Berks CTC team earns diesel title at Penn College competition
Aside from offering competitors a striking venue in which to display their proficiency, the Dec. 9-10 event highlighted the significant opportunities available through Penn College’s diesel program and its bighearted corporate partners.
Berks Career & Technology Center (diesel) won first place overall, and was presented with $5,000 in training funds courtesy of Cleveland Brothers Equipment Co. Inc.
“We greatly appreciate the opportunity, and are very proud of our students and instructors!” said Michael B. Stauffer, executive director at the school, which also fielded a heavy equipment team at the competition.
The top three individual winners and their resulting Penn College scholarship offer are:
- First – Tyler Brotzman, Northern Tier Career Center; $10,000 scholarship.
- Second – Pearce Alleyne, York County School of Technology; $7,500 scholarship
- Third – Aidan Nunan, Berks Career & Technology Center (diesel); $5,000 scholarship. (He holds an additional $7,500 Penn College scholarship for being 2021’s second-place winner.)
“We are extremely proud of our students and the level that they have reached up to this point in their careers,” said Kevin Heimbach, diesel instructor at Berks. “For some, the next step will be Penn College, and the diesel competition opened that door.”
An open door, indeed: Of the 12 seniors who competed on Dec. 10, seven have applied for Fall 2023 enrollment. And four students from last year’s competition just finished their first semester at Penn College.
The instructor also noted the value in networking with the many supporters of the competition, and not only among students. CTC faculty were invited to get much-needed factory training from dealers so they can pass on the knowledge to their students, and there is the potential for donations to replace some of the older equipment in their shops.
“I believe that it is a very productive use of our time to help improve the Berks CTC Diesel Technology program and the caliber of the students who will replace us in the diesel and heavy equipment field,” Heimbach added. “I hope that this event will continue for many years to come.”
The farsighted aim of the competition was made clear Friday evening, when Justin W. Beishline, assistant dean of diesel technology and natural resources, welcomed competitors, families and sponsors to dinner in the Thompson Professional Development Center on the college’s main campus.
“Penn College produces graduates who are quality technicians and, still, the employers need more,” he told them. “We meet with diesel employers on a regular basis, and they all have the same needs for qualified technicians. The employers often ask us what we can do, or if they can help us to recruit more students. In response, we worked together to create this diesel competition for you to showcase your skills.
“Throughout this event, we hope you will be encouraged by how valuable your CTC education is and discover how a Penn College education can open countless doors to viable career choices throughout the diesel industry.”
Marcayla M. Lutzkanin, of Port Carbon, added a student accent to the proceedings, and industry representatives commented on the benefits of hiring the institution’s graduates.
“Penn College has opened my eyes to many different paths in my life. I have made many friendships and business relationships in the past four years, and I must thank all the instructors at the ESC for always helping me and other students – even outside the classroom or lab,” Lutzkanin said. “I am extremely grateful to have had all these instructors and staff behind me to help me through my Penn College journey.”
That journey already has resulted in two associate degrees (diesel technology and heavy construction equipment technology: Caterpillar emphasis), and Lutzkanin is working toward a bachelor’s in applied management with a minor in small business. She is president of the Penn College Diesel Performance Club, is a member of the Wildcat cheerleading squad and serves as a Student Government Association senator.
“Holding these leadership roles has helped me with my future and building my individual skills that will certainly make me an asset in the workplace,” she told the dinner crowd. “I am so glad I made the choice to come to Penn College, and I am very grateful for all the opportunities this institution has given me. I have made friendships that will last a lifetime and memories that I will never forget.”
The following day at the ESC, just off Route 15 south of Williamsport, students rotated among 10 industry-sponsored stations ascertaining their proficiency in air conditioning, basic electricity, cooling systems, data analysis, emissions, fasteners, hydraulics, precision measuring, starting/charging and suspension/drivelines. Co-chairing the event were diesel equipment technology faculty members John D. Motto, instructor, and Chris S. Weaver, assistant professor.
“Employers – many of them alumni – brought in approximately $2 million worth of new equipment for competition day,” said Beishline, who added that student volunteers put in considerable time clearing instructional space and prepping for the competition.
They also joined faculty in a 15-hour day on Saturday, moving the college’s temporarily displaced fleet of trucks back into the labs in the face of an uncertain overnight weather forecast.
In addition to the aforementioned CTCs, Pennsylvania participants included Adams County Technical Institute, Bucks County Technical High School, Butler County Area Vocational-Technical School, Cumberland Perry Area Career & Technical Center, North Montco Technical Career Center, Seneca Highlands Career and Technical Center, SUN Area Technical Institute, and Western Montgomery Career and Technology Center.
This year’s competition also attracted teams from two out-of-state schools: Vinal Technical High School (Connecticut) and Center of Applied Technology (Maryland).
Sandra Turcotte, mother of the second-place finisher, said she and her family were greatly impressed with the college and the professionalism of everyone involved in the event.
“Thank you so much for such a positive experience,” she wrote Sunday evening. “My son, Pearce Alleyne, really enjoyed the competition and enjoyed interacting with everyone there. It was his first diesel competition, and you all made it such a phenomenal experience. We really appreciate you hosting this competition and exposing him to so many possibilities for his future.”
The event again attracted a considerable outpouring from corporate partners, who provided equipment and financial contributions, served as judges and mentors, staffed information booths, and supplied winners with valuable prizes.
“We can’t thank our corporate partners enough for the support of this day,” said Elizabeth A. Biddle, senior corporate relations director. “Partners were recognized at different sponsorship levels and will join the fleet of Corporate Tomorrow Makers if they are not already enrolled. This engagement helped further the message of the need for technicians in this industry and the financial contributions are what made the scholarship awards possible.”
Allan Myers, Cleveland Brothers Equipment Co. Inc., Daimler Truck North America, Foley Inc., Kenworth of Pennsylvania, Motor Truck Thermo King, Sherwood Freightliner, Sherwood Isuzu and Waste Management.
Bergey’s Truck Center, Groff Tractor & Equipment Inc., LandPro Equipment LLC, Lehigh Hanson Inc. and Wagman Inc.
Antique Truck Club of America, Best Line Equipment, Earthborne Trucks and Equipment, FedEx Freight, Five Star International, Foster F. Wineland Inc., H.O. Penn Machinery, Hunter Truck, Imperial Supplies, Komatsu and Watsontown Trucking Co.
Comments from Berks' two diesel competitors:
- Aidan F. Nunan – “The competition was a great experience to see Penn College and its programs and labs. The competition was fun, and the trade-based skills testing is like nothing I have experienced before. As the third-place overall competitor, the tools that were given away by the sponsors was overwhelming. The $5,000 scholarship that was given away with it is a big help, considering that I am going in the power generation program. Overall, the experience of the whole event will never be forgotten, and I will always appreciate the effort put in by the staff, students and volunteers that made the event possible.”
- Chad Rothfelder – “The competition was a great experience, as usual. Being a returning member, it was great to see some familiar faces at the campus. It was a great experience, and gave me a good idea of what areas I need to work on and what I need to get more advanced in. For me, the HVAC, as well as the Hydraulics station, were the most difficult as they are things we hadn’t learned yet or just did not cover in our program. I’d like to extend my appreciation to Penn College for hosting us again this year and allowing us to have this opportunity, as well as for the others.”
For more about diesel technology and related majors in Penn College’s School of Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520.
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 Tom Wilson, writer/editor-PCToday; and Larry D. Kauffman, digital publishing specialist/photographer
Kathryn Herbert, from H.O. Penn Machinery Co. – one of Penn College's historically supportive Caterpillar partners – talks with a family prior to the start of competition.
Marcayla M. Lutzkanin, of Port Carbon, who is adding a bachelor's to her two equipment-related associate degrees, completes a sale at the Diesel Performance Club pop-up. An active student who serves as club president and as a Wildcat cheerleader, Lutzkanin was a featured speaker at a dinner on the eve of competition.
Sarah F. Marino, admissions counselor for career and technical education pathways, engages a competitor and his mother.
Diesel students created this unique and attractive bench in a cross-campus collaboration with instructors Steve J. Kopera (welding) and Shaun D. Hack (collision repair). While it provided convenient seating for spectators during the weekend competition, it will be moved outdoors as a visible and practical example of Penn College craft.
The competition field lines up, getting last-minute instructions and encouragement from co-chair John D. Motto, instructor of diesel equipment technology. Among the echoing takeaways: "Wear your safety glasses at all times!"
The Diesel Performance Club and Service Technicians & Operators Association joined forces to cut down and put up this floor-to-ceiling Christmas tree ...
Front and center to judge and facilitate the Fasteners station are (from left) Wagman Inc. employees William Hammel and Alan Houser; and Penn College student volunteers Drew J. Page, of Coudersport, and Matthew J. Biehl, of Silverdale. Both are enrolled in heavy construction equipment technology: Page in the technician emphasis and Biehl in the operator emphasis. (Page did double duty, later donning the mascot's costume to entertain attendees as the Penn College Wildcat.)
These boots are made for working!
Painstakingly tabulating competitors' scores all day long for a thoroughly accurate spreadsheet of final results are Laura M. Machak, K-12 outreach specialist, and Justin W. Beishline, assistant dean of diesel technology and natural resources.
Competitors rotate between stations in this overhead view, affirming the orderly organization amid the multiple moving parts that only seem chaotic at ground level.
Adjacent to the competition space, corporate partners stand ready to chat with attendees ...
... and swap stories with one another.
Signaling that the Air Conditioning station is not yet ready for the next round, Gio A. Barbarossa, of Bridgeville, waits to raise the green flag. Barbarossa just completed his first semester in the electric power generation technology: diesel emphasis major.
Brotzman fulfills the Data Analysis portion of the competition, en route to his overall first-place finish.
Invested onlookers take in the competition, keenly awaiting the eventual outcome.
The Wildcat gets down to a young fan's level for some feline face time.
Joseph C. Straw, retiring as an assistant professor of diesel equipment technology, is showered with adoration and gifts from some of his students. In addition to a framed letter of appreciation, Straw (who will continue to share his expertise among part-time faculty in the spring) received a shirt and glass sporting the messages, "Retired – Not my problem anymore!" and "The legend has retired."
Elizabeth A. Biddle, senior corporate relations director, thanks the industry partners whose participation was integral to the competition (and to the enrichment of the competitors) ...
Pearce Alleyne, who amassed a considerable take-home package of prizes as a four-time finisher in individual station results, displays his overall second-place honors.
Tyler Brotzman shares the happy Wildcat moment he was named first-prize winner, which includes a $10,000 scholarship should he enroll at Penn College. Brotzman's was a familiar name during the closing awards presentation, as he finished in the top three in six of the 10 competitive stations. At left is Chris S. Weaver, assistant professor of diesel equipment technology, event co-chair, among the faculty members who gave their all to make the day a success.
Nunan placed third overall, greatly contributing to his school's top finish among all participating CTCs.
... with decorations that include the friendly faces of ESC faculty and staff.
Drew G. Gordner, a heavy construction equipment technology: technician emphasis student from Millville, mentors a young visitor to the S&O Association's hands-on attraction. Also staffing booths alongside corporate vendors were the Diesel Performance Club, Admissions Office, Women in Construction and The College Store.
... and the 20-minute time clock, projected on the lab's garage doors, starts ticking for all to see.
Rothfelder, part of the triumphant Berks diesel team, at the Emissions station
Motto kicks off another round ...
A student checks gauges at the Air Conditioning station.
... and whose generosity is reflected in signage at the event.
Alleyne concentrates on the matter at hand: Precision Measuring.
A Hydraulics contestant moves in for a closer look.
Camo can't hide the intensity of this focused competitor, beginning exercises outside the Starting/Charging trailer.
The variety of competencies being tested required participants to move seamlessly electrical circuitry ...
... to familiarity with the instruments employed when exactitude is the aim.
A Generac generator provides a template in the Cooling Systems category ...
... where another of the day's industry judges answers questions and delivers credible skills assessment.
Shedding light on an Emissions task
Making the rounds at the end of nearly two decades as a full-time faculty member, Straw posed for photos with most – if not all! – of the day's student volunteers. Taking their turn are Nickolette S. Breauchy, of Jersey Shore, and Nick S. Dobson, of Montoursville, both pursuing associate degrees in diesel technology.
A fleet of Caterpillar equipment offers a challenge at the Air Conditioning station.