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Penn College ‘manufactures’ learning opportunity for teachers

Suzanne Mayberry wants to connect her high school students with manufacturing. Thanks to Pennsylvania College of Technology, she has more tools to accomplish that goal.

Penn College recently hosted a Manufacturing Externship Camp for Mayberry and 16 other secondary school teachers and guidance counselors throughout the state. Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, the weeklong educational experience used tours, presentations and hands-on activities to expose the nontechnical educators to the realities of modern manufacturing and the sector’s rewarding career opportunities.

Paul W. Albright, instructor of manufacturing engineering technology at Pennsylvania College of Technology, assists Suzanne Mayberry, a teacher from the Mahanoy Area School District, with her desktop computer-numerical-control machine. Mayberry and 16 other secondary school educators from throughout the state built the CNC units as part of the Manufacturing Externship Camp at Penn College. Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, the weeklong program exposed the teachers to manufacturing careers through tours, presentations and hands-on activities in the college’s state-of-the-art labs.
Paul W. Albright, instructor of manufacturing engineering technology at Pennsylvania College of Technology, assists Suzanne Mayberry, a teacher from the Mahanoy Area School District, with her desktop computer-numerical-control machine. Mayberry and 16 other secondary school educators from throughout the state built the CNC units as part of the Manufacturing Externship Camp at Penn College. Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, the weeklong program exposed the teachers to manufacturing careers through tours, presentations and hands-on activities in the college’s state-of-the-art labs.

“I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity,” said Mayberry, who recently added STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to her teaching portfolio for seniors in the Mahanoy Area School District. “I will be better able to explain to my students what’s out there in manufacturing. I want to be part of the solution to help kids and manufacturers.”

Manufacturing needs the help. A recent study conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute estimated that as many as 2.1 million manufacturing jobs will be unfilled through 2030. And the jobs are good ones.

In 2019, the average U.S. manufacturing worker earned $86,406 in pay and benefits, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics. By comparison, the average worker in all nonfarm industries made $71,390.

“Endeavors like the Manufacturing Externship Camp are essential,” explained Bradley M. Webb, dean of engineering technologies and one of the camp’s organizers. “We showed that modern manufacturing is creative, clean and high-tech and that workers are well-compensated. Teachers need to communicate that reality to students and parents.”

Brian Tomko, a chemistry teacher and career coordinator at Greenwood High School, got the message.

“I’m trying to find good jobs for my kids to look into,” he said. “A lot of parents and students don’t know about this employment sector. I think it’s fantastic all the things you can do in manufacturing. I learned a lot about the variety of possibilities.”

Demonstrations in the college’s high-tech labs devoted to 3D design, robotics, plastics, electronics, automation, machining and welding helped impart that lesson, along with a tour of Lycoming Engines, a prominent manufacturer of aircraft engines.

“I learned stuff from a material standpoint that I can put into my chemistry class,” Tomko said.

That stuff includes a desktop three-axis computer-numerical-control mill machine. The educators spent the week building a scaled-down version of the manufacturing staple from a kit and learned to operate it with Fusion 360, a computer-aided manufacturing software program.

“Even though it’s a tiny tabletop machine, it works the same way that the larger machines in industry do. It’s the same process,” said Paul W. Albright, instructor of manufacturing engineering technology. “You create a design and use the software to take that design and generate code for the machine to build something.”

The teachers devised their own design and employed the machine to engrave their creation on a 4-by-4-inch sheet of plastic.

“We want the teachers to take these units back to their schools and show students on a small scale what’s happening in industry,” said Richard K. Hendricks Jr., instructor of automated manufacturing and machining.

That’s Tomko’s plan.

“I’m hoping to get my kids to experiment with it and see some of the possibilities,” he said. “I know there is a section of my students who will eat this up.”

Samantha McGraw is a new art teacher at Mid Valley Secondary Center, who enrolled in the camp to discover ways STEM can apply to art education. The desktop CNC machine provided inspiration to go beyond painting and drawing.

“I definitely will use it in class,” she said. “I think the kids will be excited about this. I’m already thinking of different possibilities like printmaking or carving into ceramics.”

“The key is that the teachers get to take the machine home with them, and they can tell people what they’ve seen at Penn College,” Albright said.

Mayberry plans to do just that when she returns to the Mahanoy Area School District.

“This place is amazing. I will be the biggest cheerleader,” she said.

Besides Webb, Albright and Hendricks, camp facilitators were Kathleen D. Chesmel, assistant dean of materials science and engineering technologies; Eric K. Albert, associate professor emeritus of automated manufacturing and engineering; and John M. Good III and Krishna C. Vistarakula, instructors of automated manufacturing and machining. Alumnus Larry A. Ward, a retired titan of the packaging industry who endowed the college’s new Machining Technologies Center, also spoke to the teachers.

Educators who attended the camp in addition to Mayberry, McGraw and Tomko were Jennifer Austel, Oil City Area School District; Katie Bickel, Technical College High School-Pennock’s Bridge Campus; Mark Billante, Susquehanna Township High School; Nicole Duarte-Turi, Warrior Run Area School District; Mark Easterday, West Perry Senior High School; Peter Eckstrom, Bradford Area High School; Michael Funicelli, Tyrone Area High School; Nancy Gobert, Spring Cove Middle School; Wendy McKain, Cranberry High School; Mark Miller, Cedar Cliff High School; Rubeena Quazi, Cedar Cliff High School; Robert Rita, Cedar Crest High School; Sandra Voegtlen, Wyalusing Valley High School; and Christine Wilson, Williamson High School

Penn College offers several degrees related to manufacturing. For information about those majors and other programs offered by the School of Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520.

For information on the college, a national leader in applied technology education, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

– Photos by Tom Speicher, writer/video producer

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