Inaugural ‘Rotorfest’ takes flight at Penn College
With eyes on the sky and a wide range of career options, Pennsylvania College of Technology’s emergency management & homeland security major staged its inaugural Wildcat Rotorfest on April 11.
With an ideal spring day as a backdrop, the event showcased a variety of emergency response vehicles – including helicopters and ground-support vehicles – for the enjoyment and education of Penn College students enrolled in various majors, as well as high school and middle school students from 11 schools. Students were able to engage in up-close contact with the equipment and operators.
“Rotorfest 2023 was a great day!” said William A. Schlosser, instructor of emergency management and homeland security. “It was an opportunity to connect future Wildcats with campus, current Wildcats with employers and welcome Wildcat alumni back to campus. This experience was invaluable to our emergency management students, who staffed the event and assisted with all the preplanning.”
For the occasion, the U.S. Coast Guard flew in a Dolphin helicopter from Atlantic City, New Jersey; two Black Hawk helicopters, stationed at Fort Indiantown Gap, arrived courtesy of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard; and Pennsylvania State Police shared one of its Bell helicopters.
Also on hand was equipment from the North Central Task Force, Williamsport Bureau of Police and Fire, and North Central Pennsylvania Unmanned Emergency Services (Tioga County Department 50, also known as “Drone 50”). Williamsport Regional Airport Tower and Penn College Police provided logistical support. Geisinger Life Flight was also scheduled to participate but was called into action for an emergency.
Schlosser originated the idea for Rotorfest and then shared the assignment with his Incident Command System Operations class, which explores multi-agency coordination of various types of disasters and incidents. Each student was appointed a role for the event, encompassing such areas as planning, safety, logistics and communications.
Serving as operations section chief for the event, Colten C.B. Hajicek, a student from Redmond, Washington, was inspired by Rotorfest and its lasting potential for his career.
“It’s just an excellent experience overall, especially being a part of this,” Hajicek said. “I’m a freshman, so being able to help run this with my instructor, who has helped set it up, is a great experience. This is something I could definitely use in the future.”
“We have multiple different agencies here talking to students from all different majors,” he continued. “They’re here to recruit, give information and show the kids here what they could do after college. It’s really great to see all the tours for the younger kids, showing them what Penn College is all about, what majors we have and what they could look forward to when they come here. And it’s a beautiful day for it – sunny and 75 (degrees).”
Participating high schools were: East Juniata, Juniata, Montoursville Area, North Penn-Liberty, Sullivan County, Williamson, and Technical College High School’s Brandywine, Pennock’s Bridge and Pickering campuses (located in Chester County). Also joining the day were SUN Area Technical Institute, Harlan Rowe Middle School from Athens, and local Civil Air Patrol cadets. Most of the students are enrolled in Penn College Dual Enrollment courses at their schools, receiving college-level classes and free college credits.
“K-12 Outreach really enjoyed the collaboration with our emergency management program and the college community to bring over 200 dual enrollment students, as well as other K-12 students, to Rotorfest,” said Tanya Berfield, director of K-12 Outreach. “It was a great opportunity to showcase Penn College programs and the pathways to military and emergency response careers.”
The event was especially attractive to students interested in emergency management and response, aviation and medical fields; however, other career fields also aligned with the opportunity.
In addition to the outdoor displays on the front lawns of the college campus, lab sessions were offered by eight Penn College majors: aviation technology, building construction, electronics engineering technology, heavy equipment, nursing, paramedic, surgical technology, and plastics & polymer engineering technology. Each major plays a role in emergency response in some way. As an example, the plastics field creates equipment utilized by emergency responders.
Jillian Bilal, academic remediation specialist at TCHS Pennock’s Bridge Campus, located in West Grove, said: “I thought the event was amazing. It was well-planned out. I loved the structured events and the groups that led us; our tour guide was amazing. And my students had a really fantastic time. They loved the free time, and they loved the structured activities, so it was a great day.”
Penn College offers a Bachelor of Science degree in emergency management & homeland security – with on-campus and online options.
Photos by Cindy Davis Meixel, writer/photo editor;
Larry D. Kauffman, digital publishing specialist/photographer;
Barbara J. Stevens, secretary of K-12 Outreach;
Frank T. Kocsis III, student photographer;
and Sarah R. Yoder, coordinator of admissions operations