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Plastics Students’ Pittsburgh Visit Furthers Industry Connections

Through the generous support of the Thermoplastic Materials & Foams Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers, 10 individuals from Pennsylvania College of Technology traveled to Pittsburgh on April 26-27 to tour the facilities of four major polymer material suppliers. Eight students and two faculty members from the college’s Department of Plastics and Polymer Engineering Technology visited PPG Industries, Braskem, Covestro and Nova Chemicals.

The Penn College plastics team at Braskem, in front of the Pittsburgh skyline
The Penn College plastics team at Braskem, in front of the Pittsburgh skyline

“All four companies rolled out the red carpet for the Penn College team,” said plastics technology professor Kirk M. Cantor, who, with Tim E. Weston, associate professor of plastics technology, accompanied the students. Tours included comprehensive analytical labs (microscopy, spectroscopy, rheology and mechanical properties, among them), small-scale polymer synthesis labs, pilot-plant polymer reactors, large-scale production reactors, and production-size R&D polymer processing equipment (such as thermoforming, sheet extrusion, injection molding, foam extrusion and molding, and compounding).

“All of the equipment and techniques perfectly complemented and built on the technology that comprises the labs and curriculum in the Penn College plastics program,” Cantor said.

Additionally, the traveling team met with a large number of professionals in the field – individuals who are highly experienced, as well as young engineers just a little further along in their careers than the students. Some plants arranged panel discussions between the Penn College team and a team of young professionals. In all facilities, both sides established excellent contacts for future technical interchange and career development.

“The trip was a success by every measure,” Cantor added. “Most importantly, the students were able to further their understanding of the connection between what they are learning on campus and how it applies in the plastics industry. This will certainly help them to become significant contributors to the industry beginning the day after graduation.

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