Students Travel Far to Experience College's Hands-On Learning

Published 06.30.2005


From left%3A Faculty adviser Gerardo Alducin, Javier Diaz, Nora Vega and Luis Sanchez made a monthlong visit to Penn College from the Toluca campus of Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey.Students from Mexico, along with their faculty adviser, are at Penn College this month, nearing an end to their monthlong trip to the campus.

Four students made the trip. All are enrolled in five-year engineering majors at the Toluca campus of Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey.

What brought the students on the long trip from their Mexican summer to Northcentral Pennsylvania, they said, was the technology available on Penn College's campus.

"We have the theory and the principles there," said Luis Sanchez, who will graduate this summer with a degree in mechanical engineering. "We're here because Penn College has a lot of high-end, industrial equipment; our school doesn't have that kind of equipment."

While ITESM is one of the best schools in Latin America, providing students with a strong foundation of the theoretical knowledge they will need − like math and physics − student Javier Diaz explained that most students do not get to see the equipment used in industry until they begin working. Diaz is also pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering, and expects to graduate after the fall semester.

"We're here to see how the theoretical applies to the real world," he said.

Sanchez, Diaz and Nora Vega, who just finished her second year of study toward a degree in mechatronics engineering (a mix of mechanical and electronics engineering) explained that Toluca is like "the Mexican version of Detroit." It is an industrial city with many job opportunities in engineering. Industries in and near Toluca include Chrysler, BMW, Mercedes and Nissan.

Their Penn College experience,in whichthey have received hands-on instruction in many facets of manufacturing, will give them an advantage when pursuing those jobs.

During their stay, they have gained lab experience in physics, optics, lasers, computer-numeric controlled machining, milling, turning, destructive and nondestructive tests of materials, metallurgy, and plastics.

"All of the processes involved in how to make a part," Sanchez said.

They also worked on a race car for the local American Red Cross chapter's Susquehanna 500, a fund-raising mini-Indy car race. Among the work they did, they modified the engine and made changes to the chassis. A second group of students from the Toluca campus will return to Penn College in late September to continue work on the car and race it at the Brandon Park event Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

The students visited industries in the area, including West Pharmaceuticals, High Steel Structures, Textron and Penn State's Nanofabrication facilities. Longer trips took them to the Harley-Davidson facility in York and the Corning Museum of Glass in New York. They took recreational trips to New York City and experienced such local treasures as the Hiawatha paddle boat, Rickett's Glen State Park and the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, a blues festival in Hughesville, Knoebels Amusement Park and a production by the Community Theatre League.

Diaz, Sanchez and Vega were accompanied by a fourth student, Jennifer Montes de Oca Lopez, who left early to pursue a job opportunity, and Gerardo Alducin, their faculty adviser. The trip is considered a summer course, for which the students will earn credits toward their degrees from ITESM.

Penn College students can also receive course credits when they visit the Toluca campus, and tour its surrounding manufacturers, over Spring Break.