66632920b6a026811377be26 Airline La Salle

PLC programming course developed by Airline Hydraulics and Philadelphia school

June 7, 2024
La Salle Academy ignites 7th graders’ interest in STEM with after-school program

La Salle Academy, a private, independent catholic grade school in North Philadelphia, partnered with Airline Hydraulics, a local manufacturing company founded 75 years ago in Philadelphia, for an educational after-school STEM program designed for 7th graders. The program, led by Ed Brogan, application technology specialist at Airline Hydraulics, gave students hands-on experience in the basics of industrial computer systems using programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to control sensors and monitor devices.

The STEM program introduced students to the basic concepts of PLC programming. It began with the fundamentals of wiring and assembling electronic components and explaining the difference between dc electronics and ac power. Throughout the course, students learned how to program a traffic-light intersection simulator.

"The students are wonderful,” said Brogan. “It was a fantastic experience for me, and I think it was an enjoyable experience for them, especially after a long school day, we would get up and move to the application room for hands-on activities. That was the key to the class—it had to be hands-on."

The program's practical applications made complex concepts relatable to the students. In addition to the traffic-light demo, they learned how to write programs to stimulate a mixer, like those used in making slushies at convenience stores. This method ensures students are learning and thoroughly engaging with the material.

Student experiences

Students loved the program. Sherrell, a participant, said: "For me, it was really about the building. Once I figured out how to program it, it was less confusing. Mr. Brogan explained it well, and I got the hang of it."

Angel, another student, shared: "It was really great. We did programs to make a traffic light, and it was actually kind of fun. It took a lot of work, but it was worth it."

Michael ShackelfordPeña-Taylor II, a 7th-grade teacher at La Salle Academy, emphasized the program's importance: "This was a great experience for the class. It was a blessing that Airline Hydraulics was able to come in and do this for us. It helped kickstart our engineering curriculum and opened up new possibilities for our students, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds in STEM fields."

The program ended with a pizza-party celebration featuring professionals from Airline Hydraulics, including Mark Steffens, CEO, Martin Migliori, fluid systems engineering manager, and Joelle Andres-Beck, fluid systems engineer. They shared inspiring stories about their career paths and demonstrated the use of a 3D printer, which left the students intrigued and excited about engineering.

Looking forward

Because of its impact on the students, Airline Hydraulics will return to La Salle Academy for the next school year, teaching a different 15-week course to a group of 15-30 7th-grade students. As Airline Hydraulics continues to celebrate its 75th anniversary, it remains devoted to inspiring young minds and shaping a brighter future through STEM education. This partnership with La Salle Academy is one of many planned initiatives to make STEM education accessible and thrilling for students of all backgrounds.

"Our goal is to provide a hands-on, practical learning experience that inspires students to explore the intriguing world of manufacturing and consider careers in this dynamic and rapidly evolving field,” noted Airline Hydraulics’ Steffens. “We firmly believe that future engineers will thrive by embracing their creativity and problem-solving skills."

Opened in 2003, La Salle Academy exclusively serves children from low-income families in West Kensington and Philadelphia, from grades three through eight, with a focus on small class sizes and an extended school calendar. Entirely supported by donations, the school charges a nominal tuition fee. The Graduate Support Program helps students through high school. Airline Hydraulics provides hydraulic, pneumatic, automation and control products.

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