On the Right Path

Gardner Howe - Student Ambassador, Marine Systems

Meet Gardner Howe!  He is one of our new Student Ambassadors in the Marine Systems Program.

I’m not sure where I’m going . . . but I know I’m on the right path at IYRS.

I recently retired after serving 35 years in the Navy.  My wife and I fell in love with Newport when we were stationed here several years ago, and made the decision to return for this next phase of our lives. We were drawn by all that New England has to offer — especially by the maritime-centric culture that dominates the Rhode Island’s coastal and bay communities. Being in and around the water has been an important part of our lives, and we knew we wanted the same as we made this next transition. Newport was a great choice and we couldn’t be happier with our decision.  

While deciding “where” we wanted to live in retirement was an easy decision, deciding “what” I wanted to do wasn’t. Like many people in transition, I had spent a lot of time exploring options, desires, and opportunities. During this period, I found myself constantly circling back to the idea of attending IYRS. A friend had attended years ago and introduced me to the school and the programs. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. My time in the Marine Systems program so far tells me I made the right choice. 

The first six weeks have been busy ones. We started with an introduction to woodworking, metalworking, and shop safety, learning to use the shop and power tools most commonly used in marine system installations/repairs. We were assigned multiple projects culminating in making our own wooden tool box from a set of plans (and in my case, with some close mentoring from our great instructors). It’s hard to express my feeling of personal satisfaction that came from the successful completion of this effort — of creating something tangible with my head, my hands, and a few basic tools. As I reflect on it now, I think I’m starting to gain an understanding of what it means to be a “maker” (more on the “maker culture” at IYRS in a future post).

Our wood and metal projects . . . the red on the paper towel is layout fluid, not blood!

My tool box. 

We then shifted to the electrical segment of the program.  In this portion, we’re studying marine DC and AC electrical systems. IYRS places heavy emphasis on experiential learning, and the vehicles IYRS uses to turn theory into practice are our “Sims” (simulators) — plywood frames we construct from the ground up, and then use as a platform to install all the electrical component we’re studying such as batteries, switches, panel boards, inverters, and more. My partner and I named our Sim “Second Wind.” We had some issues during the initial construction of the frame, but got our “second wind,” and then patiently and diligently corrected them. Not only do the Sims provide a practical application of the technical skills we’re learning, but they also help us develop a real appreciation craftsmanship as a technician. 

Tightening up the connections to the starter battery on Second Wind.


Second Wind before wiring the AC components — a work in progress.

In a couple weeks, we’ll take the American Boat and Yacht Council marine electrical technician certification exam, then shift focus to other aspects of marine systems (plumbing, fuel systems, marine electronics installation, diesel and gasoline engines). While I know our program’s week-to-week schedule, I don’t know yet where my IYRS journey is going to take me . . . but I do know I’m headed in the right direction, and having a great time along the way!