CCAC Mechatronics student receives one of six $5,000 scholarships awarded nationally

Rich Carlson web
Article by: CCAC Public Relations

PITTSBURGH-Community College of Allegheny County student Rich Carlson received one of six 2017 PACK EXPO scholarships awarded in the U.S. and Canada in the amount of $5,000 from PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (formerly Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute). Carlson is the only recipient from Pennsylvania and the only student majoring in Mechatronics Technology to receive the scholarship. The other scholarship recipients are from Conestoga College, Rochester Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, Clemson University and University of Wisconsin.

"I'm honored. PMMI is a very important organization within the packaging industry," said Carlson of Monongahela, who is studying Mechatronics Technology at CCAC's West Hills Center in Oakdale. He also received a $2,000 scholarship from the Grainger Tools for Tomorrow Scholarship program.

Carlson, 50, who holds an associate degree in Electronics Engineering Technology, enrolled at CCAC in August 2016 to further his skills in mechatronics and gain expertise in fluid power and PLC (programmable logic controller)-skills that will help him advance in his field. He currently works for Phoenix First Response, a data acquisition and control development company, which serves the mining, tunneling and civil engineering industries.  

According to an article in Packaging+Processing OEM magazine (Oct. 2015), "Engineers continue to invent new ways to improve machine efficiency via mechatronics…But with OEMs embracing mechatronics as the norm, a properly trained educated operator is imperative. […]Employers today need multi-skilled workers to operate, maintain and troubleshoot equipment on the plant floor."

That is what prompted Carlson to return to college in his late 40s-upon entering West Hills Center, he knew he had made the right decision. Carlson was immediately impressed with CCAC's Mechatronics Technology program, particularly with the lab facilities. He is on track to complete his studies and receive his associate degree in December.

"The equipment is top notch, and the instructors are very thorough," he said. "Mechatronics covers such a vast number of different industries. The opportunities I currently have would not have happened had I not returned to college." 

To be considered for the PACK EXPO scholarship, students must attend a PMMI partner school, have at least one semester remaining in their college careers and hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants should be majoring in engineering, packaging, processing, mechatronics, or a related field and should demonstrate financial need. The scholarship recipients were announced at the PACK Gives Back benefit concert, which featured a performance by The Doobie Brothers on Sept. 25 at PACK EXPO in Las Vegas. 

For more information about CCAC's Mechatronics Technology program, visit

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