Skip to main content

Faculty, Students Design and Build Cauldron for Special Olympics

The opening ceremonies for Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s 2002 Summer Games were enhanced by the addition of a cauldron and torch designed and built by faculty and students at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

The 6-1/2-foot-tall (excluding the base), all-aluminum cauldron and wood/stainless-steel torch took more than two months to design and construct. They were on display for thousands of spectators and participants when the Summer Games were held recently on the main campus of The Pennsylvania State University.

The project involved students and faculty members in Penn College’s schools of Industrial and Engineering Technologies and Construction and Design Technologies. The uplifting design was provided by Fred Gilmour, who retired recently as Penn College’s director of instructional technology and distance learning.

The College became involved at the behest of Penn College Board Chairman Dr. Robert E. Dunham, who serves on the Special Olympics Pennsylvania organizing committee and is a volunteer coordinator for the event. He contacted Penn College President Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, wife of Fred Gilmour, and the community project was under way.

“This is another perfect example of the College’s commitment to serving its community,” Fred Gilmour said. “It was a project that brought together faculty, staff and students to create something that every one of these special-needs athletes will remember. Hopefully, in some small way, the College was able to help draw attention to the very important work that Special Olympics does for thousands of special-needs individuals across Pennsylvania.”

Gilmour said the design process was challenging. The unit had to be lightweight and moveable and it had to assemble and come apart easily for storage. In addition, the propane-fueled flame had to be lighted on the first attempt by an undoubtedly excited athlete. The lighting torch had to stay lit long enough for a runner to make two passes around the track, and it had to be lightweight, safe and attractive, he added.

Donald O. Praster, assistant dean for industrial and engineering technologies, said four students, four welding faculty members and two machining faculty members from the school worked on the project.

The Special Olympics logo was placed on the base by David C. Dietrick, associate professor of welding, with the help of a CNC (computer numerically controlled) plasma-cutting machine. The cauldron was powder-coated by an outside vendor.

Praster said he hopes there will be an opportunity to improve upon this year’s effort for the 2003 games by making it bigger and better. The faculty and students are eager for the challenge.

“We’re proud to be at an institution that allows us to showcase our talents by being involved in a community project such as this,” he said.

Marc E. Bridgens, assistant dean for construction and design technologies, said there were numerous challenges in designing and constructing the flame bowl that sits atop the cauldron unit. It had to be lit safely, remain burning for at least 1 1/2hours, not overheat the pan and be removable. He credited Dale J. Kissinger Jr., instructor of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning technology, with painstakingly testing and developing various designs to arrive at the most suitable alternative.

Bridgens said faculty and students in the school hope to “revamp and rework” the flame unit for next year to make it larger, last longer and further enhance its safety and aesthetic features.

HVAC Technology-Plumbing students who worked on the flame-unit construction are: Stephen R. Danielson, Kane; Jason Deichert, Pine Grove; William A. O’Dea, RR 2, Martinsburg; and Justin R. Ward, Stroudsburg.

Welding students involved in the construction are: Brian D. Barrett, RR 1, Grampian, Welding and Fabrication Engineering Technology, the lead student worker on the project; Philip N. Wiegand, Manheim, Welding and Fabrication Engineering Technology; Justin S. Davis, Westminster, Md., Welding and Fabrication Engineering Technology; and R. Daniel Di Risio IV, Welding Technology, Washington, N.J.

Welding faculty who worked on the project are James W. Fox, assistant professor and department head; David C. Dietrick, associate professor; Michael J. Nau, instructor; and Robert M. Vaughn, assistant professor.

William F. Geyer, assistant professor of building construction technology, hand-formed the lighting torch from wood with a spoke shave. Gilmour did the finish painting and striping and formed the stainless-steel shroud for the torch.

For more information about Penn College, visit online

Subscribe to PCToday Daily Email.