Jun 13, 2023

Penn College students make fixtures for global company

Jun 15, 2023

PHOTO PROVIDEDAs part of a class project, students from Pennsylvania College of Technology’s School of Engineering Technologies designed and manufactured aluminum fixtures for Construction Specialties. The plates will facilitate the welding of expansion joints and other extrusions at the company’s facility in Muncy. Those students included (left to right) Cody A. Patchell, of State College; Stephen F. Goodwin, of Ellicott City, Maryland; Bryan K. Parsons, of Williamsport; Jonathan T. Brelsford, of Jersey Shore; and Gabriel McKeon, of Williamsport.

A simple question from a Pennsylvania College of Technology instructor resulted in a class project benefiting Construction Specialties, a global company with local ties.

Students in Howard W. Troup’s Fixture Design & Fabrication class recently delivered eight custom-made fixtures to Construction Specialties. The aluminum plates will facilitate the welding of expansion joints and other extrusions at the company’s facility in Muncy.

“It’s best for students to work with situations like this so that they can make an impact by solving a problem and making somebody’s life easier,” said Troup, instructor and co-department head of automated manufacturing & machining. “I think the project made them realize that they can make a difference in somebody’s work.”

A longtime supporter of Penn College, Construction Specialties is a family-owned building products manufacturer with over 2,000 employees and a worldwide customer base. Its products and solutions have been used in several iconic structures, including the Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Opera House, the Seattle Space Needle, and the world’s tallest building — the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in the United Arab Emirates.

The origin of the Penn College project dates to the fall semester when Troup guided a contingent of Construction Specialties officials on a tour of the Larry A. Ward Machining Technologies Center. When Troup asked company representatives if they needed any custom-made fixtures, there was immediate interest.

“We were quick to say yes to another opportunity because CS always looks forward to working with Penn College students,” said Ted Taylor, Construction Specialties human resources business partner. “Plus, the company is focused on facility and equipment improvements that help CS colleagues be successful.”

The positive response from the company prompted Troup to visit Construction Specialties’ Muncy plant, where he found the perfect fixtures for his students to create. Welder Joey Paulhamus was using 90-degree-angle plates to secure 45-degree expansion joints, which absorb the movement of building materials. The angle mismatch required several clamps, resulting in a cumbersome welding process.

Troup proposed that his students manufacture fixtures that welders could adjust for different angles to make that process more efficient. A project was born.

Late in the fall semester, Troup had two of his automated manufacturing technology students — Ethan C. Burkholder, of McMurray, and Kaleb R. LeVan, of York — make prototypes of the fixtures. The duo machined the prototypes from blocks of aluminum that Construction Specialties had previously donated to the college.

The prototypes were approved when Troup returned to Construction Specialties this spring.

“Joey really liked them,” Troup said of the company’s welder. “He just suggested that we use a turnbuckle for the plate’s adjuster and machine lines into the plates to help him visually align his extrusion on the fixtures.”

Those tasks became the responsibility of Troup’s spring semester cohort. Six students employed conversational CNC machines to produce eight 6-by-12-inch plates. Half the plates are fixed, and the other four are adjustable.

Gabriel McKeon and Bryan K. Parsons, both of Williamsport and majoring in metal fabrication technology, served as project leaders.

“The most challenging part was getting all the intricate pieces to work cohesively with one another,” McKeon said. “It required a great deal of foresight in order to have everything work smoothly. Being the most challenging meant it was my favorite part.”

“I couldn’t be prouder of the students and their work,” Troup said. “They spent a lot of time outside of class getting these done. The fixtures we made will better support and locate the extrusions for welding.”

Construction Specialties agreed with that sentiment when Troup and the students presented the plates at the end of the semester.

“Joey shook all the students’ hands and thanked them very much,” Troup said. “That’s why I wanted the students to deliver the fixtures in person. I wanted them to see the impact. The students learned that you must build relationships with people on the plant floor because that’s where efficiency happens. When you make their job easier and show effort in trying to help them, they’re going to worker harder in return. And then everybody benefits from that.”

“Making anyone’s day-to-day operations faster, easier or more efficient brings me great joy,” McKeon added. “Knowing that I had an impact on just an individual, but also a system of production, is a great honor.

“This project is a big part on why I won’t be stopping my education at an associate degree and will be coming back in the fall for my bachelor’s (in applied technology studies).”

The other students who produced the second iteration of fixtures were Jonathan T. Brelsford, of Jersey Shore; Riley R. Collins, of Phoenixville; Stephen F. Goodwin, of Ellicott City, Maryland; and Cody A. Patchell, of State College. Collins and Patchell are seeking bachelor’s degrees in applied technology studies. Brelsford is majoring in machine tool technology. Goodwin is a welding & fabrication engineering technology student.

Troup plans to return to Construction Specialties this summer to determine if the fixtures require any modifications. If so, a new group of students will tackle that project during the fall semester.

In addition to partnering with Penn College for various projects, Construction Specialties is a Corporate Tomorrow Maker and a member of the Visionary Society.

For more information on Construction Specialties, visit

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