- Associated Press - Saturday, April 15, 2017

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Nathan Platt likes his job as the service manager of the University of Alaska Fairbanks HVAC shop, but he’s the first to admit it doesn’t offer a lot of creative outlets for a funny, outgoing guy like him. So Platt and co-worker Ed Hix decided to start a Twitter feed for their shop.

“We wanted an ‘alt’ Twitter feed of bad maintenance jokes, but then we decided we had to have a serious Twitter feed before we could have an alt feed,” Platt said recently in his office at the UAF physical plant. “I started the serious feed and Ed started the alt feed, but I got sick of the serious stuff so we decided to mix it up. Now it’s kind of like a contest to see who can be funnier.”

The UAF HVAC Shop Twitter feed has 35 followers so far and proudly states, “We keep the heat on at America’s Arctic University!” The Alt UAF HVAC shop feed has 23 followers and proclaims “We keep hot stuff hot and cold stuff cold! And try to have fun .”

Both feeds rely heavily on puns. Recent examples on the main feed include a tweet that reads, “It’s finally happened. I got a selfie with our biggest fan!” with a photo of Platt standing in front of a big red utility fan with a delighted look on his face.

Another tweet shows a photo of Platt cleaning out a shop vacuum while wearing a dust mask. The accompanying tweet reads, “Ever notice that when you are cleaning your vacuum cleaner … you become a vacuum cleaner?”

The alt twitter feed includes photos of assorted shop items like a tray of rivets, a collection of pry bars or a table with vices attached, with accompanying tweets reading, “Sometimes our work is riveting,” ”If you really must pry …” and “In the Sheet Metal Shop we have our vices.”

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, which means Platt’s shop keeps working and living conditions comfortable in the 4 million square feet of buildings on the UAF campus.

“Steam comes in from the power plant, and once it comes through that wall, it’s our responsibility to keep the heat on, as well as comfort cooling and process cooling. Air conditioning, cooling computer rooms, walk-in coolers, everything. Our shop keeps it on. All the equipment in the buildings themselves is our responsibility,” Platt said.

Platt was born and raised in Abington, Connecticut, and enrolled at UAF at 18 with dreams of following in his grandfather’s footsteps.

“He worked as a geologist in Alaska in the 1950s, doing geological mapping around the Lake Clark and Lake Iliamna areas, and the stories he told of the stuff he got to do was cool! You know, you’re out mapping the surface geology, and you’re spending the summer in a tent, and you’re looking at rocks and you’re taking samples,” Platt said.

Platt had an epiphany while taking a stratigraphy and sedimentation class, which involved interpreting data to find oil deposits.

“They drilled deep holes, sent a transponder down the hole and pulled it back up. It all printed out on long pieces of paper, and we were looking at these big long squiggles. I mean these things had to be 200 feet long. And you’re looking at different characteristics of the squiggle, and you can interpret the squiggle and say ‘All right, that’s probably gravel and this is probably limestone, and this is probably shale. Anyway, I hated it,” Platt said. “And the TA from the class said, ‘You all need to get really good at this, because your first job out of your master’s degree in geology will be doing something just like this.’ And I thought, ‘That is terrible.’”

Platt worked as a resident advisor to help pay his way through school, and after earning an Earth science degree in 1998, he took a job in Walla Walla, Washington, as a residence hall director at Whitman College. A year later, he was offered a job in residence life at UAF, and worked his way steadily up the ladder to his current position.

“It was one of those things were I’d taken a job as a student to help pay for school and it kind of led into a career,” Platt said. “I wanted to be out in the field but that’s all been done, so I decided I was going to finish my degree and stick with working at the university. And it worked out. I have no complaints at all and I really enjoy what I do.”

Platt is now an avid “amateur geologist and rock hound” who takes trips around the state and in the Lower 48, looking for interesting rocks and fossils.

“Geology became an avocation, and a hobby. I love to be out there now, because it’s fun. And having the background, the understanding and the education to know what you’re looking at is cool,” Platt said.

Platt has been married to wife Tammy, a school secretary, for 19 years. She doesn’t share his passion for rocks and “tolerates” his hobby as long as he keeps his collection in a shed or at the office. They have a 13-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son, and Platt likes to spend time with them when he’s not writing tweets and keeping the HVAC shop running smoothly.

“We like to travel and do outdoorsy things with the kids. When you have two kids, your life tends to revolve around them,” Platt said.


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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