As a high school student, Karl Kestner nurtured his interest in designing and building through classes such as robotics, computer-aided drafting and manufacturing, and he participated in two robotics competitions – VEX and BEST. Those experiences, coupled with the fact that engineering was in his blood – his grandfather had been an engineer and Kestner was able to study some of his old drawings – affirmed that engineering was the right path for him.

He expects to graduate from PennWest California in spring 2025 with a bachelor’s degree in mechatronics engineering. Kestner has interned the past two summers with Franklin Bronze Precision Components in his hometown of Franklin to give his classroom work practical application.

“Franklin Bronze Precision Components is an investment casting foundry. That is where a part is made out of wax, a ceramic shell is made around the part, the wax is melted out, and the metal is poured in,” Kestner said. “After the shell is cooled, it is broken off, and the parts are cleaned.”

The human resources manager at Franklin Bronze had put out word that he sought juniors and seniors for internships. Kestner was just finishing his freshman year, but he contacted the manufacturer and asked if he could send in his resume. He was accepted for the internship and has worked there for two summers.

“A lot of the work I do is prototyping and completing process tests, where I change something about the production process to fix issues that cause defects in the casting. I sometimes do CAD drawings for new parts/gates and for replacement parts for our machines. I also occasionally help out in production; this helps me understand how parts are made and what to account for in the design process,” Kestner said. “Lately, I've been using the resin 3D printer to prototype parts to use in process tests. We already had the settings for the slicer and printer figured out, but I've had to learn how to prepare the models themselves through trial and error and help from the internet.”

His work at Franklin Bronze has helped him learn how to properly account for the properties of materials – part shrinkage – when designing parts. The company recently purchased a robot to automate part of the grinding process, and Kestner had valuable conversations with the engineer who installed the robot.

“One conversation that stood out to me was about how you won’t learn everything you need to know for your job at school. Going to college for engineering gives you a strong baseline to build off of,” Kestner said. “A lot of what you need to know will be learned on the job.”

The exchange eased some of Kestner’s worries about his preparedness for the future.

“I realized I might enjoy working at a company like Franklin Bronze, designing parts and maybe even programming the robots to accommodate new parts,” Kestner said. 

When he isn’t busy with school, he enjoys playing video games and Dungeons and Dragons. On Sundays when he’s at home, he is part of his church’s audiovisual team, operating the cameras for the livestream and running the sound board.