A Time for Lessons and Laughs

Posted on Sep 03 2023 in Fulton County REMC
TJ Garner
TJ Garner
COO and Energy Advisor

Coming up with a topic for my September article has always been a little challenging for me. 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 electric use. It’s that sweet spot of not much need for air conditioning 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, and it won’t be long before Fulton County REMC will be visiting five different elementary schools to work with every fourth grader on circuit boards, as well as teaching 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 all of this possible was Fred Bauman. Many of you might know him better by his “stage name” of Uncle Fred. Bauman had a huge impact on the program, not only at its inception but still all these years later. When I took my job at REMC, Bauman was already retired, but the person who carried the torch after him was Greg Bitterling. I learned so much from Bitterling during our time together at REMC. Teaching fourth graders about circuits was something that just came naturally to him.

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

Not only do we partner with the Fulton County Purdue extension office, but we have also been doing the same with the Pulaski extension office for the last four years. Together as a whole, we build roughly 300 circuit boards a year. This is a hands-on activity for the students involved, and I really look forward to visiting the schools every year.

I have been blessed to have some great people lead the way before I arrived. I’m sure that I do not teach the students the same way that they did, and that’s OK with me. For one thing, I know that I tell way more lame dad jokes than either one of them ever did. I hope that when my time is over teaching circuit boards, the next person takes over the program and makes it their own, too — but good luck to them on being as hilarious as I am.

The positive impact that the circuit board program 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 participating schools, I highly encourage you to sign up and do so. You will be as amazed, as I am every time, at how well these kids do. All I ask is that you laugh at my jokes and not just roll your eyes like all the fourth graders.