Conferences offer opportunities for students

Industry conferences and annual meetings are a vital resource for professionals, allowing them to come together and learn about the latest research and innovation in their fields of study.

They are a valuable learning experience for students, too, offering them the chance to present their research work and to make connections with industry professionals.

Three Penn State Behrend Psychology students—Mason McGuire, Tiffany Eichler, and Mitchell Weber—recently attended the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society’s conference in Philadelphia with Dr. Heather Lum, assistant professor of psychology.

While there, the students presented posters reflecting their research work about virtual reality in gaming and whether playing Pokeman can improve spatial recognition.

“Participating in poster sessions really helps them develop the softer skills of psychology, like talking about their research and explaining the methods and findings,” Lum said. “It’s important that they be able to communicate what they have learned.”

During the three-day event, students attended a variety of seminars and talks, including a panel discussion with Lum and recent psychology alumna, Grace Waldfogle, who is a graduate student at the University of Central Florida.

Two other Behrend Psychology alumni—Richard Greatbatch and Jacob Benedict—also graduate students, were at the conference, too.

The alumni and students met up after the conference for an informal Penn State Behrend reunion of sorts.

“The interesting thing is that all of three of the alums made their first contact with their chosen graduate school at this conference when they attended the conference as undergraduate Behrend students,” Lum said.

“That’s why I like to bring students to professional conferences,” she said. “Not only does it expose them to the world of psychology and the jobs available in the field, but it also gets their name out there.”

The students travel was funded by grants from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and Penn State University.

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PLET students’ final days in Denmark, Sweden

Guest Post by Molly Joyce, senior Plastics Engineering Technology major

No matter how vivid the photos or descriptive the lecture, there’s nothing quite like seeing and experiencing another country in person. And, in today’s increasingly global business climate, it’s vital that students be versed in the culture and business practices of international partners. There is much to be learned from seeing how others do it. That’s why, every year, students in the Plastics Engineering Technology (PLET) program have the opportunity to travel overseas to visit plastics companies and universities and attend a plastics trade show, too.

On Thursday, Oct. 18th, a group of PLET majors embarked on an 11-day trip to Denmark and Sweden. We asked student Molly Joyce to keep a travel log and tell us about the trip. Here is her report from the group’s final days:

Day 7 — Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Today was the ScanPack Trade show, which was just a few blocks away from our hostel. ScanPack is Scandinavia’s biggest trade fair for the packaging industry. As PLET students, we enjoyed free admission and we were quickly off in small groups to talk to some companies and learn about different career options.

My group made an effort to talk to some companies that were not plastics companies so that we could learn about other industries and see the logic or their reasoning for using other materials. For example, we talked to a company that manufactures motors for machines used in packaging or secondary operations and it was really neat to learn about the mechanics and the different types available.

It was also interesting to note that many companies are trying to go green and make their packaging more environmentally friendly. This is something that we have noticed is a large part of the culture over here. They have a lot of recycling bins for different materials and separate them, as opposed to the single stream recycling that we are used to in the United States.

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Students at ScanPack show

Day 8 — Thursday, October 25, 2018

We traveled from Gothenburg to Stockholm today. It was about a three-hour train ride. This transportation was nice because it was the fast track and had few stops and reserved seating. We did not, however, know that you had to reserve the seating so Mr. Meckley was running around 15 minutes before the train left to get us seats. It worked out and he ended up with 5 minutes to spare, but it was a little hectic. Good thing there were only nine of us because I imagine that would have been a lot more difficult with thirty people. When we got there, we checked into our hostel and set about roaming the new city and had a late lunch. I had Swedish meatballs because it only made sense. Then we explored the medieval museum.

Day 9 — Friday, October 26, 2018

Today, we were supposed to visit SSAB steel but they were closed due to maintenance issues. So we had a free day in Stockholm, which was nice because there is a lot to explore in this city and two-and-one-half days still wasn’t enough.

We toured the Vasa museum which was absolutely incredible. It had the world’s only rescued 17th century ship. We were doing well in Copenhagen using public transportation, but today….not so much. Luck was not in our favor and we may have gone the wrong way a few times and gotten off at the wrong location a time or two.  However, in the end, we ended up where we needed to be.

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Day 10 — Saturday, October 27, 2018

Today was our last day. We tried to pack in as much as we could. Both groups visited Skyview, which takes you in a globe on top of the world’s largest spherical building to get a view of the city. Then we went to Vikingaliv to see Viking culture and what life was like. It was really neat to see what they ate, how they built their houses, and just overall what life was like. Today was the final supper as well; all nine of us went to eat together. It was absolutely delicious!

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Day 11 — Sunday, October 28, 2018

Today was a very long travel day. After breakfast, we made a trek to the airport—walking, then a train, then another train. We got through security pretty easily, then we had a three-hour flight to Iceland with a short layover. Then we had another six-hour flight plane ride to Toronto. Once we landed, we spent about an hour getting through customs and such until we got to our final leg — a three-hour car ride from Toronto to Erie. We arrived home around midnight.

Final thoughts

Overall, this was an excellent experience that I think every student who has the opportunity should take. Plastics are a global thing, and different countries have different priorities or systems that we can use to further advance our industry in the United States. Getting the chance to experience different cultures and to learn from them is an excellent way to broaden your knowledge as an engineer.

I would like to give a special thank you, despite all the sass, to Mr. Jon Meckley, associate professor of engineering, and Dr. Gary Smith, lecturer in engineering, for all the hard work they put in to make this a memorable experience for us.

~ Molly

Plastics students visit Denmark

Guest Post by Molly Joyce, senior Plastics Engineering Technology major

Day 4 Sunday, October 21, 2018

The fourth day was a day that the students became experts in public transportation in Copenhagen. Not really, but a couple of us did successfully use the bus and subway a few times. This sounds like a simple task, but most of use are from rural areas back home without public transportation systems, and it was in a different language. We had some bumps along the way; we may have jumped on the right bus but it was going in the wrong direction, but we still arrived at our destination, and we (or I) considered it a successful feat. All of us, both students and professors, ended up climbing the Church of our Savior at one point or another. This meant climbing up very steep steps in cramped areas for about 20 minutes until you got to see an unforgettable view of the city. Another group of students learned the laws of the road for bicycles and biked to the Copenhagen zoo. In the afternoon, we took a train ride from Copenhagen to Fredericia. This gave us the opportunity to see a little bit of Denmark’s country side. Our hostel had a view of a pond and a “little” village.

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Day 5 Monday, October 22, 2018

LEGO day! Today, after a quick train and bus ride we arrived at LEGO headquarters. Usually, Mr. Meckley does a great job at transportation and getting us places. However, today was not his best day. I will give him that the building was under construction. Nonetheless, we walked in very cold weather for a bit. But we did find it after some touring of the city of Billund. It was amazing to see the LEGO factories surrounded by cow pastures. Our tour started with a quick history of the company LEGO, where we learned that it started as a wooden toy company by a carpenter. We learned about LEGO’s motto of ‘Learn through play’. They gave each of us a bag of six LEGOs. Then, they started the clock and told us we have 45 seconds to create a duck with these six pieces. It was interesting to see some of the different designs, some resembled a duck, one resembled a platypus, and we’re not really sure what Mr. Meckley was going for in his. Next, we got to tour the evolution of LEGO throughout the years. We met a design engineer that explained product development to us. It was neat to hear his story. He wanted to be a LEGO engineer since he was little, and emailed LEGO to ask about how to become one. They responded with a list of qualifications for the job title but could not guarantee a job at the end. Well, he completed those qualifications and ended up getting a job with them as soon as he graduated. It was clear to see that the employees at LEGO are passionate about what they do and the message they convey. Afterwards, we had lunch at their cafeteria, which made me want to be a LEGO employee, so I could eat their food every day because it was delicious. We then took a tour of one of the buildings. One building had 64 injection molding machines, and there were 12 buildings. That’s 768 injection molding machines!! The process they have for the LEGOs is efficient and minimizes human error. There are robots that take the parts from the press to the conveyor belt on the other end of the room. From there, we took another bus and train back to Copenhagen for our last night there. This was a night that the students had to book their own hostels so we all went our separate ways.

Day 6 Tuesday, October 23, 2018  

Today was a tour of the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). We had two awesome PHD students named Macerana and Sebastian to give us a tour and tell us what they do. They served some of the best pastries I’ve ever had at breakfast. The program we were learning about was Additive Manufacturing (AM), and they told us about their projects and gave us a tour of the lab. They are trying to make innovations in their fields, so they can share their knowledge in this topic. It was really neat to see they strongly believe that we need collaboration across universities and companies in order to expand our knowledge on areas in this field. Sebastian’s project was building a mock machine of one that already exists so he can modify it and see if it is replicable.

PLET students explore Denmark, Sweden

Guest Post by Molly Joyce, senior Plastics Engineering Technology major

No matter how vivid the photos or descriptive the lecture, there’s nothing quite like seeing and experiencing another country in person. And, in today’s increasingly global business climate, it’s vital that students be versed in the culture and business practices of international partners. There is much to be learned from seeing how others do it. That’s why, every year, students in the Plastics Engineering Technology (PLET) program have the opportunity to travel overseas to visit plastics companies and universities and attend a plastics trade show, too.

On Thursday, Oct. 18th, a group of PLET majors embarked on an 11-day trip to Denmark and Sweden. We asked student Molly Joyce to keep a travel log and tell us about the trip. Here is her report from the first three days:

Day 1 Thursday, October 18th, 2018

Today was a travel day. Our first leg was driving to the Toronto International airport. We then departed from Toronto, Canada, and flew to Copenhagen, Denmark, with a layover in Reykjavik, Iceland. We enjoyed sleep and movies on the plane and played cards during our layovers.

Day 2 Friday, October 19th, 2018

Today was our first day in Copenhagen. We arrived around noon and after a quick trip from the train station to the hostel, we were then free to explore the city. Since we are a smaller group of seven students, we had our first meal together in a little Danish cafe. After, we enjoyed a canal tour of the city. Then we visited Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park in the city, which was decorated for Halloween.

Day 3 Saturday, October 20th, 2018

Today was a free day for the students, so after breakfast we broke off into smaller groups to explore the city. Both groups were able to witness the changing of the guard at Amalienborg Palace.

Next, we ventured into Rosenborg Palace where we saw how the royals back in the 1500’s lived and Christiansborg Palace where we saw the ruins, the kitchen, and the royal stables. We also visited The Little Mermaid statue that was gift from a Danish Icelandic sculptor to Denmark.

One group rented bikes to be able to tour more of the city. That group ventured into Christiana. Another group climbed the Round Tower for an aerial city view and visited Kastellet.

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Rosenborg Castle

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Christian IV’s Crown from 1596

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Erik Steinnmetz, Molly Joyce, and Dalton Scott at the Little Mermaid statue

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Erik Steinmetz, Dalton Scott, and Molly Joyce at the Gustavskirken Church

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Chris Vrana, Curtis Boggs, Collin Gilarno, and Scott Sada on a self-guided bike tour in Copenhagen.

NEXT: The PLET students will spend a few days in various Denmark cities and tour the LEGO factory before moving onto Gotenburg where they will attend the ScanPack Trade Show. After that, they are off to Stockholm, Sweden, where they will visit SSAB Steel.  We’ll post updates from Molly as they arrive.

Erie Free Taxes Counts on Behrend Student Volunteers

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  
Penn State Behrend

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When Anna Reed, a senior majoring in accounting and management information systems, goes to a job or internship interview, potential employers always ask her about one item on her resume—her experience as a volunteer tax preparer with Erie Free Taxes, a United Way of Erie County program.

The federal tax code is about four million words, so it’s little wonder that most people need help filing their income taxes.

For the last twenty-plus years, low-income tax filers in the Erie area have been able to get help for free from Penn State Behrend students enrolled in ACCTG 411: Accounting practicum VITA.

VITA, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, is an IRS-sponsored program to help those with disabilities and those who earn less than $55,000 a year with their taxes.

Reed volunteered for the program last year and found it so rewarding that she plans to do it again this year.

VITA volunteers are required to work four hours a week at a United Way tax prep location from February to April, helping those in need of services.

“There are so many residents who cannot afford to have their taxes filed professionally,” Reed said. “It was rewarding to use my knowledge and skills to help others. I really enjoyed the experience.”

It was also a valuable learning experience and resume builder.

“Working one-on-one with clients really helped me to enhance my communication skills,” Reed said. “And doing the returns helped reinforce what I had learned in my tax class.”

Student volunteers are trained on an IRS software and must pass an IRS exam to be certified to prepare taxes.

If you’re a Behrend business student interested in volunteering with Erie Free Taxes, contact Bob Patterson, lecturer in management, at x7171 or rdp4@psu.edu.

 

Secret Lives of Faculty – Elizabeth Fogle, Roller Derby athlete

There’s so much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see on campus. In this occasional series, we take a look at some of the interesting, unconventional, and inspiring things that members of our Behrend community do in their free time.

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  
Penn State Behrend

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Elizabeth Fogle, center. Photo credit: Raymond F. Durkin, http://www.DurmaxPhoto.com

PowerTower. Meanhatten. Big Red. Stitches. Miss United Skates. Lord of the Rink. Lady Liberty. Rusty Razor Blades. Jammin’ & Rammin’. Blockingjay.

Skater nicknames, which are typically creative puns that many skaters see as an opportunity to adopt an on-track persona, are only half the fun in the sport of roller derby. The names are what initially hooked Elizabeth Fogle, associate teaching professor of English, on the sport.

“I saw the movie Whip It in 2010 and became obsessed with coming up with derby names for fun,” Fogle said.

Of course, the English professor in Fogle would enjoy the wordplay, but she went all in on roller derby after learning there was a team in Erie.

“When a friend and I found out about Eerie Roller Girls, we went and observed a few practices and the rest is history,” Fogle said.

Though she had not been on roller skates since middle school, Fogle dug up some wheels, laced up and joined the team. She has been skating with the Eerie Roller Girls, part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), for seven years now.

We caught up with Fogle to find out more about roller derby, what she loves about the sport, and the story behind her skater name.

What is roller derby?

It’s sort of a mash up of a bunch of sports—hockey, rugby, NASCAR, and demolition derby—only there are no cars, balls, or pucks and it’s all executed on roller skates. Roller derby is all about helping our jammer (usually our fastest skaters) do laps and keeping the other team’s jammer from getting through. There are three positions on the team—pivot, blocker, and jammer. You can learn more about the rules and technique behind the sport at the WFTDA’s web page.

What’s the goal? How do you win?

From the WFTDA website: “The skaters wearing a helmet cover with a star on it are the jammers. After making it through the pack of blockers once, the jammer begins scoring points for each opposing blocker she passes legally and in bounds. She can also score points on opponents who are in the penalty box and can get a fifth point if she laps the opposing jammer. Blockers are trying to stop the opposing team’s jammer while helping their own jammer get through.”

What is your position on the team?

I mostly block. I’ve been jamming a little more this season and I enjoy it, but I’m really more at home blocking and keeping everyone together. I like blocking. It’s not just about big hits, but also about empowering your teammates and communicating strategy in real time. We play defense and offense simultaneously.

What’s your nickname?

I go by “Strong Female Protagonist.” It makes people laugh because it’s both specific and generic. My teammates call me Fogle or “Tag” for short.

What do you enjoy about the sport?

I love how demanding it is. It’s also scary and I try to do something every day that scares me a little bit. I’m not an adrenaline junkie, but I really like to challenge myself, physically, mentally, and creatively. Roller derby gives me that. Also, there’s always something new to learn—footwork, strategy, etc.

What does it give you?

It gives me an outlet where I can just be a person moving through space with a goal. So often women are discouraged from contact sports or using their bodies in physical, athletic ways. Roller derby provides a safe place for women to be tough and brutal, as well as confident and unapologetic. It’s also a community. My teammates are my friends.

Is it only women?

On our team, yes. Men play roller derby, too, but it definitely attracts more female players. We have some male referees and coaches, though.

Why do you think it appeals to women?

It’s a place where things like size and age don’t matter very much. At 5 foot 3 inches and 44 years old, I can be just as effective as someone who is 6 foot tall and half my age. I just have to figure out the best way to use my particular body and skill set to achieve a goal—be that a block, a brace, a screen, or even points.

What is the roller derby season and where do you skate?

Our season runs from late spring to early fall, but we practice nine months out of the year at Presque Isle Skating and Event Center in Erie. Our home games, or bouts, are at the Bayfront Convention Center. We’re just wrapping up this year’s season, but you can like/follow Eerie Roller Girls on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep up with the team.

What do people say when you tell them this is your hobby?

The usually ask if it’s like the old roller derby that used to be on television. I clarify that we are not scripted, there are established rules, we play on a flat track (not a banked), and throwing elbows is not legal.

Do you have any other hobbies?

I lift weights and do cross-fit training, which I enjoy almost as much as roller derby. I also like to knit and read when I have the time.

What do you enjoy about teaching English at Behrend?

I love winning over science majors and teaching them how to express themselves thoughtfully and purposely. For many of them, writing is a challenge. I really enjoy demystifying it for them and empowering them to be better, more rounded scientists. I also enjoy teaching graphic novels. I love hybrid forms that engage readers in new and interesting ways. All human beings are storytellers, so I think it’s important to study the variety of ways we tell stories.

Ready for some fun? What would your roller derby name be? Try this online roller derby name generator from Buzzfeed.

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When You Give an Engineer a Problem….

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  Penn State Behrend

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Valerie Zivkovich and Olivia Dubin, seniors majoring in Plastics Engineering Technology.

Engineers are problem solvers by nature. So it should come as no surprise that when faced with a recycling conundrum, students in Penn State Behrend’s School of Engineering saw an opportunity.

The quandary

China, which is the largest consumer of recycled material from the United States, has significantly reduced the amount and types of material it will accept and introduced strong restrictions on contamination, i.e. trash mixed in with recyclables.

This has forced a wave of changes in the U.S. recycling industry.

“Waste Management has had to adjust the way it recycles materials to ensure those materials pass through numerous quality checks and has also found it necessary to pass on increased costs to customers, including Behrend,” said Randall Geering, senior director of business and operations. “The impact of these changes is being felt everywhere, not just on our campus.”

The bottom line: Recycling is becoming harder and more expensive for consumers and businesses to do and unprofitable for material recovery facilities.

It is not hard to see how this could lead to complete breakdown in the recycling system.

Seeds of change

Recycling and the waste generated by landscaping containers is what led Valerie Zivkovich, a senior from Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, to the Plastics Engineering Technology (PLET) program at Penn State Behrend.

“I worked at a vegetable farm in high school, and we were constantly throwing out plastic containers that the plants were in,” Zivkovich said. “We couldn’t reuse them because of potential contaminants in the soil, and I understood that, but I thought there had to be a better way. I wanted to develop a better plastic for agricultural use.”

Zivkovich and her capstone project partner, fellow PLET senior Olivia Dubin, had heard the uproar from the Penn State Behrend community about the prospect of no longer recycling and realized the campus could recycle its own plastic bottles.

At a campus-wide meeting with Waste Management officials, Zivkovich and Dubin presented a proposal to collect, clean, and pelletize bottles into raw material that could then be used to create new products.

“Basically, we’ll collect plastic bottles—primarily PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and PP (polypropylene) such as pop bottles, Starbucks cups, etc.—then grind them up into tiny pellets and use or resell them to a vendor,” Zivkovich said.

They worked on their initial plan with Jason Williams, assistant teaching professor of engineering.

“I think this could work because we already have most of the equipment and skills in our plastics department,” Williams said. “We are unique in that we have both a plastics factory and a research facility. This combination of resources makes Behrend a great place to test something like this.”

Waste Management agreed and awarded the students a $3,000 Think Green grant to help get the program going.

“The recycling industry is changing, and it’s going to take projects like this one to help identify different markets for material,” said Erika Deyarmin-Young, public affairs coordinator at Waste Management.

Williams is excited about the possibilities.

“I think this initiative is a valuable teaching tool and a demonstration of how engineers can make things better,” he said. “It will also give us tools we can use to study ways to handle post-consumer waste. I think there is a lot of research opportunity in developing automatic sorting technology and material handling of plastics.”

“As PLET majors, we learn about the impact and importance of recycling,” Dubin said. “We are excited to have come up with a solution that our whole campus could be involved in.”

It takes a village

The first step, Zivkovich said, is spreading the word about what can and can’t be recycled and the importance of rinsing containers before tossing them into the recycling bin.

“There definitely needs to be a campus-wide education campaign,” she said. “We need to teach others how to recycle properly with information sessions, posters, and clear signage on the collection containers.”

“We want students to get involved with every aspect of the recycling process,” Dubin said.

Other priorities include finding more funding and securing workspace. “We need a new grinder and that’s $45,000,” Zivkovich said. “We’re applying for grants to find that funding. As for lab space, we think the Merwin building in Knowledge Park would be ideal.”

Another important part of the equation: volunteers from all four schools.

“We don’t want this to be a project only for PLET or engineering students,” Williams said. “This is an opportunity for students across the college to get involved with these recycling efforts.”

Zivkovich plans to reach out to the college’s sustainability program and Greener Behrend club for help securing volunteers to sort and collect plastics.

“Whatever major you are in, you’ll deal with recycling somewhere—at home, at work, in your community,” Zivkovich said. “This effects all of us whether you work in the industry or not.”