Burman Teaches with Energy, Enthusiasm and Entertainment
Jon Burman is so passionate about renewable energy his family built an off-grid cabin powered only by solar panels. He has earned certificates in photovoltaics from Midwest Renewable Energy Association and traveled to Colorado for a Micro-Hydro certification from Solar Energy International.
In the summers when he is not teaching, Burman has worked for Winona Renewable Energy installing and designing solar systems. This summer he worked for North American Hydro at the Hatfield, Wisconsin site.
As an instructor at Western Technical College, Burman helps maintain the hydroelectric system owned by the college. He brings his students to the site to conduct stream flow analysis and discuss the operating of the generating equipment.
“The dam produces enough energy to power all of Western’s outreach campuses,” he states proudly. “This May, we tripled production from last May. We’re learning as we go and finding the kinks in the system.”
Always a problem-solver and a trouble-shooter, Burman started tinkering on his relatives’ farm equipment as a child. His interest moved to CB radio and electronics along with motocross racing.
“We were always trying to save weight and get more horsepower,” Burman said of his motocross experiments.
After high school he enrolled in the pre-engineering program at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, but switched to the Industrial Electronics program at Western. Unfortunately when he graduated, the industrial job market was not very good. So, Burman went to work for an office equipment company where he used his trouble-shooting skills on full-color laser printers that produced giant maps or images 24 feet by 36 feet, primarily used by the military.
In 1997, Burman started teaching computer electronics at Western.
“During my early years of teaching, I focused on electronics as they related to computers,” he recalled. “I also taught the electronics troubleshooting courses along with teaching in our open electronics lab.”
His diverse background opened opportunities to move into teaching hydraulics, pneumatics and pumping systems along with mechanical drive systems and basic soldering. This year Burman will work with a committee to develop a photovoltaic certificate program for the college.
Students describe Burman as passionate and entertaining. He’s known for his imitation of a character from Saturday Night Live. “I try to make it fun,” he says of his classes.