Three $5,000 scholarships are available to students in the U.S. and Canada who are enrolled in mechanical or building engineering bachelor’s degree programs for the 2022-2023 academic year. A new scholarship program launched by Dectron, PoolPak and Seresco, three of North America’s leading dehumidifier brands, is designed to help students pursue an education in engineering and increase their awareness of natatorium design.
To find out more about this scholarship opportunity, please visit this page.
Pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering (ME) can lead to a rewarding, challenging career full of day-to-day variety and hands-on problem solving. We sat down with Ralph Kittler, P.Eng, Vice President of Sales & Business Development at Dehumidified Air Solutions, to discuss what an education in mechanical engineering has to offer students, including what they can expect when entering the workforce after graduation. Ralph has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, has worked in the field for over 30 years and is considered an expert in educating mechanical engineers on natatorium (indoor pool) design and humidity control.
Why did you decide to pursue an education and ultimately a career in ME?
I’ve always enjoyed taking things apart to see what makes them tick. I’ve also always been good at math, so a science-based career path was an obvious choice. Also, my father is a mechanical engineer and exposed me to the industry. It seemed like a good fit right away.
Has anything surprised you about your education or your career?
Yes, and ironically it’s something not science related. I think how to collaborate and work with other people is the most important thing I’ve learned. It’s the human interaction element that has been the important and interesting part of my career. If you learn to work well with others, you’ll find yourself working with some pretty amazing people on great projects. Something else that surprised me, which I learned early on in my career, is that I enjoy teaching.
Tell us about your role today and the most interesting parts of it.
Much of my time today is spent using my industry knowledge and experience to help guide the organization forward. There are always new challenges and opportunities that certainly keep things exciting and interesting. I am involved in everything from technical sales to market and product development. Seeing a sales team thrive knowing that I was able to help with that is quite a reward. Helping develop a product and seeing it become the industry benchmark is also quite a treat. Probably my favorite role in the organization is that I push them to be more environmentally friendly. The result is that some of our products have been redesigned and have reduced their refrigerant charges by as much as 95%. Those products are now more robust and reliable too. A win for everyone.
What led you to the HVAC industry?
I completed a technology diploma specific to HVAC prior to university, so I had exposure to HVAC before pursuing an education in ME. HVAC as a subject is barely covered in university curriculum, which is amazing given that it’s a $16.5 billion-dollar industry in the US alone. I remained interested in HVAC throughout university and worked in the field during the summer months. By graduation, I was fairly well immersed in this industry and was able to secure a job before graduation.
Many students will have an opportunity to participate in a co-op program during their engineering degree and should if they can. This is a fantastic way to gain exposure to an industry and find out if it’s one they want to continue working in. Chances are they’ll have a job offer before graduation too.
What should ME students understand in order to be successful?
First, know that if you graduate you will have the tools to succeed in whatever career you decide to pursue. The ME course material itself will prepare you to do well in whatever subject you’re working on. Just as important though is the act of completing the work (and passing the courses). You’ll gain the discipline, time management and teamwork skills that are valuable in the business world. Your time management skills, for example, need to be rock solid to graduate as a mechanical engineer. It’s a tough and busy curriculum where you quickly learn how to juggle many assignments and learn how to get things done in the limited time you have available. Perfect training for the job market.
It’s also important to find something you enjoy. Having the tools to succeed and enjoying what you do is a recipe for success. After that, it’s a matter of being ready to pursue opportunities. Sometimes opportunity lands in your lap perfectly and other times it might come at the worst time. The trick is to know an opportunity when you see it and trust yourself. My biggest opportunity presented itself when I decided I needed to make a change (funny how that works). Had I not been ready to make that change, I would not be where I am today.
What was the “biggest opportunity”?
My biggest opportunity came when I started feeling stuck in my career and was contemplating a change. I was at a point in my career in which I was very confident in what I was doing. I had been successfully running sales at a manufacturing firm in HVAC for indoor pools but felt that my career options there had plateaued. Right at that time some ex-colleagues were contemplating starting their own firm and needed someone to run the sales. That’s when I decided to join them, and we started our own firm. At some point you’ll realize that you’re very good at what you do, and this confidence will help you recognize and take advantage of opportunities when they come along.
What kinds of roles can a ME graduate expect to land?
Employers will expect you to become an important contributor immediately. Mechanical engineers are not hired to be in support roles for long — they are hired because employers have important work they need completed. From there, it’ll be your aptitudes, interests and aspirations that steer your career.
What industries can ME graduates find work in?
The sky’s the limit. Truly. Mechanical engineering is very broad and offers a tremendous range of opportunities based on your interests. An electrical engineer will work primarily in electrical engineering, a structural engineer in structural engineering and a chemical engineer in chemical engineering, whereas mechanical engineering exposes you to all these types of engineering and more. The following are examples of industries that individuals from just my small graduating class entered for their first jobs: robotics, conveyer assembly systems, HVAC, metallurgy, mining equipment, farming/food production, motor sports and teaching.
Without exception, everyone from my graduating class today is an industry leader and absolutely loves their life and what they do. They’ve all had and continue to have incredible careers and a great quality of life. Some are in vastly different fields than where they started. All have grown into key roles where they are either managing large teams of people or the actual business itself.
You will need to consider skills to help further your career. Your education is not complete when you graduate. You’ll learn a lot on the job, but don’t be afraid to take extra courses in public speaking, sales or accounting. You will likely need to round out your skills as your career as a mechanical engineer evolves into becoming a business leader.
How does a ME student or graduate expand their professional network and what are the benefits of doing so?
Become an active member in a professional association (e.g., ASME, ASHRAE). You’ll be surprised by how quickly you make friends and build a network of peers and industry leaders. Professional associations typically have lots going on and look for volunteers for all sorts of things. Volunteer for something. It’s a terrific opportunity to try something new. Through ASHRAE, I’ve helped write handbook chapters, chair committees and lecture. I also have a network of people I consider friends who are also experts I can reach out to any time I might need advice. It’s a professional luxury to be able to ask an expert who literally wrote the book on a subject for some advice.
Please share a case study of a successful pool design and installation project.
The Levine Aquatic Center at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina, is an excellent example of a successful design and installation project. In the beginning, I helped educate everyone involved on what needs to happen for a successful project. All parties, including the Aquatics Director, mechanical engineer, local rep and eventually the contractor, understood the plan for the facility and bought into it. As a result, the entire design process was pure collaboration.
When budget issues arose, no compromises were made in areas that would negatively impact the performance of the indoor pool. This facility has become renowned for its indoor air quality, which is used as a recruiting tool to sign on top athletes from around the world today. They have also now won 14 NCAA Championships. To me, this project is total validation that when a team understands the goals and works together to accomplish those goals, they will succeed. Outside of this, proper building materials and building envelope design, effective air distribution, the right mechanical HVAC equipment, source capture of chemical gasses at the water surface and pool water chemistry all ensured its success.
Dehumidified Air Solutions is offering three $5,000 scholarships (worth $15,000 in total) to students enrolled in a mechanical or building engineering bachelor’s degree program for the 2022-2023 academic year. Why apply?
A $5,000 scholarship would make a world of difference in that it would take financial pressure off you and allow you to focus on your studies instead of your next pay cheque. Plus, the scholarship application process and ambassador program provide you with some exposure to natatorium design, which you might not have otherwise.
For more information on the three scholarships, please visit the Dectron, PoolPak and Seresco scholarship pages.
About Ralph Kittler, P.Eng
In addition to being a founding partner of one of Dehumidified Air Solutions’ manufacturers, Ralph Kittler is currently chairman of the CDC’s Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC) ad hoc committee on indoor air quality. The committee’s mandate is to identify and assess the factors affecting air quality at indoor aquatic facilities and develop revisions to the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) to better address ventilation/air quality design and operational criteria. Ralph was an ASHRAE “Distinguished Lecturer” on indoor pool design for 12 years and sits on two technical committees: TC 8.10 “Mechanical Dehumidifiers and Related Equipment” and TC 9.8 “Large Building Air Conditioning Applications.” He is the primary revisor on two ASHRAE Handbook chapters and helped create the new “Indoor Pool Design” chapter (Applications 2019 Chapter 25).
About Dehumidified Air Solutions
Dehumidified Air Solutions, part of the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) division of Madison Industries, is North America’s home to the industry’s three most respected indoor pool dehumidifier brands, Dectron, PoolPak and Seresco. Focused on delivering exceptional IAQ through HVAC temperature and humidity control, Dehumidified Air Solutions manufactures the industry’s most reliable, innovative, technologically advanced indoor pool dehumidification equipment.