Penn College 'manufactures' educational experience for teachers

July 27, 2020

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – With support from the National Science Foundation, Pennsylvania College of Technology recently “manufactured” a weeklong educational experience for 13 high school teachers and school counselors from throughout the state.

The Manufacturing Externship Camp revealed to educators the promising realities of manufacturing careers through several activities, including a robot-building exercise that they can replicate at their home schools.  The camp is one of several Penn College initiatives — funded by a grant from the NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program — dedicated to growing the manufacturing workforce.

“Many teachers and counselors are unaware of the types of careers available in advanced manufacturing,” said Bradley M. Webb, dean of engineering technologies. “The goal is to show these folks what machinists and manufacturing engineers do on a daily basis, so they can have better conversations with students and parents about these quality careers.”

A study conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute estimates that there will be more than 4 million manufacturing jobs to fill through 2028. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, the average U.S. manufacturing worker earned $87,185, including benefits.

“Manufacturing jobs are essential for the economic health of the country,” Webb said. “Currently, we don’t have enough students in the pipeline to fill those important positions.”

Webb led the camp with Richard K. Hendricks Jr., instructor of automated manufacturing and machining, and Eric K. Albert, associate professor of automated manufacturing and machining.

Krishna C. Vistarakula, instructor of automated manufacturing and machining; Paul W. Albright, instructor of manufacturing engineering technology; John M. Good III, instructor of automated manufacturing and machining; and manufacturing engineering technology student Joshua A. Sweeney, of Muncy, provided instructional assistance throughout the week.

“I think we have opened the teachers’ eyes to the good jobs available in manufacturing,” Albert said. “The teachers and counselors have seemed very interested, and I’ve heard them say how much they are learning.”

“I’ve been aware of the demands in manufacturing but haven’t been sure how to talk about it with kids,” said Emily Wagner, a counselor at South Williamsport Area Junior/Senior High School. “This has provided a good opportunity to experience manufacturing and machining and speak with those who teach in those areas, so I can better promote the industry as a career choice.”

Camp sessions included 3D printing, computer-aided design, computer-numerical-control machines and robotics. Participants were exposed to modern production facilities through an on-site tour of PMF Industries Inc., a premier flow-forming manufacturer, and a virtual tour of Lycoming Engines, a prominent manufacturer of aircraft engines.

The educators’ hands-on exercise required them to build a robotic arm, featuring several 3D-printed parts. They used a CNC milling machine to manufacture the robot’s aluminum base, before relying on CAD documents to assemble the actual arm. The teachers employed Windows software to program the robot — a scaled version of an actual industrial robot — to pick up a metal ball.

The exercise can serve as a manufacturing module for the educators at their home schools.

“I might be teaching a programming class this year. If I do, I want to use this project as part of that class,” said Jesse Heath, a math and physics teacher at Upper Dauphin Area High School, who seemed at ease building his robot.

For Wagner, the project proved to be a bit of a struggle. “It’s testing my patience,” she said with a smile. “I’m not used to spending time doing something like this. It makes me appreciate the people who have a passion for doing this.”

Mark Wydareny teaches English at Blairsville Middle-High School but is passionate about discussing the skilled trades with students during his career unit. The camp solidified his commitment to the subject.

“There are a lot of opportunities in the skilled trades, but it’s a struggle getting that message through to not only the kids but also their parents and fellow teachers,” he said. “I’ve had kids get excited about the possibility and then the next day either their parents or another teacher takes the wind out of their sails. I’m definitely going to continue to sell them on the skilled trades.”

“Unfortunately, ‘manufacturing’ is a dirty word for many people,” Webb said. “By showing the high-tech equipment, advanced skills and clean work environments that characterize today’s manufacturing, we hope to change people’s minds about that.

Albert is optimistic the educators who attended the camp will be successful doing that.

“I’m sure they will inspire some students to consider the manufacturing career path,” he said.

Penn College offers several degrees related to manufacturing, including a baccalaureate in manufacturing engineering technology and associate degrees in automated manufacturing technology and machine tool technology. A new CNC machinist certificate program launches this fall, another product of the NSF grant. For information about all majors within the School of Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520 or visit

Penn College is a national leader in applied technology education. Visit, email or call toll-free 800-367-9222.


Last Updated July 27, 2020