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    Local student produces unique senior project at Pennsylvania College of Technology

    Matthew S. Gleco of Shickshinny, a Pennsylvania College of Technology student, stands next to components of the polymer engineering impact tester he automated for his senior project. Gleco was scheduled to graduate on May 11 with a bachelor’s degree in automation engineering technology: mechatronics. Tom Speicher | Penn College

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    WILLIAMSPORT — Pennsylvania College of Technology electronics and automation students are known for inventive senior projects. The arduous capstone requires students to develop, design, justify and build a tangible product to impress faculty and an industry advisory board, according to a news release sent April 29.

    Consider Ken J. Kinley impressed with this spring’s projects. The assistant professor and department head shared that several students excelled and will benefit from the semester-long challenge.

    “The senior project is important because it is designed to incorporate everything the student has learned in their classes and labs – and in many cases also their internship – into one final endeavor that reflects the breadth and depth of their education,” Kinley said. “A successful senior project proves much more than a resume that the student is real-world ready.”

    Among the commendable work for this year’s projects, Kinley identified two for distinction: a plastic modular prosthetic arm developed by Julio C. Ocampo-Trujillo, of Landenberg, and an automated impact tester for polymer engineering devised by Matthew S. Gleco, of Shickshinny.

    At the time of the news release, both students were set to graduate on May 11 with bachelor’s degrees: Ocampo-Trujillo in automation engineering technology: robotics & automation and Gleco in automation engineering technology: mechatronics.

    “Julio’s project includes sensors, mechanical linkages, servo motors and coding and required countless hours of work,” Kinley said. “Matt had to collaborate with three departments to improve a system that has been in use for over 30 years.”

    Ocampo-Trujillo’s passion for medical robotics dates to high school, inspired in part by a neighbor who is an amputee. He made a “big, bulky metal” prosthetic arm two years ago but considers his senior project much improved over that version.

    “The really neat thing about my project is that it consists of three modules, so it can be taken apart,” he said. “I wanted to create something that’s more universal. In theory, that should help production be more streamlined than making a custom prosthetic. With mine, if you don’t need the elbow joint (module two) or the shoulder joint (module three), I can just pop them out and the prosthetic will work just fine. If you do need them, you can put them back in, and it will work just fine.”

    The first module of the prosthetic consists of the hand, fingers and forearm. It houses all the electronics for processing, allowing the user to reach, grasp and move objects.

    “The second and third modules are not required to operate the prosthetic. They simply add additional joint movement for the user, if necessary,” Ocampo-Trujillo said.

    Each 3D-printed module must have an individual electromyography sensor to operate.

    “For example, a person requiring a prosthetic for their hand and forearm would need one EMG sensor attached to their right or left bicep to control the prosthetic. If the person required additional modules, two more EMG sensors would be placed around the user’s body,” Ocampo-Trujillo explained.

    “Julio’s project is not directly tied to his courses; however, the knowledge he gained throughout the program allowed him to achieve his goal,” Kinley said. “It’s very impressive.”

    Gleco also went outside his comfort zone to automate an impact tester used by the college’s Plastics Innovation & Resource Center as well as polymer engineering technology students in the Shell Polymers Rotational Molding Center of Excellence. He consulted with Christopher J. Gagliano, PIRC director; Nathan A. Rader-Edkin, PIRC program manager; Howard W. Troup, assistant professor of automated manufacturing and machining; and Randall L. Moser, assistant professor of electronics & computer engineering technology.

    “The skills Matt showed in collaborating with different departments is a skill that is paramount in industry,” Kinley said.

    Gleco was exposed to the Association of Rotational Molders Low Temperature Impact Test last year in a mechatronics class. As part of that course, he and another student took the lead in fabricating aluminum housing for the unit. The tester consists of a 10-pound metal dart that is dropped onto a polyethylene specimen to evaluate its strength.

    Previously, users had to hold a rope at varying heights to drop the dart on the plastic material for testing. Thanks to Gleco, that’s no longer the case. His automated system — featuring a human machine interface and a programmable logic controller — improves the efficiency and consistency of the testing.

    The HMI provides the user interface, and the PLC is responsible for the control functions.

    “You think about lifting the impactor by a rope, you could accidently lift it a little higher or lower than you want, and those test results will be off from the set value,” Gleco said. “My system is designed for you to set the height value on the HMI screen, and it will automatically take the dart to that height. The PLC will control the drop automatically, so I’m hoping that it’s more repeatable and accurate and just easier to use when they’re doing their tests.”

    Gagliano is optimistic that will be the case.

    “Matt has done a fantastic job on the design, fabrication, assembly, wiring and programming of this device. The level of detail is impressive. I see a bright future ahead for him,” Gagliano said.

    Gleco has already accepted a full-time position with Berwick-based CoStream. The company provides IT services and consulting for municipal water systems.

    “My Penn College education exceeded my expectations,” Gleco said. “I appreciate it, and I’m grateful that I came here.”

    Ocampo-Trujillo also has secured a full-time job. He’ll work for custom machine builder and robotics integrator Farason Corp. in Coatesville.

    “Penn College really pushed my limits. But because I had so much stuff to do, it gave me more drive,” he said. “I like being busy. I don’t like just sitting in a classroom doing paperwork. I like being hands-on, so I’m very grateful.”

    “Julio and Matt are representative of the outstanding students we have at Penn College studying electronics and automation,” Kinley said. “I’m very confident that they will both enjoy career success.”

    For information about degrees related to electronics and automation, as well as other majors offered by Penn College’s School of Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520 or visit

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