Alumni in industry provide valuable equipment, materials to Plastics Engineering Technology program 

An innovative product design created by seniors in the Plastics Engineering Technology program for a seminar course is the latest example of how donations by alumni working in industry make a big impact. 

PET seniors Connor Adams (Galena), Tabitha Claeys (Pittsburg), Autumn England (Pittsburg), Tucker Haynes (Carl Junction), and Kaedra Brenner (Wichita) conceptualized and 3D-printed a plastic clothes hanger that can accommodate both an adult-sized and child-sized clothing item.  

“Their ultimate goal was to create an object using injection molding,” said Assistant Professor Dan Spielbusch. 

That, of course, requires a mold — and molds are expensive. 

Enter Nick Homan (BST, ‘15), who now works for DME Company — the premier global supplier of mold bases, mold components, molding supplies, and other technologies — and advocated to the company to donate a mold to Pittsburg State. 

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“It was a significant donation,” said Spielbusch. 

Holman said when he learned of the need, he immediately saw the value. 

“I know how important it is for students to have access to something like this,” he said, “because I was a student here myself, and learning with industry-level equipment is what helped prepare me for the workforce.” 

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Holman works as a regional sales manager for DME and is one of many alumni to have arranged for a way to give back to the PET program. 

"We are fortunate to have many graduates that remember their PSU roots,” said Engineering Technology Department Chair Greg Murray. “They are now in positions that allow them to give back in the form of corporate donations of equipment, material, and software. Thanks to these generous donors, our students are able to train on the latest technology, which fully prepares them for successful careers." 

Donations of equipment, materials, and software in recent years include: 

  • Mike Mirocke: a new Engel injection molding machine every four years. 
  • Darien Stancell: new iMFLUX software and hardware for optimizing the injection molding process 
  • Mike McGrew: working to get a Sidel Reheat/Stretch/Blow molding machine donated from Alpha Plastics Packaging 
  • Steve Sikorski: SigmaSoft software 
  • Jake Chambers/Vector Tool & Engineering: new cavities for the frisbee mold 
  • Kevin Griner (being awarded Distinguished Service Award this spring): Rotogran Granulator, SRS Granulator, Blender  
  • Todd Riley: Initial donation of Gorilla mold while at R&D Leverage, and in Fall 2021 for modifying the same mold while at Creative Mold 
  • Al Brown, Justin Lumbley, Randy Karleskint/Chevron Phillips: In the process of donating several hundred pounds (possibly a thousand or more) of polyethylene resin for the new blown and cast film extrusion lines 
  • Joe Piccini/Reiloy Rifenhauser: donated a new screw for the Kautex blow molder more and helped with repair of the Kautex barrel in Fall 2021 
  • Joe Dodd/Silgan Dispensing: an injection mold and HDPE resin 

“It’s really nice to have the donations and industry connections we do,” Adams said. “It sort of sets our program apart. Everywhere you look out in industry, there are Pitt State alumni, and they’re willing to help us out.” 

That includes Sikorski, president of SigmaSoft, where Adams has lined up a job after graduation. 

“We may be a smaller size school, but we have access to great things, and it means a lot as a student,” England said. 

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Next: students in PSU’s Manufacturing Engineering Technology program will mill out the mold using equipment in their department. The plastics team will then inject it with resin to produce the unique hangers, and students in PSU’s Graphics and Imaging Technologies program will design and produce packaging. 

“It’s exciting to see a project develop through each step, right here in the Kansas Technology Center, from start to finish,” said Brenner. “And to be able to complete a real product, without having to fundraise, is pretty amazing.”

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