College's Mobile Plastics Lab to Visit Schuylkill Technology Centers

Published 01.27.2006

Polymer Engineering

Pennsylvania College of Technology's mobile plastics lab is visiting the Schuylkill Technology Centers, Mar Lin, through Feb. 3, offering students a unique opportunity to experience the ever-growing plastics industry.

Schuylkill Technology Centers is one of several schools in the state to offer its students the opportunity to earn college credits through Penn College's new dual-enrollment program, but it is the first school to offer the credits in plastics.

The dual enrollment agreement was facilitated by Penn College's Outreach for K-12 Office, as was the Workforce Leadership 2+2+2 grant that will fund the program at Schuylkill Technology Centers. The grant will also fund new plastics equipment at the center.

Dual enrollment allows participants to enroll at Penn College as nondegree students and take college-level courses taught by their high school teachers on the Schuylkill Technology Centers-South Campus during the regular school day.

The courses are the same as those offered to full-time Penn College students, and high-school teachers are trained and mentored by Penn College faculty to ensure the courses are equal.

"Concurrent enrollment expands the opportunities for the students in Schuylkill County, thus preparing them for the workforce of tomorrow in plastics and polymers technology," said Rita M. Tatusko, director of vocational education for Schuylkill Technology Centers.

Through a three-year program of courses at Schuylkill Technology Centers, students may earn six credits in computer-aided drafting, three credits for an introductory computer science course (a requirement for all Penn College degree students), two credits in plastics and four credits in manufacturing. All of the 15 credits are required to earn the plastics technology (two-year) and plastics engineering technology (four-year) degrees at Penn College.

"Of the students enrolled in the first college course CSC 110, Introduction to Information Technology, we had a 100-percent pass rate," Tatusko said. "They all received three college credits for completing the course this fall."

When the technology center purchases equipment for its own plastics lab, Penn College will help to put it together and ensure it works properly.

Until then, students will get hands-on plastics experience through a visit from the college's mobile poly lab. The lab includes four units, all assembled by Penn College plastics and polymer engineering technology students. The units represent four of the primary processes that are used to manufacture plastic parts. Each unit includes a scaled-down version of industry-standard equipment, as well as the instructions, materials and tools needed to use it.

The four units are an injection molder, a blow molder, a thermoformer and a rotational molder. The lab began circulating to high schools throughout Pennsylvania during the 2004-05 school year, providing exposure in those that do not have their own plastics equipment or have little of it. The lab has been used both in technical courses and chemistry classes.

Schuylkill Technology Centers will host an open house for the mobile plastics lab at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 2 at the South Campus. Representatives of the local plastics industry are expected to attend.

Penn College created the mobile plastics lab (with funding from plastics industries) to help build interest among high school students in material, process and design careers available in the plastics industry.

At least 1,500 plastics companies call Pennsylvania their home, and many say there are not enough students entering the field to meet the increasing demand. The average starting salary for new Penn College plastics graduates is $40,600.

Costs to support the development and startup of the mobile plastics lab were offset by donations from the plastics industry.

For more information about plastics education at Penn College, career opportunities in the plastics field and the Penn College mobile lab project, call (570) 327-4520 or send e-mail .