Penn College alum 'designs' award-winning career

June 17, 2021

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Growing up, Christopher M. Hile often shadowed his father in the family’s woodshop above their three-car garage. He watched and assisted his dad, an accomplished woodworker, restore countless pieces of furniture and build requested items, like deli racks for grocery stores.

That introduction to design and production optimization served as a window to his future — a future shaped by a hands-on Pennsylvania College of Technology education and dedicated to designing life-affirming products.

Hile, a Boyertown native, is a mechanical designer for MPR Associates Inc., a multidiscipline, specialty engineering services and consulting firm based in Alexandria, Virginia. MPR boasts clients in fields ranging from power and energy to health and life sciences.

“We’re offering engineering services to industries that impact people’s lives on a day-to-day basis. That’s one of the main motivators for continuing to work hard, knowing that this next medical device we put out could make the lives of hundreds or thousands of people better,” said Hile, who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer-aided product design (now known as engineering design technology) in 2010.

Hile describes MPR’s lab as a “design and prototype playground.” There, he has led or assisted in award-winning designs of myriad products such as AdaptDx Pro, a headset that measures dark adaptation to help diagnose age-related macular degeneration; iTClamp, a hemorrhage control device that seals the edges of a wound to prevent further blood loss; and the WalterLorenz Surgical Assist Arm, an electromechanical arm that mimics motions of the human arm and holds instruments to enhance surgical access.

“Projects can last from a couple of weeks to a couple of years, depending on the complexity,” Hile said. “My favorite parts of the job are conceptualizing, brainstorming and sketching, then taking that to the next level and bringing those ideas into a manufacturable, cost-effective product.”

Hile leads MPR’s Center for Excellence and Design, which ensures all project teams uphold the company’s commitment to quality. Responsibilities include CAD administration, design oversight and training.

“Our clients and the industries that they serve hold a very high standard that we consistently seek to exceed,” he said. “It’s that pursuit of excellence that really drives MPR and those who thrive here. People hire MPR because their project is difficult.”

In high school, Hile flirted with graphic design courses rather than pursuing engineering design classes at Berks Career and Technology Center. He credits his mother, a talented painter, for his artistic inclinations. Eventually, he decided the technical nature of engineering design was a better match for his interests and skills, especially after realizing that his artistic ability would be welcomed in the field.

“My parents helped me make that decision early on. It’s how I got to where I am today. It was step one,” he said.

Step two was attending Penn College and enrolling in a major requiring extensive work with CAD and 3D modeling software. A classmate told him about the school, and after visiting, Hile was hooked.

“I really wanted a program that was design-focused, where you could develop products and think about how things are made and assembled,” he said. “The Penn College degree hit the mark for me. I knew it was going to give me the skill set to go out and find the type of work that I wanted to be doing.”

The dean’s list student proved to be a Penn College pioneer of sorts.

“Chris was in the first group of two or three Penn College students to successfully complete the Certified SolidWorks Professional exam,” recalled J.D. Mather, assistant professor of engineering design technology. “He was a good student.”

Passing the test proves proficiency of advanced SolidWorks skills. The software is a prominent computer-aided design and engineering program employed in manufacturing industries worldwide. Earning SolidWorks certifications enhances a student’s job prospects.

Not that Hile had to worry about a job upon graduation. After completing a couple internships at Medcomp in Harleysville, he accepted a full-time design position at the medical device manufacturer long before receiving his bachelor’s degree.

Hile relied on his roots as Medcomp’s CAD administrator to both fulfill his duties and grow the company’s expertise. He hired a Penn College graduate and provided an internship for another student. Hile continued recruiting alumni once he joined MPR in 2012 after relocating to the Washington, D.C., area with his future wife, Tamara.

Elias W. Diehl, a 2017 engineering design technology grad, teamed with Hile for over a year in developing various elements of the AdaptDX Pro at MPR. Diehl has since left the company to live on the West Coast.

“Eli hit the ground running. Three years in, he was capable of leading project teams and doing advanced mechanical designs,” Hile said. “He was an excellent pickup for us. I think everybody at MPR would recognize his contributions as a resounding success. I want more PCT grads working here.”

Hile expects to be working at MPR for years to come. The opportunity to tackle diverse, meaningful projects and the company’s culture of quality and innovation serve as powerful incentives. Motivation also is fueled by his Penn College background.

“Choosing to start my career with a Penn College education was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made,” Hile said. “It’s given me the ability to pursue my passion in design, developing products that make a real difference while surrounded by a team obsessed with excellence. What more could you ask for from an education? It really set me up for the future.”

Penn College and his dad’s woodshop.

In addition to the bachelor’s degree in engineering design technology, Penn College offers a bachelor’s degree in industrial design and an associate degree in engineering CAD technology. For information on those and other School of Engineering Technologies programs, visit www.pct.edu/et or call 570-327-4520.

Penn College is a national leader in applied technology education. Visit www.pct.edu, email admissions@pct.edu or call toll-free at 800-367-9222.

Last Updated June 17, 2021