College celebrates expanded welding lab, industry partners
The Welding Expansion Project, funded in part by a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, added 35,000 square feet of instructional space to the lab in the college’s Lycoming Engines Metal Trades Center, allowing for enrollment of up to 60 more welding students annually – more than 300 in total.
The facility houses what is also believed to be the only electron beam welder being used for instruction in U.S. higher education. Electron beam welding – a fusion welding process in which a high-velocity electron beam is used to join two metals together – is a cutting-edge technology popular in the aerospace, automotive, defense, semiconductor, medical, nuclear, oil and gas, and power generation industries.
“Today is a celebration of the very best of collaboration and the impact it has in our world,” said Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour. “We stand together in a state-of-the-art lab. Next door to the EB welder are advanced processes in laser welding and cutting. We have CNC plasma cutters, a full lab of automation and robotics, a room dedicated to specialized welding, and a nondestructive-testing classroom and lab that will take us to the next level in curriculum offerings. We have 18,000 square feet of space dedicated to metal fabrication, and we have Pipe Alley, offering pipeline simulation, as well as 124 individual lab booths for welders to weld.”
“Your support has ignited a spark that will continue to burn brightly for generations to come,” Gilmour added, as she spoke to project supporters who gathered in the lab for the event.
(A video about the welding expansion is available on Penn College’s YouTube channel.)
Michael J. Reed, vice president for academic affairs/provost, noted how the welding lab was expanded in 2010 and then “immediately grew into, and out of, the space” because of the program’s popularity and the growing demand for its graduates in industry.
“Now, more students are positioned to earn rewarding and sustainable careers – careers that impact the success of our economy,” Reed said. “This facility delivers 35,000 square feet of expanded opportunities for 300-plus students to hone their skills in what is now likely to be the largest instructional welding facility in the United States – and home to a curriculum with a reputation that spans the globe.”
Other speakers at the dedication were state Sen. Gene Yaw, chairman of the college’s Board of Directors; Loni N. Kline, vice president for institutional advancement; Bradley M. Webb, dean of industrial, computing and engineering technologies; Nathaniel H. Lyon, a welding and fabrication engineering technology student from Fredericksburg; and Jennifer Martin, a welding and fabrication engineering technology alumna working as engineering manager for Toyota in Georgetown, Kentucky.
Welding and metal fabrication is the third-largest program area on the Penn College campus, enrolling more than 300 students who benefit from, at minimum, 144 hours of hands-on welding as they hone skills that are in high demand in the workforce. Job placement for Penn College’s welding students is nearly 100 percent. The college offers a bachelor’s degree in welding and fabrication engineering technology; an associate degree in metal fabrication technology, an associate degree in welding technology, and a certificate in welding.
Principal supporters for the expansion project – who are honored on a Welding Expansion Recognition Wall designed by alumnus and welding instructor Michael Patterson and built in partnership with faculty, staff and students in the welding, electronics and collision repair programs – are: Miller Electric, Octopuz, Kuka Robotics Systems, BAE Systems, CLOOS Robotic Welding, Fronius, Laserline, Libellula, Lincoln Electric, Soitaab, Cambridge Vacuum Engineering, Dolphitech, Hypertherm, High Steel Structures, Precitec, Michael Allen, James Colton, Davie and Fred Gilmour, Curtiss-Wright, Effective Controls, Greiner Industries, John Deere, Packaging Progressions and PPL Electric Utilities.
For more about the college, a national leader in applied technology education, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.
– Photos by Cindy Davis Meixel, writer/photo editor
An array of metal roses, crafted by welding students, adds floral décor to the dais.
Welding students (and faculty member Patterson, at center in tie) gather in the welding lab for a decidedly different activity.
The welding expansion doubles as a social setting.
Wayne Leone from Talen Energy (at left, facing the camera) enjoys conversing with students.
Alumni Power Team! Representing BAE Systems Inc. are welding alumni (from left): Stephanie (Puckly) Biltz, ’15 and ’17; Gabe Nepita-Mejia, ’16; Andrew R. Hatch, ’12, ’14 and ’18; and Ross Davis, ‘07. BAE is a Copper Level supporter.
Bradley M. Webb, dean of industrial, computing and engineering technologies, welcomes guests with an overview of the welding program's rigor, reputation and success.
Michael J. Reed, vice president for academic affairs/provost, focuses on the student opportunities represented by the facility and the college curriculum's global renown.
Tailoring his remarks to everyone in the room – donors, faculty classmates and alumni included – a grateful Nathaniel H. Lyon says his time at Penn College "has equipped me for the future in ways that I could not have expected, both inside and outside of the classroom." Scheduled to graduate in May, he has accepted a position at Voith Hydro in York.
A full house in the expanded facility
Proud parents Marian (partially hidden) and Arthur Lyon record their son's talk.
Jennifer (Brinkley) Martin traveled from Kentucky for the event.
An impressed Sen. Yaw shares his pride in the inspiring facility.
The curtain moves back to unveil the donor sign.
"The man behind the mask” (a welding mask, that is!), alumnus and welding instructor Michael Patterson designed the donor wall and built it in partnership with faculty colleagues and students in welding, electronics and collision repair.
Murillo gives a tour to Penn College board members Joseph J. Doncsecz (left), treasurer, and Robert N. Pangborn, vice chair.
Satisfied smiles after a great deal of work well done: Welding co-department heads Michael R. Allen and James N. Colton II (at center) gather at the end of the ceremony with Institutional Advancement staff Elizabeth A. Biddle and Loni N. Kline.
Taking their turn under the lights: welding and fabrication engineering technology students and American Welding Society members (from left): Jeremy L. Hanes, of Sabinsville; Sara D. Stafford, of West Chester; Karl W. Machamer, Lebanon; Skyler R. Graver, of Palmerton; and Axel A. Murillo, of Watsontown.
Three retired welding faculty members, all of whom have been accorded emeriti status, returned for the festivities. From left are James W. Fox, Robert M. Vaughn and Paul S. Schriner.
Biltz enjoys a laugh with Vaughn.
The Welding Expansion Recognition Wall, described by the president as "a shining example of the innovative minds throughout our campus community"
"The people in our lives matter far more than welding ever will," Lyon tells the dedication crowd. "The things we create will melt and rust and fail. But the way we influence those around us has the potential to affect generations to come."
Allen helps Gilmour suit up for the latest in a historical series of unique "ribbon-cuttings" at new and renovated campus facilities.
President Gilmour (still wearing her ribbon-cutting welding jacket) poses with representatives of Miller Electric Co., the Titanium Level supporter which was the first to partner with the college on the project.
Welding faculty (joined by Biddle at left and Kline, center) gather beneath monumental handiwork.