WILKES-BARRE — The dignitaries mulled about the lobby noshing on snacks and stopping at a temporary bar while waiting for the dedication of the new Mark Engineering Center at Wilkes University. But on the other side of a glass wall, eager students were already 3-D printing a stealth jet, dragon, Corvette insignia, and a cellphone holder shaped like an octopus arm.
“We just got in here for the first time a few hours ago,” senior Nick Bidwell beamed as one inexpensive printer was putting out a 3-D image of a palm-size cat.
Jarrett McSpirit-Brush, also a senior mechanical engineering student, sat at the controls of a more sophisticated printer, fiddling with multiple images on a screen that represented that jet, dragon, octopus and a few other things. He was trying to arrange them so they would all fit into a small space that represented the printer’s chamber, so he and his classmates could get as many things printed in one run as possible.
Outside, during the dedication ceremony, state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Nanticoke, started his comments with what would be a recurring source of jokes, the bar. With state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski standing next to him, Yudichak quipped that Pashinski, a Wilkes graduate, had said “This wasn’t his first kegger on the Fenner Quadrangle, but it’s the best.”
Assistant Mechanical Engineering Professor Carole Baddour continued the theme during her remarks. “I hope the students here realize the bar is not a permanent thing.”
Yudichak and Pashinski helped secure a $3 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant from the state. Coupled with $5 million from the university, including a major donation from Randy and Robin Mark, it paid for a complete redo of one wing of the Stark Learning Center.
The center now boasts two large flex engineering labs, the already busy “additive manufacturing” lab with at least seven 3-D printers, a hallway lined with small “collaboration rooms,” and high performance computers.
Yudichak insisted the investment is making Wilkes-Barre “a magnet for entrepreneurs and corporations.” Baddour — who quipped that her family of engineers “does not have reunions, we have symposiums” — said the center fulfills the university’s goal to help each student “reach their potential, then challenge them to use that to accomplish great things.”
‘Create excellence every day’
Student Jeffrey Lisk recounted his own tragedy with his mother dying when he was 17, prompting him to drop out of school and lose direction until he met the woman he will marry this Sunday, at the age of 35. He now has two associate degrees, a degree soon from Wilkes and a patent pending on a new type of body armor he devised at the school. The lab space “will give students the excitement to learn, and the opportunity,” he said.
Wilkes President Patrick Leahy noted the new center looks out through a wall of windows onto the revamped Fenner Quadrangle and the gateway walk that connects the campus from Stark to South Main Street. “This puts engineering on display right in the heart of the campus,” he said. “It’s a bold statement that Wilkes will remain relevant in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.”
Randy Mark, a Wilkes graduate who started and runs Pulverman manufacturing in Dallas, recapped a life that began helping staple boxes in his parents’ laundry business, and included a stint in the Navy when he learned how to suture cuts. When a cook came in with a gash in his hand “he said ‘I never had stitches before,’ and I said ‘don’t worry, I’ve never done them before’. True story.”
Mark said his biggest successes came from always trying new things, which in turn opened new opportunities. He held up a $100 bill and asked if any students wanted it. Hands were raised, but he noted: “None of you came up to take it.
“You need to take action,” Mark said. “You try to create excellence every day. That is our vision for this center.”
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish