WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — More than 300 students are in the welding program at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport. Officials at Penn College say the welding lab's recent 35,000 square-foot expansion makes it the largest welding educational facility in the nation.
"Students find it amazing, just the amount of technology they have access to. Many students haven't seen these types of things before," said Brad Webb, dean of engineering technologies.
The new welding equipment came in earlier this year. Shortly after it arrived, students were sent home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, they are finally getting to use the new equipment.
"They all want to jump in and start using it, so we're slowly now getting it back up and running with the COVID situation we have going on," said Michael Allen, a welding instructor at Penn College.
The new space gives students plenty of space to social distance. Welding and other classes are nearly impossible to do online, so Penn College is going with the theme, "If you want hands-on, you need masks on."
"You can't fix a diesel engine remotely. You have to be there to do it. Our students recognize for them to learn, we have to abide by these policies, we have to make sure we have a safe campus," Webb said.
Penn College has incentives for students showing good behavior, such as monthly prize drawings. As of now, the school has had fewer than 25 positive cases of COVID-19. Instructors believe that's because students realize the importance of being here in person.
"Some of the stuff we can do online, but most of the time, it's hands-on, and they learn way better doing it that way," Allen added.