Students enrolled in West Catholic Prep’s Engineering and Technology Academy (ETA) were fortunate to attend a regional manufacturing summit held recently in Philadelphia. The summit, hosted annually by the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center, convenes hundreds of area professionals of the manufacturing sector as part of National Manufacturing Day.
Joe Houldin, an alum of West Catholic Prep (’69), invited five ETA students to attend as guests of DVIRC. The summit focused heavily on technology innovation, manufacturing, and design, which gave West Catholic Prep students a unique opportunity to engage with interactive exhibits and demonstrations, network with engineering professionals, and learn from issue-specific speakers. Mr. Houldin is a founder of DVIRC in 1988 and a former board member who was instrumental in the creation of the West Catholic Prep Engineering Technology Academy.
While at the summit, students met with hundreds of companies’ staff who told the students about their work and answered students’ questions. They were also able to sit in on keynote speaker sessions, which allowed them to learn more about the education and skills needed to work in the manufacturing industry. Students also viewed interactive exhibits like a spaceship training module that was used by Alan Shepard, the first American to travel to space in 1961 and who later golfed on the moon in 1971.
Dr. Ryan Baxter, Director of West Catholic Prep’s ETA, accompanied the five students to the summit. His students say that Dr. Baxter finds many ways to make sure his students can take advantage of learning opportunities outside of the classroom, so they can then tie those experiences into their work at the lab. “We have attended the DVIRC Manufacturing Summit every year since the beginning of the Engineering Technology Academy at West Catholic Prep,” says Baxter. “Students always enjoy the exhibits and create strong connections with potential employers. I think the DVIRC event and others like it are key in the students’ career identity formation in engineering and manufacturing.”
For West Catholic Prep ETA Senior D’Andre Bassie (’19), the experience provided him with an opportunity to gain new exposure to a variety of companies and business leaders. “When I go to college in the fall, I plan to major in Engineering, but I’m not sure which type I want to specialize in,” said D’Andre. “Attending this summit and getting first-hand information from people who are already working in the engineering field, allowed me to get a better feel for the different areas of engineering; what being an engineer is; and how I can eventually become one.”
D’Andre said he also had the chance to ask questions of industry professionals, which gave him a better understanding of what companies look for when it comes to hiring future interns and employees.
Before entering West Catholic Prep’s Engineering Technology Academy, D’Andre knew very little about engineering, but he gravitated toward the program because some of his friends were already enrolled in it and thought he’d like it, too. They were right. Now he says the academy introduced him to a field where he thinks he has a real passion and he plans to pursue it as a possible profession.
“I love that the program is so hands-on,” said D’Andre. “I’ve also been exposed to so many different types of engineering, machining, mechanical, even electric and circuity.”
While this program has helped to shape his future, D’Andre said his high school experience goes well beyond ETA. “It isn’t just about academics and grades at West Catholic Prep, but it’s also about learning to live life in a way that encourages us to be our best and do good for others. There is always someone willing to push you and demand more of you.”
This experience has certainly paid off for D’Andre. After graduation in June, he will be majoring in engineering at one of the many universities that have already offered him admission, including Hofstra, Widener, and Penn State, where he has been accepted. Congratulations to D’Andre!
Learn more about West Catholic Prep’s Engineering Technology Academy