Rep. Feese Delivers Instructional Equipment Grant

Published 04.08.2004


For the third consecutive year, state Rep. Brett Feese (R-Plunketts Creek) has delivered a $500,000 state grant to purchase instructional equipment at Pennsylvania College of Technology. Rep. Feese negotiated the special appropriation to provide for instructional equipment that the College would not have been able to purchase due to a 5-percent reduction in its state appropriation.

The representative of the 84th district, who also serves as Pennsylvania House Majority Whip, made the announcement to students, faculty and staff in College Avenue Labs, an instructional facility developed in the former HON Manufacturing Center.

"We all benefit when the direct result of investment in higher education is the addition of highly skilled and highly motivated employees to the Pennsylvania workforce. This grant will enable Penn College to purchase equipment to provide its students with real-world, hands-on experience that will make them better employees when they enter the workforce," Rep. Feese said.

Penn College statistics indicate that the majority of its students and alumni are Pennsylvanians. Of the 6,255 students enrolled at the start of this academic year, over 92 percent resided in Pennsylvania, and 24 percent resided in Lycoming County. While over 36,000 known alumni of the College and its predecessors (Williamsport Area Community College and Williamsport Technical Institute) reside in every state and in 15 different nations, 85 percent are Pennsylvania residents.

Penn College President Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour said those students and alumni have something important to offer the Commonwealth.

"Our degrees work because our graduates leave with the skills they need to contribute immediately to the workforce. Because the equipment in our labs matches the best industry has to offer, our graduates are ready for employment and, in many cases, they quickly advance into higher-level positions," the president said.

She added praise for the area lawmaker's commitment to securing these funds for Penn College: "As a result of an extraordinary effort on his part, Rep. Feese was able to successfully negotiate this unique appropriation to provide for instructional equipment. Without his efforts, the reduction in our state appropriation would have significantly impacted our ability to stay current and meet the needs of employers, in Lycoming County and throughout Pennsylvania, who want to hire highly skilled, well-qualified individuals."

Dr. Gilmour explained that business and industry leaders, who serve on advisory committees for each major program of study at Penn College, advise faculty and staff on what equipment purchases are necessary to ensure that what is used in the classroom represents the industrial standards within their respective fields.

The equipment that will be purchased using the $500,000 state grant delivered by Rep. Feese will support nine areas of instruction: electronics ($152,550), health sciences ($94,450), transportation ($86,500), graphic arts ($52,000), construction ($31,680), welding/fabrication ($21,300), civil engineering ($19,800), environmental technology ($18,100) and plastics ($7,650).

Rep. Feese made the announcement among students and faculty taking part in three Civil Engineering Technology classes: Materials of Construction, taught by Lamont Butters; Structural Steel Design, taught by JoAnn Stephens, and Design for Capstone Projects (seniors working on final projects), taught by T. Jay Cunningham.

Students in Civil Engineering and Surveying Technology majors will benefit from the purchase of a bench-top structures-testing system that will be used to study the effects of various load-weights on models of engineering components and structures, such as beams and bridge trusses.

Penn College's Civil Engineering and Surveying programs are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Technology Accreditation Commission. A total of 173 students are enrolled this year in bachelor- and associate-degree majors.

Civil engineers hold about 195,000 jobs in the nation and 6,580 jobs in Pennsylvania, according to statistics reported by the state Department of Labor and Industry, and the number of jobs in the state is expected to grow to 7,400 by 2008.

Dr. Lawrence Fryda, dean of the School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies, said equipment purchases in this program and others administered by his academic school electronics, welding and plastics will "allow our students to gain experience with the next generation of testing and fabrication equipment, which they will be working with when they start on the job."

Electronics will add 20 Educational Laboratory Virtual Instrumentation Suites workstations, 20 data-collection test measurement systems, four robotic systems, an antenna training system and S-parameter test system. Welding will purchase a power source to upgrade its lab. Plastics will add a portable filter enclosure for polymer synthesis.

Collision Repair is another program located in College Avenue Labs that will benefit from the grant funding. The purchase of an automobile-aligning system and rack will be the final addition to the labs, which are believed to be among the largest instructional facilities for collision repair in the nation.

Moving collision repair into the College Avenue Labs last fall allowed the College to expand automotive labs in the Parkes Automotive Technology Center to accommodate 40 more automotive students. The grant will fund the addition of four twin-post lifts to complete the conversion of the automotive labs.

Colin Williamson, dean of the School of Transportation Technology, said that, even with the expansion, it is difficult to meet the demand in these labs. All automotive-related majors, including two- and four-year programs and those sponsored by Toyota and Ford, are at capacity with a total of 317 students.

The addition of a brake lathe and cooling units funded through this grant will allow the addition of summer classes to help meet demand. A new emission analyzer also will benefit students and help to train local technicians to meet new emission standards.

Job growth is predicted in collision repair and automotive fields through 2008, according to state labor statistics. Collision (auto-body) repair employs 227,000 technicians nationwide and 9,750 in Pennsylvania; the automotive field employs 790,000 technicians nationwide and 37,300 in Pennsylvania.

Aviation programs also will benefit from the purchase of a Turbo Commander engine to provide instruction in jet-engine operation, removal and replacement, as required by the Federal Aviation Administration. Penn College's FAA-certified programs are taught at its Lumley Aviation Center at the Williamsport Regional Airport.

Construction-related programming will be advanced by the purchase of a DVD instructional system that Tom Gregory, dean of the School of Construction and Design Technologies, said will be used to share video on machine setup and maintenance, safety and other processes, and to record student performance to help them present evidence of their skills to future employers. The school also will purchase veneering equipment and a downdraft sanding station that will be used in cabinetmaking and millwork labs.

The School of Health Sciences will add new nursing hospital beds, breathing apparatus, transport ventilator, binocular microscopes and testing equipment to its instructional labs. Dr. Deborah Wilson, school dean, said: "Equipment is essential to hands-on learning, and hands-on learning is essential to education in health sciences programs . . . having a well-trained health-care workforce helps employers in that they can use less time to orient and train new employees, thereby saving dollars while having qualified workers ready to provide treatment to patients."

Other grant purchases will provide for a computer-lab upgrade in graphic arts and the addition of testing apparatus to support instruction in environmental technology.