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Intern trio provides vital service for Penn College renovations

For a few worrisome weeks, three Pennsylvania College of Technology students thought they would join the ranks of countless others whose summer internships were casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the college “engineered” a solution, a favor the students more than returned.

Brian J. Daniels, Lake City; Conner J. Nickerson, Bethlehem; and Levi E. Pomeroy, Dillsburg; spent the summer helping faculty and staff revamp the college’s machining facility and equip a new electronics lab, benefiting their future and the hands-on education of the next generation of “tomorrow makers” at the college.

“I don’t think a lot of work in those labs could have happened without them,” said Stacey C. Hampton, assistant dean of industrial and computer technologies. Hampton devised the internship with Howard W. Troup, instructor of automated manufacturing and machining, and Ken J. Kinley, assistant professor of electronics and computer engineering technology.

Three Pennsylvania College of Technology automation engineering technology students interned for the college this semester, helping to revamp a machining facility and equip a new electronics lab. From left are Levi E. Pomeroy, of Dillsburg; Brian J. Daniels, of Lake City; and Conner J. Nickerson, of Bethlehem.
Three Pennsylvania College of Technology automation engineering technology students interned for the college this semester, helping to revamp a machining facility and equip a new electronics lab. From left are Levi E. Pomeroy, of Dillsburg; Brian J. Daniels, of Lake City; and Conner J. Nickerson, of Bethlehem.

“The students’ programs require them to complete an internship to graduate,” Hampton explained. “We were trying to be flexible in creating the paid internship. It was a win for everybody.”

All three students are seeking a bachelor’s degree. Daniels and Pomeroy are majoring in automation engineering technology: mechatronics, and Nickerson is in the automation engineering technology: robotics and automation program.

“Having the experience of a technical internship in a year when there weren’t a lot of technical internships available was a blessing,” said Pomeroy, who had planned to intern with Corning Technologies in North Carolina. “I got to learn a lot. It was hands on.”

Much of the work involved extensive renovations to the machining lab in the Larry A. Ward Machining Technologies Center. A significant donation from Ward, an engineering drafting technology alumnus, facilitated new machines, paint, lighting and fixtures for the facility.

The students disconnected and removed about 100 pieces of instructional equipment – drill presses, surface grinders, lathe and milling machines, and electrical discharge machines – for the painting and lighting to be completed. A few weeks later, they began the laborious task of returning about 40 of the machines and installing nearly 50 new ones, including more than two dozen CNC mills and lathes featuring conversational programming.

“They had to attach power to the machines. Most of the time that meant new wire and connectors,” Troup said. “They also had to connect compressed air lines to the new machines.”

“We weren’t doing just one thing all day,” said Daniels, who had an internship lined up at Wabtec Corp. in Erie prior to the pandemic. “We did electrical and mechanical work. I was able to learn a lot of stuff.”

That “stuff” included the operation of a CNC router in The Dr. Welch Workshop: A Makerspace at Penn College. The trio employed the router to produce about 200 wooden shadow panels, or tool holders, to fit the drawers of new cabinets installed in the machining lab.

“It required CAD design and some programming with the router,” said Nickerson, who saw multiple internship possibilities evaporate during the pandemic. “All of it was a learning experience.”

The learning extended to a new electronics lab in the Center for Business & Workforce Development building, equipped with programmable logic controller panels, industrial robots and an automated conveyer system. The students built some of the PLC panels and installed the conveyer system, which had been in another lab.

“The students were very critical in installing the conveyor system in a timely manner,” Kinley said. “The conveyer is a pivotal learning tool. Most companies have some sort of an automated conveyor system that has many components working together to complete a task. The components comprise many different disciplines that technicians need to be aware of.”

For Daniels, Nickerson and Pomeroy, the value of the internship exceeded the technical experience gained over the summer.

“It has given me a real good taste of what the workplace will be like, how people act around each other and what’s expected of you,” Nickerson said. “That’s going to be a positive when I go out in the workforce.”

“Learning the soft skills during internships is as important as hands-on competencies,” Hampton said. “It was a good experience for them to work side by side as a team. That mirrors what they will experience in the field, working with people of different backgrounds.”

Hampton estimates 60 students from three majors will work in the new electronics lab per semester. Workforce Development anticipates that the electronics lab and a refurbished mechatronics lab in the same building also will be used for apprenticeship programs and customized training. The machining lab will be home to about 90 students from five academic programs each semester.

The long-term impact of their effort resonates with the interns.

“I put my initials underneath some stuff because I know it’s going to be here for a long time,” Daniels said. “It’s cool seeing students work on the equipment that we put in and to see it work properly. It’s a silent victory.”

“I know the work I did will be seen by future generations, which ensures I did it correctly because I don’t want future generations finding any fault,” Pomeroy added.

Kinley didn’t find fault with the interns’ work.

“They showed a willingness to learn and adapt to many changes this summer,” he said. “They were exposed to and overcame many obstacles. I am very pleased with their maturation from the beginning of the internship until their last day.”

In representing the trio, Nickerson expressed gratitude to the college for the internship opportunity and offered one simple wish: “I hope to pay it forward at some point,” he said.

In many ways, they already have.

Penn College offers baccalaureate and associate degrees in manufacturing/machining and electronics. For information about those programs and other majors from the School of Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520.

Penn College is a national leader in applied technology education. Email the Admissions Office or call toll-free at 800-367-9222.

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