Penn College welding grad ‘engineers’ career success

Published 02.19.2024

Photos courtesy Reframe Systems

Alumni News
Alumni Feature
Welding & Metal Fabrication
Engineering Technologies

Garrett D. Corneliussen gained more than a job from his education at Pennsylvania College of Technology. He secured a career: One he hopes will make a difference for society.

The 2017 welding & fabrication engineering technology graduate believes his latest position offers strong potential to meet that lofty objective. Corneliussen is the founding engineer for manufacturing at Reframe Systems. Conceived in 2022 by three former Amazon Robotics executives, the company aims to build attainable net-zero modular homes at massive scale.

“Our vision is to unlock climate-friendly human progress,” said Corneliussen, who joined Reframe Systems last April.

With internships and jobs at industry giants like John Deere, Siemens and Tesla behind him, Garrett D. Corneliussen looks forward to building the future with Reframe Systems.

In modular construction, standardized sections of a building are manufactured within a controlled off-site environment and later assembled at the desired location for the structure. Considered more efficient and less costly than traditional home building, modular construction is viewed as a potential remedy for the U.S. housing shortfall, estimated by Moody’s Investors Service to be as high as 2 million units.

Reframe Systems’ take on modular construction includes its strong environmental commitment of balancing carbon emissions and energy consumption with a reduction of both throughout the life cycle of a building. Carbon sequestering processes and materials and all-electric utilities powered by built-in solar panels and battery storage are some of the means to achieve the net-zero goal.

“We are driving down the cost and delivery time of net-zero multifamily residential buildings by leveraging design automation, modular building components and digital manufacturing in robotic microfactories,” Corneliussen explained.

Reframe Systems operates out of a microfactory north of Boston and expects to deliver its first customer home later this year.

“Flexible microfactories enable the benefits of manufacturing technologies while remaining adaptable to the variable nature of construction,” Corneliussen said. “We embrace a ‘matrix production’ style manufacturing facility where workcells are dynamic and can be reconfigured for the optimal needs of each project.”

Corneliussen splits his time between the microfactory and his home office in Lexington, North Carolina, located about 70 miles east of where he grew up in Hickory. He focuses on implementing both robotic and augmented workcells. The latter consist of human-driven operations assisted and enhanced with technology.

The sixth person hired at Reframe Systems, Corneliussen connected with the founders through a contact made while working as a manufacturing engineer for Tesla, the automotive and clean energy conglomerate, and Rivian, a motor vehicle manufacturing company.

“I quickly realized that the founders of Reframe Systems are approaching the construction and manufacturing industries from the unique perspectives they gained from Amazon,” he said. “I wanted to be part of the small and passionate team that is trying to coalesce decades of learning from these different industries to positively impact humanity.”

I wanted to be part of the small and passionate team that is trying to coalesce decades of learning from these different industries to positively impact humanity.

Garrett D. Corneliussen

Founding engineer for manufacturing at Reframe Systems

His path to the 20-person team began in the family garage, where his grandfather taught the value of working with one’s hands. Welding was a skill that piqued Corneliussen’s interest.

“I enjoyed the challenge, that it was a balance between science and art,” he said. “Each material and process is unique and requires its own set of parameters and techniques. The learning potential was and is endless.”

Welding helped turn a nonchalant, average student into a determined young man, passionate about his future. Corneliussen took three welding courses in high school and decided to seek a career in welding engineering.

“Welding engineering was a segue from something I was really comfortable with to something that seemingly had a wide-reaching scope,” he said.

An internet search of welding engineering programs led to Penn College and its unique four-year degree, a combination of intensive hands-on welding experience and theoretical-based engineering instruction.

Corneliussen quickly distinguished himself in the lab and classroom, according to Ryan P. Good, assistant professor of welding.

“Garrett had a way of connecting with others and embodied the ‘never have a bad day’ perspective. Everyone around him benefited from that,” Good recalled. “Those traits, coupled with his high-level analytical ability and critical thinking, certainly separated Garrett from his peers. It’s notable, however, that he was always willing to use his natural gifts to empower and enable others.”

“The heavy hands-on emphasis was the main reason I chose Penn College,” Corneliussen said. “Second was the endless opportunities that were presented to me as I went through college.”

Those opportunities included serving as a presidential student ambassador, co-founder of the Penn College Bicycle Club and a student government representative. The Dean’s List student studied for a semester in Dornbirn, Austria, and secured paid internships with John Deere, Siemens, Kiewit and Tesla. He was the student speaker for the December 2017 commencement. Prior to that address, Corneliussen already had a full-time job waiting at Tesla.

“Thanks to my education and prior internship experience, I was able to contribute at Tesla from day one,” he said.

Those contributions were made at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, where it manufactures its lineup of electric vehicles, and its Gigafactory outside Reno, Nevada, home to battery development. During his 37 months with Tesla, Corneliussen deployed a $3 million-plus budget plan for automated equipment and installed, commissioned and sustained a manufacturing line consisting of more than 50 robots.

Sandwiched between his roles at Tesla and Rivian were positions at Coherent Inc., where he developed laser material processing of high-strength steels, and the Linamar Corp., acting as technical lead for the company’s new EV battery program.

Corneliussen's new job is a culmination of all of his previous roles, where he was exposed to industry best practices as well as atypical and forward-thinking methodologies.

“This job (at Reframe Systems) is a culmination of all of my previous roles in automotive manufacturing, where I was exposed to industry best practices as well as atypical and forward-looking methodologies,” Corneliussen explained.

It also reflects his Penn College education.

“I can’t imagine taking a different educational path. My Penn College education provided a foundation of engineering and technology that I use every day,” he said.

Good refers to Corneliussen as the “perfect example” of the possibilities resulting from the college’s bachelor’s degree in welding & fabrication engineering technology.

“Our degree not only includes the how and why of welding but also ties in weld design, manufacturing and fabrication design, automation, metallurgy, innovation, and related processes,” Good said. “That focus, coupled with industry-leading technology and practical hands-on engineering labs and exercises, is what separates our graduates from others.”

Throughout his young career, Corneliussen has changed employers every couple of years. He expects Reframe Systems to be the exception.

“Reframe Systems has ambitious goals we are striving to achieve over the next decade, and I intend to be part of this journey,” he said. “I’m incredibly fortunate that I love my job and the work I get to do every day. My role is the highlight of my career. I’m able to apply the skills and knowledge I’ve gained from manufacturing to make more housing that is attainable, better for human wellness and preserves the environment.”

A difference indeed.

To learn more about welding majors and other degrees offered by Penn College’s School of Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520.

For more information on Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.