Nick Rogers pointed a Fluke Ti10 infrared camera at a gas stove burner in the Montana State University Billings College of Technology cafeteria and quickly saw what the handheld device could do.
Not only did the low gas flame show up yellow and red on the camera's screen, it measured the temperature at 145 degrees.
Thermal imaging was new to Rogers, but he quickly figured how to use the technology during a daylong workshop.
Rogers was one of 20 COT students who came in on their school holiday Thursday to learn about infrared cameras.
The students were joined by 20 employees of publicly owned electric co-ops around the state.
The workshop was sponsored by Clean Energy Ambassadors, the Western Area Power Administration and the COT.
Clean Energy Ambassadors is a Billings-based nonprofit that promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy development among publicly owned utilities around the country.
Representatives of two infrared camera companies, Fluke and FLIR, brought instruments for workshop participants to try out.
Utilities use infrared cameras, which detect thermal energy that cannot be seen by the human eye, in many ways, said Stevie Moe, program manager for Clean Energy Ambassadors.
They can be used in home energy audits to indicate air leaks or uneven insulation. The cameras also can be used to show hot spots along utility lines or at substations that might indicate a problem to repair.
The workshop also was an opportunity for students to learn more about what utilities do, Moe said.
Nick Rogers will finish a two-year, sustainable-energy technician program at the COT next spring and is interested in designing wind-power equipment.
Jared Weil, another sustainable-energy technician student, quickly captured 28 infrared pictures in a few minutes, including studs in a wall and a motor in the COT boiler room.
"Very cool," he said about the device.