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CEB Students Participate in Ornament Challenge

Dean: Dr. Karinna Vernaza, Student: Brandon Eller and Alumnus: Jim Rutkowski Jr. '83

Dean: Dr. Karinna Vernaza, Student: Brandon Eller and Alumnus: Jim Rutkowski Jr. '83

Gannon Alum Manufactures Project for Holiday Season

For the second year, a Gannon University alumnus and local business owner has partnered with students from the College of Engineering and Business (CEB) to participate in the CEB Ornament Challenge – and just in time for the holidays. 

Jim Rutkowski Jr. a 1983 Mechanical Engineering graduate, University trustee and General Manager of Industrial Sales Manufacturing (ISM), said he “is honored to give the students some real world design experience.”

The Ornament Challenge facilitated by the Mechanical Engineering Department and Center for Advanced Engineering, was launched in September enabling the students’ time to get their sketches and designs submitted so the ornaments can be crafted for holiday gifts. 

While the Ornament Challenge was open to students enrolled in all Engineering disciplines, this year’s winners are Mechanical Engineering undergraduates. 

Taking first place for his “Merry Christmas GU” design is Gannon senior Brandon Aller of Erie.  Beth Schumacher, a Gannon junior of Phoenix, AZ, won second place for her snow globe depiction of Old Main.    

According to Dr. Robert Michael, PE, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, “the students used computer aided design (CAD) programs such as Fusion 360, SolidWorks and Pro/Engineer Creo.” He said “students submitted designs, using both sophisticated 3D CAD packages and hand sketches.” Depending on the complexity of their design, the students spent from 10 to 40 hours creating the ornaments. 

The winning first and second-place Christmas ornaments will be laser cut with ISM equipment. 

Through this alumni-student-professor partnership, the CEB Ornament Challenge provides students the opportunity to hone their skills in a workplace environment.     

“Industrial Sales & Manufacturing is always willing to lend a hand,” said Rukowski.

“It is truly a great collaboration that gives the students some real world experience. This tangible process gives them a concrete example when being interviewed. This project is truly a ‘wow piece’ when you can show this to a potential employer, or share on social media.”

The winning ornaments will be available for sale for $5 each online at, and at the Gannon University Bookstore. Proceeds from the ornament sale will go to the College of Engineering and Business. 

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