Expo Brings Connecticut Students, Manufacturers Together


More than 300 students explore pathways to manufacturing and engineering

By Lesia Winiarskyj

Representatives of CBIA member company UniMetal meet with students at Pathways to Manufacturing and Engineering Technology, a career expo that drew more than 300 students to Tunxis Community College.

Jesus Montalvo told a packed room of students, teachers, and reporters how he took a hobby: drag racing: and built a small but profitable business from it. The owner of Connecticut-based Stunts Motorsports, a niche-market company that designs and produces diffuser plates, chrome accessories, and other parts for dragster cars, Montalvo was one of dozens of speakers at Pathways to Manufacturing and Engineering Technology, a career expo that drew more than 300 students to Tunxis Community College on April 27.

The half-day expo was sponsored by the Connecticut Community Colleges’ College of Technology’s Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing (RCNGM), a National Science Foundation Center of Excellence. CBIA’s Education Foundation coordinated the event.

Students from 11 high schools attended demonstrations and exhibits by over 25 Connecticut manufacturers: as well as workshops on digital manufacturing, CNC machining, rapid prototyping, laser scanning, fuel cells, electric vehicle technology, and jet engine design.

Leading the presentations were entrepreneurs like Montalvo as well as representatives from UTC Power, ebm-Papst, and GE Energy.

Seeing What’s Possible

Montalvo knows the value of advanced technology training and a solid, business-driven curriculum. In fact, he sees it from two different perspectives: that of a business owner and a student. A senior at Hartford’s A.I. Prince Technical High School, he is graduating this month and headed for UConn in the fall, where he plans to study mechanical engineering.

“He has always kept his nose to the grindstone, and he’s doing what he loves,” says Jim Clarke, automated manufacturing department head at Prince Tech. “He just sent one of his custom parts: a tow hook: to S&W Race Cars. It’s gorgeous. The bottom line is he has fun.”

“This expo generated so much enthusiasm among students,” said Steve Socolosky, who teaches technology, pre-engineering, and automotive classes at East Hartford High School (EHHS). “They were really impressed with what’s available and the careers they could pursue. Several of them attended the laser cutting and rapid prototyping workshop and now want me to look into getting a laser and rapid prototyping machine for our engineering classes.”

“I’m definitely interested in the technology,” said Robert Rivera, a first-year engineering student at EHHS. “I want to know more about SolidWorks and CAD [computer-aided design].”

Classmate Natalie McGhee, who plans to enlist in the Army, agreed. “I like to see what’s happening in engineering and energy.”

“It’s About Networking”

Al Belyeu, a member of East Hartford High’s robotics team, R.A.G.E. 173, spent as much time as possible talking to presenters and exhibitors. “I’m here to learn about career pathways, internships, and job openings,” he said, “and what types of degrees and certifications you need.”

Dr. Karen Wosczyna-Birch, executive director of the RCNGM, is encouraged by the positive response. “There is an immediate need for highly skilled workers if the state’s manufacturers are to remain competitive. This expo helps students see firsthand that manufacturing is innovative and high-tech and that it offers many rewarding career choices.”

Ben Russell, head of the manufacturing department at Bristol Technical Education Center, brought 62 students to the expo. “It’s about networking,” he said. “You can have these young people in school all day, but nothing drives home the importance of what they’re learning like meeting people from a variety of industries, talking to them, finding out what they need and what they have to offer.”

Lesia Winiarskyj is a writer/editor at CBIA. She can be reached at lesia.winiarskyj@cbia.com.

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