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AVIXA's 2020 Fred Dixon Service in Education Award: Steve Thorburn, CTS-D, CTS-I

Steve Thorburn, PE, LEED-AP, CTS-D, CTS-I, principal of Thorburn Associates, was recently named the recipient of AVIXA's Fred Dixon Service in Education Award. We sat down with him to hear more of his story.

Read more about all of the 2020 AVIXA Award winners.

Steve Thorburn, PE, LEED-AP, CTS-D, CTS-I

Steve Thorburn, PE, LEED-AP, CTS-D, CTS-I (Image credit: AVIXA)

AVN: How did you get your start in the pro AV industry?

STEVE THORBURN:  I started dealing with AV in high  school when I was running Saturday cartoons for the kids in town—made five dollars a day for that gig! 

Then, I started my own DJ operation in central Michigan. This was in the 70’s, before music stores with lots of gear. I paid off $2,000 of start-up gear and then funded the first two years of my Engineering degree from that venture in staging and rental.

AVN: What do you believe will dominate tech conversations for the next year?

ST: COVID-19 solutions will be a dominate talking point ... but most will fall flat on their face.  There will be too many “me too” products in the market.

AVN: Why is educating AV professionals important to you?

ST: When I started working with pioneers of ICIA, education for AV was only face-to-face. People had to come together to share to better themselves, to better their product—whether that was an actual product, manufacturing, design, or installation.

I had to self-teach almost everything I did for Sound Trek, my DJ company—from set construction and lighting to audio and staging. 

We have a wealth of knowledge that needs to be passed on to others.  I enjoy learning from mistakes, I just hope they are made by others.

AVN: What is your teaching style and why do you think it works for your students?

ST: My teaching  style is all over the place—some of it is lecture, some hands-on, some one-on-one.  When Install School first started, Sunday morning after introductions was Ohms Law—that was painful—but I think we were able to make it fun and bring it down to a level that was useable.  

Other times we used videos, being able to take someone somewhere different to see how someone else did it is always good.  One treat I remember from rack building at install school was suggesting to the group they lay the rack down on its back to install the gear.  You could see the light bulbs going off.  By laying the rack down on its back, setting the gear in while suspended by the rack ears, being able to align everything without having to block it up and fight with getting a rack screw started was great!

AVN: What is the one thing you hope students take away from your classes?

ST: I hope that my students have learned as much from me as much as I have learned from them ... and that it was fun and useful information.

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Megan A. Dutta is a pro AV industry journalist, and the former content director for Systems Contractor News (SCN) and Digital Signage Magazine, both Future U.S. publications. Dutta previously served as the marketing communications manager at Peerless-AV, where she led the company’s marketing and communications department. Dutta is the recipient of AVIXA's 2017 Young AV Professional Award and Women in Consumer Technology's 2018 Woman to Watch Award. Dutta is co-founder of Women of Digital Signage, an organization designed to provide a pathway to promote networking, mentoring, and personal growth.