Phillip Seidenstricker’s classroom is a big place. With 3D modeling tools. And welding equipment. And robots.
Four afternoons a week during the school year, the Engineering Technology student exchanged his lab at Tolles Career & Technical Center for the 40,000 square foot manufacturing center at Autotool, where he works in the office as a mechanical engineering intern. There he’s learning how to design jigs for automotive parts using the latest technology. It’s a paid internship that extended into the summer, giving the high school senior a boost to both his skill set and his checking account.
It’s an incredible opportunity for someone who has long known what he wants to do. That’s why Seidenstricker chose Tolles in the first place—so he could start working in his field sooner, rather than waiting until college or beyond.
“I’ve known since eighth grade that I wanted to go to Tolles,” he said. “I’m a hands-on learner, and being able to do hands-on work got me interested in coming here.”
So much so that the Jonathan Alder student started as a sophomore, rather than as a traditional junior. Starting early will give Seidenstricker three years to complete his engineering coursework so he can devote more time to learning on the job at Autotool.
Engineering is a broad field, but the opportunities at Tolles helped Seidenstricker quickly narrow down his field of study to mechanical engineering. “I’m really interested in the manufacturing side of it; aspects like CNC machines, 3D printers and SolidWorks,” he said.
In fact, he learned how to use SolidWorks, a 3D modeling software program, at Autotool. When Tolles acquired the program, he helped teach his class how to use it.
But the experiences Seidenstricker is gaining in the field extend far beyond mastering advanced software programs. Seidenstricker is part of a team, meaning he’s learning about workflow, how to collaborate and communicate, and how to troubleshoot.
“Instead of working on my own little project, I am working with everyone on a project. There are set deadlines, and it’s more busy than in a classroom because you have to get more done in a short amount of time,” he said.
The work he’s doing also has grander applications than a classroom project. Seidenstricker is assisting with light duty design work that will eventually be translated into actual car parts. That’s a huge responsibility, and Seidenstricker is clearly excelling in the field.
“From what I’ve observed, Phillip is very professional and has understood the Engineering Design software to the point that he’s been given some light duty design work with minimal guidance,” said Bassam Homsi, president of Autotool. “On more than one occasion he has presented in front of a group of people, and he was impeccable. He has both the technical skills and the communication skills so that, whatever he decides to do, he’ll go a long way.”
For Seidenstricker, Tolles is providing the knowledge, support and opportunities he needs to get a lift on his career. He’ll be at the front of a wave of graduates in a high demand and growing field. “Tolles is a great place to actually find out what you want to do,” Seidenstricker said. “I knew I wanted to do engineering, but I didn’t know what type. Now I know I want to do mechanical, and I enjoy doing it. I’m happy to go to work every day.”