Thursday, October 11, 2018

    TELC 0173 - CFAA Course 3: Basic                                                           Electricity
School of Construction and the Environment
Canadian Fire Alarm Association certification
Minimum Passing Grade:
Start Date:
September 17, 2018
End Date:
October 29, 2018
Total Hours:
Total Weeks:
Delivery Type:

    Instructor Details
Name: Joe Robinsmith
Email: Instructor to provide
Location: NA
Office Hours: Instructor to provide
    Course description
This course covers basic electrical theory and practices. The theory includes Ohm's Law, Kirchoffs Law, magnetism, energy generation and the dangers of higher A/C voltages. This course then focuses on a greater understanding of the Canadian Electrical Code. The lab exercises are designed to reinforce the theory taught in class.
   Course goals
1. Explain basic Electrical theory and materials.
2. Distinguish and use formulas for electrical circuits.
3. Identify battery types and circuits.
4. Illustrate magnetism and basic relay theory.
5. Analyze alternating current (AC) fundamentals.
6. Calculate inductance and identify transformers.
7. Summarize Canadian Electrical Code and ULC S-524.
8. Demonstrate electrical meters and safety.
    Course learning outcomes / competencies
Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  • Demonstrate and discuss electrical safety procedures and the dangers of higher AC voltages.
  • Utilize base units for specifying and calculating voltage, current, power and impedance.
  • Identify and differentiate between a schematic and wiring diagrams.
  • Apply the resistor colour code to determine resistance and tolerance.
  • Demonstrate how a sine wave can be generated.
  • Explain ways to express the magnitude of alternating current.
  • Explain the difference between electrical degrees and mechanical degrees.

    Evaluation criteria
Mid-term quiz
Lab work
Final Exam
   Learning resources
Canadian Fire Alarm Association Module 3 manual - Basic Electricity for Fire Alarm - Available at the BCIT bookstore
    Course specific requirements
Clamp on Electrical meter with DC amperage capability
    Safety equipment or protective clothing
Safety glasses required in the lab
    Course schedule and assignments
Week 1A:    A. Review energy principles.
B. Explain atoms and molecules and ions.
C. Discuss electron shells.
D. Describe electric charge.
E. Differentiate conductor materials.
F. Investigate semiconductor materials.
G. Identify insulators and their properties

Week 1B:    A. Review metric measurement and prefixes.
B. Investigate current flow theory.
C. Discuss voltage principles.
D. Define resistance in electrical circuits.
E. Calculate Ohm’s law.
F. Employ Power law.
G. Classify series circuits.
H. Identify parallel circuits.
I. Manipulate series-parallel circuits

Week 2A & 2B:    A. Classify rechargeable batteries.
B. Differentiate properties of SLA batteries.
C. Review Nickel cadmium battery properties.
D. Outline advantages of SLA batteries.
E. Review disadvantages of SLA.
F. Connect SLA batteries in different configurations.
G. Demonstrate a maintenance routine for SLA.
H. Troubleshoot a charging circuit.

Week 3A:     A. Inspect magnetic flux theory.
B. Employ Fleming’s left hand rule for single conductors.
C. Discuss current flow in parallel conductors.
D. Apply Fleming’s left hand rule for coils and generators.
E. Analyze induction in conductor coils.
F. Differentiate factors affecting induced voltages.
G. Activate an electromagnet solenoid.
H. Demonstrate Fleming’s right hand rule for motors.

Week 3B:    A. Discuss AC and the Sine wave.
B. Review how AC is produced.
C. Review Pythagorean theory.
D. Calculate AC circuit Sine wave points using trigonometry.
E. Explain Effective/RMS voltage and current.
F. Compare DC and AC generators. 
G. Mid-term quiz

Week 4A & 4B:     A. Explain inductance in single conductors.
B. Compare resistance and reactance.
C. Calculate Inductive Reactance.
D. Demonstrate inductance effects in AC circuits.
E. Analyze inductance effect in coils.
F. Recognize transformer theory.
G. Calculate current and voltage using transformer theory.
H. Discuss purpose of capacitors in DC power supplies.
I. Identify the electronic parts to create a DC power supply.
J. Assemble a low voltage power supply.

Week 5A:    A. Review requirements for CEC and ULC S-524.
B. Explain specific sections of CEC apply to Fire alarm and EM Lighting.
C. Discuss the other CEC sections that also could apply.
D. Discuss material required for fire alarm installation.
E. Review manufacturer requirements for fire alarm installation.
F. Compare addressable and conventional fire alarm systems.
G. Contrast two styles of fire alarm wiring

Week 5B:     A. Recognize different overcurrent protections.
B. Review personal safety around electricity.
C. Distinguish 3 types of electrical meters.
D. Demonstrate voltmeters.
E. Demonstrate clamp on ammeters.
F. Practice troubleshooting techniques using meters.

Week 6A & 6B:    A. Lab work on Magnetism. 
B. Lab work on Series Circuits & Parallel Circuits.
C. Lab work on Battery circuits.
D. Lab work on troubleshooting fire alarm.

Week 7A : Final Exam
   BCIT policy
The following statements are in accordance with the BCIT Policies 5101, 5102, 5104, and 7507, and their accompanying procedures. To review these policies and procedures please click on the links below.
In case of illness or other unavoidable cause of absence, the student must communicate as soon as possible with his/her instructor or Program Head or Chief Instructor, indicating the reason for the absence. Students who are seeking accommodation for a medical absence must have a BCIT approved medical certificate submitted to the department, substantiating the reason for absence. For other absences, the student should be prepared to provide appropriate supporting documentation. Unapproved absence in excess of the prescribed regulations within this outline may result in failure or forced withdrawal from the course or program. 
Please see Policy 5101 - Student Regulations, and accompanying procedures.
Academic Integrity:
Violation of academic integrity, including plagiarism, dishonesty in assignments, examinations, or other academic performances are prohibited and will be handled in accordance with 
Policy 5104 - Academic Integrity and Appeals, and accompanying procedures.
Any student who may require accommodation from BCIT because of a physical or mental disability should refer to BCIT's Policy on Accommodation for Students with Disabilities (Policy #4501), and contact BCIT's Accessibility Servecs (SW1 2360, 604-451-6963) at the earliest possible time. Requests for accommodation must be made to Accessibility Services, and should not be made to a course instructor or Program area.
Any student who needs special assistance in the event of a medical emergency or building evacuation (either because of a disability or for any other reason) should promptly inform their course instructor(s) and the Disability Resource Centre of their personal circumstances.
Human Rights, Harassment and Discrimination:
The BCIT community is made up of individuals from every ability, background, experience and identity, each contributing uniquely to the richness and diversity of the BCIT community as a whole. In recognition of this, and the intrinsic value of our diversity, BCIT seeks to foster a climate of collaboration, understanding and mutual respect between all members of the community and ensure an inclusive accessible working and learning environment where everyone can succeed.
Campus Mediation Services is a supportive resource for both students and employees of BCIT, to foster a respectful learning and working environment. Any student who feels that they are experiencing discrimination or harassment (personal or human rights-related) can confidentially access this resource for advice and support. Please see Policy 7507 – Harassment and Discrimination and accompanying procedure.
Students should make themselves aware of additional Education, Administration, Safety and other BCIT policies listed at
   Policy for School of Construction and the Environment
Attempts: Students must successfully complete a course within a maximum of three (3) attempts at the course. Students with two attempts in a single course will be allowed to repeat the course only upon special written permission from the Associate Dean. Students who have not successfully completed a course within three attempts will not be eligible to graduate from their respective program.
I verify that the content of this course outline is current.
Joe Robinsmith, Instructor
October 10, 2018
I verify that this course outline has been reviewed and complies with BCIT policy.
James Cai, Associate Dean
October 10, 2018
The following amendment replaces or supplements information in the above outline.
Passing grade 70%

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Why I went into teaching..... Because 30 years of finding issues like these

Clearly labelling the wiring prior to removing a panel will increase the speed and efficiency of the fire alarm upgrade.

When you open up an exterior mounted weather resistant exit light to find it full of water.  Pretty clear understanding of why the breaker kept blowing when it rained.

Opening up a two gang switch box to find out why there was a short circuit.  Turns out that the previous contractor/homeowner thought that black tape was enough to protect the splice.  Hot spot created a short to ground.

When fire alarm panels were installed in a hurry by the fly by night crew.  Just throw the Mircom panel interior into an existing Edwards 6500 backbox.  Was not ULC approved back in 1990 and still isn't in 2018.  But now we have to talk the strata corporation or rental management company into spending another $2,000 to upgrade the panel to a properly approved ULC and Canadian Electrical Code installation.
When the strata owner calls to complain about the mini horn buzzing constantly.  First question we ask.  Has anyone removed them for any reason whatsoever?  Painters, drywallers, electricians, homeowners?  Oh, noooo,  they say.  Open the box and find the polarity reversed.  This is an existing installation over two years old.  Um, if I put it back the way its supposed to be and it stops...... well, maybe we took it down to paint around it...... Service calls.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Instead of a summary of conversation

Additional topic to cover the conversation with learning partner.

Chapter Seven in the Adult Learning - Linking Theory and Practice discusses the theory behind Embodied Learning.  The idea that the body and mind are intricately linked or as was recognized by the music educator Wayne Bowman when he noted that the body has been misconstrued as an instrument that takes away from the cognitive effort. When the body is seen "as a mere vessel housing . . . the most distinctive and important human entity, the mind." (Bowman, 2010 - page 2).

In an exploration of dance, it was noted by Snowber (2012) that "body knowledge has become endangered within the human species." Far too often, we dismiss as superstition that which is not immediately explained through logic or cognitive thought process.  Intuition and instinct are merely the bodies way of transmitting those processes that the mind cannot process, yet which are felt by the body as a whole.

Separating that which is obviously connected makes little sense, when the mind, our emotions and our physical body are clearly interwoven. In fact, so many of the seminars and courses used in the business world focus on the mind and the thought process while ignoring the greater tool at their disposal, the body.In the self development seminars that I attended both locally and down in California in 2015, the facilitators recognized the benefits of integrating the reinforcement of positive feedback with experiential learning  After seminar style learning, the participants are taken outdoors for some form of physical experience where the "lessons" are reiterated right before or during the experience.  One example is the self image exercise, the facilitator has a one on one conversation immediately before the participant, who is wearing a helmet and climbing harness, is tied off to two sets of belayers and attempts to climb a forty foot pole and standing on top. If successful in standing, the participant is instructed to turn around and face a trapeze bar and attempt to grab the bar.  It is this type of physical reinforcement that breaks up the old thought processes and drives home the new message of self worth that both the facilitator and the other participants are promoting. This type of tacit knowing Schulyer referred to in 2010 when he wrote....."It is from this part of the human"knowing" that change in values and long-standing habits is believe to be possible." (Schulyer, 2010, page 24)

There are numerous studies that have explored how embodied learning can be effective through the use of movement of the body such as physical exercise and dance. (Barbour, 2011; Snowber 2012) It was noted just a few years ago by a study published in the Frontiers of Aging Neuroscience ( that dance was a very real method of slowing the aging effects on the brain.    Dance was also explored as a medium to encourage mental health in the field of psychotherapy by Panhofer, Payne and Parke (2011).

In a similar fashion, the science behind the effects of movement on the physical changes in the brain was studied through the use of MRI and measuring the chemical and cellular changes in the brain when participants were studied over a six month period.  Three to four groups of participants were enrolled in walking, walking with nutritional changes, dancing as well as a control group that was monitored for healthy lifestyle only   Though the other three groups showed minute changes, it was the group that was in the dance lessons that showed the least effects of aging or dementia in their physical brain.  (

My wife and I started taking ballroom and social dance lessons two years ago to be prepared for our wedding last year.  One of the older ladies who takes lessons there has been going for nine years yet her husband had not joined her at lessons.  However, a couple of years ago, after having a stroke, his doctor had recommended that he start dance lessons with his wife.  Both physical in nature for recovery but also that same embodied knowing effect of body healing mind.  Indeed, he now dances in the twice annual festivals with his wife.

How can we utilize this re-discovery of embodied learning into the adult classroom?  In my own particular instance, in my newly gained employment as an instructor in the apprenticeship program for the Electrical Training Center, it will be very useful.  Having adult learners who are used to being in the field cooped up too long behind a desk will stunt their learning instead of enhancing it.  There will be opportunities to reinforce the cognitive with the actual.  The students will be put into groups to wire mock condominiums that have been built behind the training center from start to finish.  As well, they are given numerous hands on exercises where they are working both in small groups as well as solo, to wire several different wiring scenarios involving outlets, switches, lighting as well as motor control situations.  Finally, the theory and then the hands on training of bending conduit for wiring to be pulled through.  This has a lot of physics as well as physical experimentation on it. In my part time fire alarm courses, we also have different pieces of equipment with which the students can get physical, hands on follow through.  I try to also have the students mix and match small groups in order to keep them both moving as well as breaking up their known cliques and getting them to get to know other technicians.  This pushes their boundaries as well as allowing more movement within the classroom.

To summarize, we as instructors need to be aware of our students needs for participatory, experiential learning in order to tap into the bodies intuitive ways of embodied learning.  What the body feels, the mind creates.

References:  Merriam, S and Bierema, L (Adult Learning) 2014

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Trends in Adult Education

One trend that is slowly making a difference in the adult education field is Pull education.  Where the traditional education model has focused on the Push method, over the last number of years there has been an increasing move to tailor learning to the learner's needs. "Different from the traditional educational structure, pull learning allows learners to access at the point of need and find compressed nuggets of content that can help with specific tasks or workflow."

The question arises then how and when can learners incorporate this individualized learning model into their already busy lives?  Where the traditional push learning requires learners to make time in their schedules to attend a classroom setting or facilitated seminars at their place of business, pull learning can be incorporated even through mobile devices at the learner's convenience. "....we've seen a steady, significant rise in demand for mobile learning and microlearning."

This is a trend not just in education but in business training where the impact of millennials entering the workplace has brought a shift from desktop computers to tablets and phones.  The time crunch of fitting in learning as needed, sometimes this happens right before a meeting or on the commute home, highlighting the move to the microlearning being created specifically for these devices instead of the usual desktop machines.

This education model with its ability to reach learners in remote settings expanding, has the capability to increase a trend that businesses have already discovered. BCIT, which is adult learning focused on workplace oriented teaching models can utilize the mobile and microlearning apps to assist students achieve greater success. BCIT Associate Dean of Mechanical Engineering, Brent Dunn has instructed myself and another instructor to develop a model on the D2L website for learners to be able to access modules for several courses.  This will allow employees and learners to access the information from across the province in order to accomplish much of the study at home or in the workplace prior to taking the necessary examinations to attain the next level of competence in the highly regulated life safety field. Tying learning and work together through self directed, self assessment, self desired learning.


Friday, June 22, 2018

Trends in My Industry

The fire alarm industry is a very technical, regulated field governed as it is by numerous governmental agencies at the municipal, city, Provincial, Federal and even International level along with non-governmental bodies.

There is the NFPA, (National Fire Protection Association) which is "a global non-profit organization, established in 1896, devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.  NFPA delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach and advocacy; partnering with others who share an interest in furthering our mission."  It is this organization that all levels of government refer to when referencing standards.

There is also the ULC in Canada which is the Underwriters Laboratory Canada.  This body "is an independent product safety testing, certification and inspection organization" whose purpose is to "include testing, evaluation and factory surveillance of products to Canadian and international standards for safety."

The Federal government of Canada enacts the the Canadian Fire Code which is enforced on all federally owned buildings and properties, including the Armed Forces sites.  The Canadian Electrical Code (CEC) which governs all electrical installations of fire alarm and related life safety equipment such as emergency lighting units, wiring for suppression systems and magnetic door holders or releases and air supply units.

The Provincial governments modifies the Fire Code and in British Columbia we have the BC Fire Code and the BC Amendments to the CEC.  There is then a non-governmental association that has been empowered by an Act of the Legislative Assembly to monitor the training and ethics of the fire alarm/life safety technicians, ASTTBC.  However, this body is not universal across BC and must be adopted by each individual municipality or city.

With all of these levels of governmental and NGO to deal with one would be inclined to think that the industry would be stagnant or too restrictive.

Yet studies have shown that the industry is in fact steadily growing.  "72% of SDM Industry Forecast Study respondents say fire alarm sales in 2016 were good or excellent." Source: SDM 2017 Industry Forecast Study.

Another area of growth has been in the increased technological advances in hardware such as carbon monoxide detectors and the use of dual sensing devices.  Voice evacuation systems with the improved clarity in tones has created another avenue for both manufacturers and installers to provide higher quality installations.

Some market research has indicate that the sales year over year are expected to show strong growth through 2020; "Mircomarket Monitor, which breaks the market down in several different ways, found that the North American fire protection systems market will reach $18 billion by component and $10 billion by service by 2020." This has in part been attribute to increased sales in the IP enabled panels, cellular systems for monitoring systems that dial out to emergency services, as well as the newer intelligent devices that connect to addressable fire alarm systems.

The increase in new construction, especially in the commercial office space, hotel and even retail and restaurant business was a driving force behind the increased sales.  However as noted above, so much of the fire and life safety industry is governed by code requirements that even the renovation and upgrade business saw large growth as noted by Wayne Oliver, VP of sales for Hochiki.  "The greater enforcement of code requirements and the greater embracing of the fire alarm and life safety changes to these fire alarm and building codes will continue to grow the fire alarm industry."

The latest update to the International Fire Code in 2015 requires all new systems to identify the specific device, the location and if it is alarm, trouble or supervisory in nature. This, while not specifically referring to the addressable panels, which have been around in some fashion for 15 or more years, leaves little room for the older conventional systems which let smoke detectors, manual pull stations and other alarm initiating devices all be combined on one zone.  This along with numerous other jurisdictions calling for carbon monoxide detectors in sleeping rooms, hotels and other multi-family dwellings as per the IFC along with all classrooms in the K-12 range has created a booming market in a rapidly growing industry.

Tim Baker, a director of marketing at Honeywell Security and Fire expects that with so many recent code changes being adopted across North America the service industry will be able to "capitalize on code changes that are taking hold.  CO requirements, low frequency sounders in commercial sleeping spaces - even the move from conventional to addressable fire systems - provide great opportunities to provide customers with more effective life-safety solutions while helping them to comply with current codes and standards." 

With an ever increasing push to SMART buildings, similar to the Smart house market, there is a desire to have integration between all of the building system, HVAC, security, lighting and fire systems.  Combined with the addressable fire systems, this could lead to not only detection of fires, but prevention.  Again though, code requirements take precedence over the desire to improve the data collection required by combining so many systems.

Technology changes are happening in all industries in such an increased capacity that it has made it difficult to keep up.  When the code is only updated every three to four years and technology was changing every two to three years, the life safety industry was slow to adopt the latest technology.  However, with technological advances entering the market every twelve to eighteen months, it is technology driving the code changes instead of the other way around.

As Neil Lakomiak of Underwriters Laboratories has noted, "Most people want to avoid preventing a new technology from getting to market if it will save lives . . . . realized that ourselves and upped our game as a testing and certification organization."

Suffice to say that as we enter the next five years in the fire alarm and life safety industry, we in the industry must keep our ear to the ground if we expect to be able to provide stellar service and the latest trends in safety equipment.

* Reference material: 
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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Welcome to my blog

I am a father to two twenty something young adults.  One of my favourite experiences in the last 56 years has been raising my children. I am a step father to two teenage girls.  This is rewarding and challenging.

I am a husband.  For the second time. We were married in April 2017.  My wife is one of the kindest, supportive, loving women I know.  Yet at the same time, she holds me accountable for my BS.  I call her my Polish princess.  She moved to Canada when she was 24 from Poland and the first language her girls learned here was Polish.  Evidently one of the harder languages to learn as an adult, as I am discovering.  We love to take ballroom dance lessons at Arthur Murray in Coquitlam, which we started in order to be able to dance at the wedding and found a new joint passion.

I use the title Cowboy when describing myself and have for over the last 30 plus years.  Its not a career, its a way of looking at life.  Its every country song and western show all rolled into how I interact with situations.  Integrity, honesty and a tough exterior with a tender heart.  Vulnerability and accountability.

I have been an electrician for 30 years.  I have been a journeyman, foreman and contractor.  I love the freedom of contracting, but dislike the paperwork side of running my own business.  I switched to the life safety industry in 2009 and have loved the requirement for troubleshooting and using your brain.  I am currently a branch manager for a mid-sized fire and life safety company which services buildings across the entire province of BC.

I am a writer.  Words have meanings, use them carefully, I like to say.  I have published several poetry books both of my own writings and collaborations.

I am a home chef.  Influenced heavily by my mother's cooking and baking.  I love the creative side of cooking and love to translate that into baking which is supposed to be so scientific, yet I can turn an ordinary dish into the extraordinary.

I have tattoos.  Eight of them.  My left arm is for family.  My right arm is about faith.  Dragons play a large part in my tattoos, the name of my business and most of my fiction reading.  My first tattoo was a dragon curled around a Celtic cross. Protect your faith, whatever it may be.

I have done the DNA test.  For years, I thought I was 1/4 Russian and 1/4 German and only half English.  Turns out I'm 93% English.  The history of the DNA test said that it was the Mennonite side of the family who fled England in the 1400's to settle first in Germany, then in Russia before leaving for North America.  Though, I'm sure there is some Russian and German in that 7%, its not as much as I imagined after hearing my grandmother's stories of fleeing the Bolshevik revolution.

Just a little bit about me....... Welcome to the journey !