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Fulton County REMC and Purdue Extension of Fulton County Partner for Circuit Board Program

Coming up with a topic for my September article has always been a little challenging for me. I usually can think about a topic that goes along with the month based on energy usage.  Typically, the best part of September from an energy standpoint is that most of us see one of the lowest bills of the year for September’s usage.  It is that sweet spot of not much need for A/C and no need for heating yet.   Because of this, I’m going to take a little time and talk about one of my favorite programs that we are involved with at Fulton County REMC.

The 2023-2024 School year is in full swing.  It will not be long, and we will be visiting 5 different elementary schools to work with every 4th grader on circuit boards and teach the kids about staying safe around electricity. 

I am told that the partnership between Fulton County REMC and the Purdue Extension office of Fulton County started around 27 years ago.  The Fulton County REMC employee that helped make this all possible was Fred Bauman. Many of you might know him better by his “stage name” of Uncle Fred.  Fred had a huge impact on not only the program at the time but all these years later. When I took my job at REMC, Fred was already retired, but the person who carried the torch after him was Greg Bitterling. I learned so much from Greg in our time together at REMC.  Watching Greg teach the 4th graders about circuits was something that just came natural to him.

One of the non REMC employees that was a big part of this program for many years is Mark Kepler from the Purdue Extension office. From throwing out hints to kids when I would ask a question or being the guy to show the 4th graders how exactly to use a screwdriver, Mark played the part of hype man for me perfectly. Mark retired this past summer, and I will miss his help in the classrooms. I’m not sure Mark will miss it as much as I’ll miss him (he seemed to always get burned by the solder gun every year), but he will be missed.

Not only do we partner with the Fulton County Purdue extension office, we have been doing the same with the Pulaski extension office for the last 4 years.  Together as a whole we build roughly 300 circuit boards a year.  This is a hands-on activity for these students.  I really do look forward to visiting these schools every year.  I think that us adults have just as much fun helping the students as they do building them.

I have been blessed to have some great people lead the way before I got here. I’m sure that I do not teach the students the same way that they did and that’s alright with me. I’m sure I tell way more lame dad jokes than either one of them ever did.  I think it would make it boring if we all followed the same script from one to the other.  I hope that when my time is over teaching circuit boards, the next person takes it and makes it their own too (but good luck to them on being as hilarious as me).

The circuit board program was never intended to be about anyone or anything other than the thousands of students that have completed that board and flipped the switch to make it light up.  The positive impact that this partnership has had in the community we serve is something that would not be possible without a lot of groundwork put in by people before me.

If you ever get the chance to help at one of the schools with a 4th grader in your life, I encourage you to sign up and help.  You will be as amazed as I am every time of how well these kids do.  I would only ask that you laugh at my jokes and not just roll your eyes like all the 4th graders.