Pictured above: These 2014 graduates of Penn Yan Academy, all majoring in mechanical engineering in college, interned over the summer at Abtex Corp. in Dresden. From left are Billy Gerhardt, Daniel Gleason, Josh Kinsey and Rafael Colon.

DRESDEN — Rafael Colon, Billy Gerhardt, Daniel Gleason and Josh Kinsey are settling back into college life this week but still savoring their experiences from a summer internship that has them looking forward to careers in mechanical engineering.

The four students, all 2014 graduates of Penn Yan Academy and mechanical engineering majors in college, spent the summer working at Abtex Corp. in Dresden (see accompanying article). Colon, Gerhardt and Gleason are now in their senior year at Alfred State College, while Kinsey is a senior at nearby Alfred University.

“Interning here made me realize I was in the right major. I was doing things in the real world that I want to be doing in my career,” said Gerhardt, who interned at Abtex for the second summer. “I did a lot of machine design and shop work and got the feeling of designing something and applying it. That’s a good feeling to see it come together.”

Jason Saner, Abtex’s vice president of sales and marketing, said the interns were doing far more than observing company engineers and employees.

“What’s interesting about this group is that we’ve had interns before, but never this large of a group and never in the same class. That is pretty unique,” he said. “They got really good preparation at Penn Yan Academy, and we visited their tech department and teacher, Mr. [John] Giglio, who does a nice job. They’ve done what can be categorized as traditional intern work, but these guys have also been out on the floor working shoulder to shoulder with guys who have been here more than 20 years.”

Colon became interested in mechanical engineering through his love of math. Like Gerhardt, he interned at Abtex for the second year.

“A lot of what we did is generate prints for the parts machine. We also worked with a model to make sure it’s all up to par and nothing got missed by the lead engineer,” he said. “I was comfortable here.”

Gleason, whose father (Steve) works at Abtex, interned at the company for the first time. Interestingly, his interest in mechanical engineering came in part from something many children enjoy — building Legos.

“I loved putting them together. I loved the design. I always took the instructions and threw those away and tried to build what I could by just looking at the box,” he said. “I liked the design aspect here (at Abtex) — shaping and remodeling parts. You are at a desk one day and out on the shop the next. You take problems and try to solve them.”

Like Colon and Gerhardt, Kinsey interned at Abtex for the second time. He has accepted a job offer to work for the company full time after graduating next year.

“For me, it was great to be close to home. Not a lot of guys get the opportunity to do that, and it’s a great place to work,” he said. “At a larger company you wouldn’t be able to do 15 different things. You get isolated and become really good at one thing. Here you could be designing something one day, and the next day you are the floor making it. It doesn’t get boring.”

Last summer, Saner took Colon and Kinsey well away from Dresden for a job that provided invaluable experience.

“I had them in Mexico for a really complicated job. The conditions were not good down there,” he said. “They got to see the market for what it is, and sometimes it’s not pretty.”

While the schoolmates are getting back in the swing of things at college, they believe they are better prepared because of their internships.

“What I learned over this summer is probably the equivalent of what I learned at school, honestly,” Gleason said.

“Everyone here is awesome. It made my time here a lot better,” Gerhardt added. “It turned out to be the greatest thing I could have done.”

“This bridged the gap between all the theoretical stuff you learn in school and applying it in the real world,” Kinsey said. “It was an absolutely great experience.”

Saner said Abtex also benefited from the interns, who may do some work for the company during college breaks.

“These guys have the intelligence and the maturity to work like an adult. You are adding instant bandwidth when you have guys like this,” he said. “You get more product to the market and address things on the customer end. These guys added bandwidth.”

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