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Students Present Outreach Project at State Conference

Two students from Pennsylvania College of Technology presented a lecture at the annual conference of the Pennsylvania Association of Two Year Colleges, held April 7-8 in Pittsburgh.

Todd P. Kennedy, Abbottstown, and Brad A. Piwowar, Williamsport, both working toward bachelor’s degrees in plastics and polymer engineering technology, presented their work with a mobile plastics laboratory that was planned and implemented with assistance from Penn College students and is currently circulating through several high schools in the state. Their lecture was showcased among the presentations of college faculty and administrators from around the state.

“Presenting a paper at a conference is not an opportunity most students get,” said Timothy E. Weston, assistant professor and head of the Plastics Technology Department at Penn College.

The students talked about the mobile plastics lab’s success in offering students at participating high schools exposure to the plastics industry that they wouldn’t have otherwise received. While there are many high-paying job opportunities in the plastics industry, most area high schools have little or no plastics equipment.

Weston took his idea to build a mobile plastics lab, made up of smaller versions of industry-standard equipment, to Kennedy, who took on the task as part of a project-management course during the Fall 2003 semester. He led the project team, made up of other students in the class.

“We had no idea what we were getting into,” Kennedy said.

He said they did not even know whether equipment was available for a mobile lab, but they began researching the project and developed a proposal for Lawrence J. Fryda, dean of industrial and engineering technologies.

The student team ordered four pieces of scaled-down equipment that represent four of the major processes in the plastics industry an injection molder, a blow molder, a rotational molder and a thermo former, each of which were customized by the equipment manufacturers to meet the team’s specifications. The team also had to provide essentials they typically would take for granted, such as cleaning supplies and making sure the equipment could run on the standard power sources in the schools. They also learned to work within a budget.

Kennedy assembled the tabletops and configured the machinery to fit onto them. He said it took until late summer 2004 to receive all of the equipment. Most of the machinery was paid for through industry donations. He also helped to organize a training session for the high-school teachers who would use the equipment in their classrooms, and set up step-by-step instructions for use by the instructors with their students.

Piwowar, who expects to graduate in May, has since been accompanying the equipment to high schools around the state. He handles the logistics, making sure the mobile lab gets to its destination on time and continues working properly, and talking to high-school classes about the equipment and the plastics industry. He also gathers feedback from teachers and students. He said the schools thus far have asked to have the equipment which this year spent about three weeks at each school come back next year.

Kennedy said when he and fellow students were planning the project, “We didn’t know, even if we got all the equipment, whether if it would work (in high schools). Brad has done a great job showing that it is workable.”

Still, Kennedy said, they will wait until they receive feedback from all of the high schools who used the mobile lab in its first year.

“There’s a lot to come. It’s still in the development stage,” he said. “By next year at this time, we’ll know how it’s working and plan out the next couple of years.”

Piwowar made the bulk of the presentation at the Pittsburgh conference, accompanied by Kennedy, who described how the lab was planned and assembled, and faculty member John R. Bartolomucci, instructor of plastics technology.

By the end of the school year, the equipment will have visited seven high schools Warrior Run, Elkland, Milton Area, Central Columbia, Gettysburg Area and State College Area. Weston said several more schools have applied to become a part of the program next school year.

For more information about the academic programs offered by the School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies, call (570) 327-4520, send an e-mail or visit on the Web.

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