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Penn College engineering design student interns at BMW

As a child, Dillon J. DeWitt spent countless hours playing with Legos, reveling in the design and assembly challenges and possibilities. As a Pennsylvania College of Technology student, he’s traded those miniature plastic bricks for components of renowned luxury vehicles.

DeWitt, of Oakland, Maryland, is a product engineering intern for BMW Manufacturing Co. at its 7-million-square-foot facility near Spartanburg, South Carolina. The junior is juggling the full-time paid internship with online courses so he can graduate with a bachelor’s degree in engineering design technology in May 2023.

Pennsylvania College of Technology engineering design technology student Dillon DeWitt, of Oakland, Md., is interning at BMW Manufacturing Co. at its facility near Spartanburg, S.C. DeWitt is serving as a product engineering intern throughout the spring semester while taking courses from Penn College remotely.
Pennsylvania College of Technology engineering design technology student Dillon DeWitt, of Oakland, Md., is interning at BMW Manufacturing Co. at its facility near Spartanburg, S.C. DeWitt is serving as a product engineering intern throughout the spring semester while taking courses from Penn College remotely.

“The automotive industry is my dream field after graduation. I love working on cars,” said DeWitt, who is restoring his father’s 1974 Volkswagen Beetle. “I took advantage of the search tools offered on LinkedIn and applied for automotive manufacturing internships throughout the country. The people at BMW have been great.”

The Dean’s List student is assigned to BMW’s interior group, which is responsible for all components housed within vehicles, such as seats, armrests and door panels. There are countless components to consider. BMW Spartanburg – the company’s first full manufacturing facility outside of Germany – produces more than 1,500 automobiles daily, including its X-line of sports activity coupes and vehicles.

“When a problem is identified, I am tasked with going down to the assembly line and locating the bad, defective parts. I have also been tasked with checking gaps when parts are being fitted together and have dealt with other alignment issues,” DeWitt explained. “That’s what I love about this job. I’m not confined to one project for the semester. I’m able to work on something different every day.”

Most of his quality assurance duties are for new models manufactured on-site, including the BMW motorsports series. His work also involves prerelease models.

“I cannot tell you about all the models that I’m involved with. About 90% of my work is confidential,” DeWitt said. “Being able to work on projects that are confidential and unknown to even other employees within BMW has been my favorite experience thus far.”

DeWitt recently revealed what he could about his internship to his Penn College CAD Management & Customization class via Microsoft Teams.

“That was a super cool experience. I was able to share my experiences with my peers and even provide advice pertaining to internships in general,” he said. “It was also nice getting to see some friends I haven’t seen since last December.”

“I know that the students were glad to see Dillon again and learn about what he’s doing at BMW,” said Katherine A. Walker, assistant professor of engineering design technology.

“Dillon sees the value in enriching himself with experiences that elevate his abilities in engineering design and as a professional in the field. His positive mindset – along with his talent and ambition – is a recipe for success.”

Initially, DeWitt sought success in mechanical engineering. He spent a year in that major at Frostburg State University before the lack of computer-aided design classes prompted him to switch career tracks.

“I loved doing CAD in high school. I realized the design aspect of the profession was what I was in love with, not the complex testing side,” he said.

An internet search led to Penn College and its engineering design technology major. The program covers engineering, design, CAD and technical drawing competencies in a hands-on fashion compared to traditional theory-based mechanical engineering programs.

“The program at Penn College is exceptional and has allowed me to flourish in ways I would have never been able to (otherwise),” DeWitt said. “The courses are constantly being updated for industry readiness. The hands-on learning experience is something I value very highly. I feel it gives students a real view into the working environment and is unparalleled. The thought of new challenges every time I go to class is one of my favorite aspects.”

Complementing those classroom challenges with real-world experience via internships has been a priority for DeWitt since he arrived at Penn College. Last summer, he worked as a design drafting intern at Richmond Engineering Works, a Pittsburgh-based bulk material handling engineering company.

Before that internship ended, DeWitt was already searching for the next one, which led to his current role at BMW. The only drawback was the timing of the internship – during the spring semester – requiring him to balance a full course load with a 40-hour workweek. Three of his courses were converted into an online format so they could be delivered remotely.

“Dillon’s enthusiasm was simply infectious and motivated me to find ways to work with his schedule and accommodate his life goals,” said Alex E. Marconnet, instructor of engineering design technology and the program’s internship coordinator. “We were able to adjust his schedule to include several selections that had the potential for successful conversion to remote courses. While the online format may not be ideal under normal circumstances, Dillon has been doing a commendable job.

“Juggling a full-time job as an intern while diligently staying up to date on coursework as a full-time student is a substantial undertaking. Between the internship and school, I’m certain that Dillon is working 60 to 80 hours a week to accomplish his goals. That is a rare level of motivation for many students his age.”

DeWitt’s busy BMW workdays begin at 6:30 a.m. with myriad projects and learning opportunities waiting. The weekends are devoted to his schoolwork.

“There are difficult moments, but I can’t thank my professors enough for being so willing to teach me online,” DeWitt said. “They are the real reason that I’ve been able to do the internship while staying on track to graduate. There isn’t a day that passes that I’m not grateful for Penn College. If it weren’t for the great education that I’m receiving, I would have never been able to land the internship at BMW.”

And that internship – coupled with his coursework – will lead to a fulfilling future, according to Marconnet.

“After he completes the program, I know Dillon will have the skills and experience necessary to fulfill a wide range of engineering positions,” the instructor said. “With skills, experience and motivation, there’s no limit to how successful he will be.”

Penn College offers an associate degree in engineering CAD technology and bachelor’s degrees in engineering design technology and industrial design. For information on those majors and other programs offered by the School of Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520.

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

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