Campus life has its ups and downs, thanks to employees such as Kevin Knapp, an elevator mechanic in the Elevator Shop in the Facilities and Services Division. Knapp worked for several elevator companies – Otis Elevator, KONE Corp., the Schindler Group and Long Elevator – before he joined the UI in July 2006. Off the job, Knapp is an avid exerciser and can be found pumping up his muscles at Gold’s Gym, riding his 2003 Harley Davidson Fat Boy motorcycle, or spending time with his family.
What got you interested in working on elevators?
I worked at Colwell Systems in Champaign as a mechanic servicing the printing equipment for 14 years. And the boss here in the Elevator Shop, who worked out at the same gym I did, asked me if I’d be interested in working on elevators. I went through a four-year apprenticeship program. I’m also certified as an elevator inspector. Once I got into the trade, getting a job at the university was my main goal. In our trade, you can do a lot of traveling. I’ve got a family, and I don’t really want to be away from them. My daughter, Colby, is 15, and my son, Dylan, is 13.
What’s a typical day like for you?
There are four of us in the shop, and we each have a route on which we do preventive maintenance and service calls. My route includes the Natural History Building, Altgeld Hall, the main library, the Armory and other buildings. We rotate overtime calls; then you’re responsible for the entire campus.
We sweep up the elevator pits; check relays, contacts and switches for wear; and make sure the door rollers and the contacts on the door locks are clean.
The elevators also have to be inspected yearly for safety purposes. On hydraulic elevators we do pressure tests. On traction elevators, we do no-load tests. Every five years we do full-load tests on traction elevators. We load the elevators with weights to their capacities, and the elevator drops and we set the safety switches – the brakes for the elevator.
We get a lot of calls where people have dropped things down the shafts – icards, cell phones, keys – and we have to retrieve them. If plumbers and pipe fitters or electricians need access to something that’s in the elevator shaft, such as a sump pump, we let them get in there and make sure they stay safe.
How many elevators are there on campus?
Approximately 300, but they’re adding elevators all the time. Memorial Stadium currently has one elevator, but it will have seven when they’re done with the renovations.
What’s the best part of your job?
The variety. You have to learn a little bit of electrical, plumbing and carpentry skills. I love working with my hands and fixing things. And I really enjoy the guys I work with here. They’ve been in the trade a lot longer than I have, and they’re very willing to show me techniques.
Do you encounter funny situations?
Sometimes people think they’re trapped in an elevator when they’re not. The doors close, they forget to push a button, and the elevator just sits there.
How long have you been into weight training and bodybuilding?
I’ve been training at Gold’s Gym for 21 years. My first competition was 18 years ago. I did two bodybuilding shows this year. The first one was a regional show – a national qualifier – in Anderson, Ind. I won the open class, the light heavyweight class, and the masters group. I was the overall winner in the masters. And I took second place for the whole show.
I also did a national show in Pittsburgh and took eighth place out of 23. That’s the best I’ve done at a national level, but I know I can do better.
My best squat lift has been 700 pounds. My best bench press was 500 pounds. My best dead lift was 675.
When you’re preparing to compete in a show do you work out more or work out differently?
When I’m preparing for a show, I do a cardio session every morning and in the evening. I go a little lighter with the weights, more repetitions and very short periods, so I get a cardiovascular workout.
I usually eat pretty healthy but when you’re competing you have to be below 4 percent body fat, so you have to be really strict with your eating.
I’ve been an informal personal trainer for other people. I love helping people achieve their fitness goals. Next week, I’m going to talk to the youth football group in Monticello about nutrition.