A little collaboration led to some savings and a lot of experience as PennDOT's Warren County maintenance and students from the Warren County Career Center teamed up for two projects this spring.
In the welding shop, students repaired about a dozen leafless vane grates. A few doors down, the machine students helped fabricated and equal number of delineator drivers.
"It may have seemed like a little project to you, but it's huge to us," Warren County Maintenance Manager Adam Elms told the students during a recent visit to the school.
He estimates the grates cost about $250 each and the drivers another $125 apiece. But the savings goes beyond the monetary value of those items.
The county has one welder. Not having to work on the grates, means the welder has time to take on other needed projects.
Plus, it gave the students in grades 10 to 12 some real-world experience, their teacher Nate McNett said. "The worked together almost in an assembly line," McNett said of his class's grate welding efforts.
"Every grate you made will be out of the roads this summer," Elms told the teens.
The machinery teacher Colton Black also made sure all his students had a chance to contribute to the collaboration by making one of the drivers. Making the items meant writing code for a machine to turn a solid metal cylinder into a cap fit to the exact needs of the delineator base. "There's a lot of work building up to it," he said of the final 20-minute step done by the machine.
"Each foreman crew will have one," Elms told the students about the outcome of their work.
The cap is used to drive the delineator base into the ground, a process that is done manually by maintenance crews as needed throughout the summer. Without the cap, the base could become distorted as it is being hammered into the ground. Without the base, there is no delineator to help warn motorists about curves and other possible hazards along the road.
"We appreciate your efforts," Elms said. "They are important to safety."
It is the first year for the collaboration, which was born out of a visit to the career center earlier this school year.
"The school had an open house. We toured the facility, got a feel for the school's capacity and came up with possible partnership opportunities." Elms said.
Talks are already in the works about how to expand on the success of the spring collaborations.
During his more recent tour, Elms was joined by District 1 Executive Brian McNulty, who thanked the students and spoke about employment opportunities with the state.
"A lot of people don't know what we do, but it is so much more than plowing and paving roads," he said, pointing out how the grates are an example of work PennDOT routinely does. "We are always looking for good candidates for a variety of positions. Keep up in mind in the future. And thank you for helping us serve the Warren County community."