A century of cars

A century’s worth of development – that’s what Pennsylvania College of Technology celebrated during its automotive centennial on Friday.

To mark the 100th anniversary of its automotive education program, the college hosted talks from industry professionals and a horseless carriage car show.

The idea for the celebration came from Colin W. Williamson, dean of transportation and natural resources technologies.

“He’s really the brain behind today’s celebration. He came to us and suggested that we needed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the automotive program,” Penn College President Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour said in an address to the college’s guests. “He will tell you, although there are a few in the audience who might argue with him, that it is the oldest program in the college. For today’s celebration, we’ll just leave it at that.”

Williamson’s goal was to celebrate the history of the institution and show how far the program has come since its inception in 1914.

“I want you go to back in history 100 years,” he said. “We had a technology explosion going on in the world of transportation. Everything that you can think of, pretty much, was either ending or beginning or in the middle (of developing). It was a tremendous time.”

The day began with the corporate historian for Ford Motor Co., Robert Kreipke, addressing a group of automotive students on the history of the automobile industry.

Throughout his address, Kreipke noted the development of the car industry at Ford and how it related to the history of the college. He remarked that, in 1913, the invention of the moving assembly line allowed production at Ford factories to go from 12 units a day to 1,000 units a day. This created a demand for more workers and higher pay for those workers.

“The whole thing was kind of a spiraling effect, all happening in the decade that your school came online,” he said.

“In just one decade, the automobile took over … and we needed people to service those automobiles: you people,” he added.

After Kreipke’s recollection of the past, Dr. Venkatesh Prasad, Ford Research and Innovation group and senior technical leader for vehicle design and infotronics, analyzed the industry’s future.

Prasad focused on the innovation of computer technology and how open sources can be used to improve vehicles.

He cited windshield wiper blades as an unexpected source of information. The blades, he said, could be used to send out signals as to whether they are operating. The information could provide drivers nearby with weather updates.

The horseless carriage car show on the campus mall, showcasing classic cars, and a luncheon followed the morning talks.

After the car show, the speakers addressed a group of distinguished guests and alumni.

At the end of the day, the college hosted a reception for the guests, featuring a specialty cake designed by the school’s culinary students.

As the school celebrates the milestone, it looks forward to continued success in the automotive department.

“The story of the American automotive and the history of this college have been entwined for these past hundred years, and I have no doubt that these years ahead will be every bit as exciting as the last hundred years,” Gilmour said.