Home » Education » CVIT offers HVAC and Drone programs

CVIT offers HVAC and Drone programs

“Students learn all about aviation -- controls, regulations, weather and airspace maps,” says Major Fiorella. “It’s a whole new language to understand.” Photo by Patti Daley.

Major Salvatore Fiorella was the Career & Technical Education instructor and head of the JROTC program at Globe High School (GHS) when he was asked to teach a CVIT satellite course on drones. Drones are unmanned aircraft, regulated by the FAA, similar to manned aircraft. Although Major had a pilot’s license, drones were new to him.

“I did my research into it and couldn’t stop,” he recalls. “It was amazing what they’re using drones for; I had no idea what the career opportunities are for these kids.

Drone use is exploding in a multitude of diverse fields — energy, agriculture, wildlife conservation, journalism, logistics, transportation, film, and first responders. There is a projected shortage of 350 thousand drone pilots by 2024. 

“Our kids have an opportunity to get their license;” says Major. “You can get one at age 16.” 

Globe High School is offering the two-year Drone Program to juniors and seniors as a CVIT satellite campus program. 

“Students learn all about aviation; how to interpret aviation sectional maps, weather, regulations, safety procedures,” Major explains. “It’s a whole new language they need to understand.”

The 5-course program combines test prep and flight simulation with hands-on piloting of drones. While the main focus of the class is to pass the FAA Unmanned Aircraft General Knowledge Test, Major knows it takes more than that to become a safe pilot 

“Wear proper PPE — look professional, wear helmets,” warns Major. “Drones drop out of the sky.” 

Most modern drones have four propellers that spin in the air to lift the vehicle.  Once airborne, it moves similar to a plane.  It is a federal offense to shoot at a drone and you can’t fly drones near prisons or schools, out of your range of sight and no higher than 400 feet. Unless you get special permission.

Major Fiorella learned about drones by taking the Unmanned Safety Institute (USI) online course and getting certified as a teacher. Deeming online self-study insufficient for students without previous aviation experience, he expanded the class curriculum to include hands-on practice with drones and disciplined safety protocol — checklists, inspections, maintenance records, battery life. As a military man, teamwork and leadership training comes through in his classroom. Mission. Goals. Emergency Response. He created a curriculum for indoor training — flight cards and an indoor course where students practice with low-tech drones that are made to crash. Ultimately they learn to fly the Phantom 4, a $2K industry-caliber drone.  

“They get hands-on with the drones, so they get excited about it and hone their skills,” says Major, “and come back the second year.”

GHS has invested in over $20K to give students hands-on experience with drones. Photo by Patti Daley

The school has invested $20K – $40K with CVIT and CTE funding on the program to cover the cost of the drones and high-end software for drone simulation and photogrammetry. IPad monitoring and video goggles.

“It’s like you’re flying,” says Major with an enthusiasm not often seen in a man with retirement on the horizon. His goal is to ensure there is a trained and certified backup when the time comes.

“You don’t need an aviation background to teach this class,” he says. 

Major retired from the U.S. Army in 2008 and was recalled two years later. He was working for General Dynamics in Scottsdale when he began looking into JROTC jobs. He found one at GHS in June 2011 just before being deployed as military advisor to a Saudi general. The school and its students held his spot, sending a flag and packages to his post in the Middle East. 

For a time he worked two weeks in a combat zone, then two weeks with his high school students. As a high-ranking officer, he wasn’t used to people ignoring his instruction or responding with disrespect. His first year, according to Major, was “a mess,” but from his students, he learned how to be a good teacher. 

“I had to remember that students are not soldiers,” he says. “I had to step back and listen to them, be patient, and change.”

HVAC-R Training: Keeping things Comfortable 

CVIT is offering HVAC-R courses to local high school students through a partnership with EAC- Gila Pueblo Campus. The six-course series can be completed in a year and will prepare students to enter the skilled trades of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration as a Level 1 Technician. 

Each semester HVAC-R students create a “Frankenstein” A/C unit out of recycled components. Photo by Patti Daley

“A broad range of people come to the HVAC field,” says Gabe Eylicio, full-time HVAC-R instructor for EAC. 

He’s taught about 140-150 students over the years, ages 21-60. Some students want to further their education to move up the ladder. Others have spent years in the business and want to become better technicians or learn about the latest technologies.

“There’s been a lot of progress made in the equipment,” says Gabe. “We teach about what’s out there now and how to work with the older systems that are still out there.“

High school students who take the CVIT HVAC-R courses can earn both high school and college credit and certification of proficiency (COP) that makes them employable in the field. Courses are available in the Fall and spring semesters, with classes two days a week.

From military commander to trusted teacher, Major Fiorello reaps rewards from his students. Photo by Patti Daley.

Some of Gabe’s students are not career-oriented at all, but rather retirees that have paid too much on HVAC repairs and want to learn to be self-sufficient.

“Every homeowner or renter should take a course in this,” says Gabe. “We pay a lot of money to be comfortable in our homes.” 

EAC’s tuition for the program is $1350 plus the cost of books, a price promoted as comparable to 7-month courses in Phoenix that cost over $16K.  All expenses are paid for by CVIT for high school students.  County residents 55 and older can take the courses for free. Contact the Financial Aid Dept. for available assistance. (928) 428-8287.  

About The Instructor

Gabe Eylico. Photo by Patti Daley

Gabe Eylicio caps a 30-year career as HVAC-R instructor for Eastern Arizona College (EAC). He began in construction and ran the Gila County Housing Services weatherization program for many years, a service aimed at increasing the energy efficiency of low-income homes.  

“A lot comes back to AC systems, the biggest use of electricity or gas,” explains Gabe. “It’s always been about energy efficiency for HVAC.”

Obama-era funding helped increase the program’s impact from 12 homes a year to 240 and trained a lot of contractors to work to federal code. According to Gabe, Gila County scored the highest “bang for the buck” in the state.  

“The people I worked with were excellent,” he says.

Funding, however, dwindled, and Gabe was offered full-time work at EAC. He was already teaching courses in BPI certifications. This time, he was asked to teach HVAC-R at the prison.

“It was a different door to open,” says Gabe, “I decided to give it a try.”

HVAC-R courses have been successful with prisoners; some getting released with employment awaiting them. 

“I really enjoy helping people,” he says, “but If you can make a change in their life that leads to employment and make it easier for them to get ahead in life, so to speak, that’s a bigger change.”








Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *