACP) is the main brain of the system. This essentially is a computer permanently installed in a building that identifies an input signal from an initiating device such as smoke detector, water flow sensor, or pull station, and starts the audio / visual notification within the building and communicates the signal to the fire department through a phone line or a radio frequency for emergency responders. The FACP is programmed specifically to the number and types of devices installed within each building. On the LED display, it identifies exactly which devices have triggered the signal when the system is in alarm. For instance, if there is a fire located on the 16th floor at the elevator lobby, the display shows exactly that, “Smoke Detector – 16th Floor Elevator Lobby.”  

Strobe is a notification device which provides a bright intermittent flash to alert occupants the building is in alarm status. This bright flash of light is designed to be seen even when a room is filled with smoke. These devices can be located on the ceiling or wall at very specific heights and coverage areas depending on the brightness output of the strobe, which is called candela setting. In buildings, the fire alarm system also can have horns or speakers to provide audible notifications to alert occupants the system is in alarm. 

The photoelectric smoke detector device can sense when smoke is present in an area by providing a continuous, focused beam of light onto a mirror from an LED light source that is aimed directly into a sensing chamber, away from the sensor. If smoke enters the chamber, the light that is reflected onto the light sensor is interrupted, scattering light in many directions and triggering the alarm. Photoelectric smoke detectors can detect smoke before a fire even begins to appear. As an intelligent part of the fire alarm system, these devices have an address code set on each one to identify their location and function to the FACP.

The pull station device is how occupants can alert others of a fire or emergency. These are often located at exit locations, such as exterior doors or stairwells, so it can be initiated as one flees to safety. Like a smoke detector, each pull station has its own address to identify where it is located so emergency responders know to go directly to that area when in alarm. 

The water flow switch is located at the fire sprinkler system riser. There is a paddle located within the piping that is pushed to trigger the switch when water flow occurs, such as when a sprinkler head goes off. Connected to this water flow switch is a control module that tells the FACP it has been initiated so the system can go into alarm. 

An electric door magnet device is designed to release a door to maintain a fire containment area. Buildings are designed to create safe pathways of egress so occupants have enough time to exit the building if a fire occurs. These containments areas, such as corridors or stairways, have stringent construction requirements for safety. Doorways to and from these areas must be closed to maintain the integrity of the safe path. Through a programmable relay, power is released from the door magnet, causing the doors to close. These relays are addressed and programmed at the FACP to close when in alarm. 

In essence, the Volt Wagon is loaded with demonstrations from the electrical and low voltage areas of the industry. Beyond its role in education and training, the Volt Wagon serves as a hub for collaboration and innovation within the electrical industry. By bringing together industry professionals, educators, and stakeholders, it facilitates the exchange of ideas, best practices, and cutting-edge technologies, driving continuous improvement and advancement. 

IEC of Oregon has been able to leverage the Volt Wagon to make an impact on those considering their career options and increase interest in the electrical field. We are grateful to have won the raffle!  


Ready to Build Your Own Volt Wagon? 

IEC can help. Members can obtain instructions, drawings, and specifications from IEC National. Email to request.