Crossing Disciplines Pays Off

First-year business student and senior engineering major win short story contest

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By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

Look, $100 is $100, OK? So when Senior Mechanical Engineering student Sam Cabot saw the opportunity to earn some cold hard cash (er, Visa card) by whipping up a little story about brunch for Penn State’s University Libraries Short Edition short story dispensers, he was on it like, well, syrup on French toast, if we’re going to stick with the brunch theme here.

It was that delicious hybrid morning meal that students, faculty, and staff were invited to write about for a chance to win money, bragging rights, and a spot in the Libraries’ short story dispensers. There are ten of them spread out among seven University locations, including Behrend’s Lilley Library. With the press of a button, the dispenser prints out a short story that users can take with them to enjoy when they have one to five minutes to spare.

Four “Brunchin’ Around” contest winners were chosen recently by the Short Stories all-student editorial team and two of the authors—Cabot and Isaac Barringer—are Penn State Behrend students.

Barringer, a first-year Finance and Accounting dual major, wrote “The Daffodil House,” about a couple found in their yellow house covered in flies and bellied up to what turned out to be their last meal—brunch, of course, “for the Connors were of a practical stock and believed that breakfast was more efficient if it included lunch as well.”

Cabot, who writes under the pen name Johann Lecker for no particular reason other than the fact that he likes the name (“Lecker” means delicious in German), wrote “To Brunch?” in which the main character finds himself on a mountain in Brasher State Forest in upstate New York trying to make it to Sunday brunch at his grandmother’s house.

“Basically, it’s about someone who tries to remedy an uncomfortable situation, then abandons it altogether, for better or worse,” Cabot said.

sam cabot

Sam Cabot

Cabot said he entered the contest not only for the potential prize money but for fun and the chance to challenge himself.

“From what I have noticed, engineering students enjoy creative activities as much as any other students, but internships and course load limit the amount of time they can devote to other things,” Cabot said. “Most of the writing that engineers must make time to do is formal and impersonal, so that may be why there’s a stereotype that they are not creative writers.”

Like most authors, Cabot didn’t have a story outlined in his head. Rather, he had a few ideas to start with and the story emerged from there. It’s purely fictional. Cabot has never been anywhere near Brasher State Park, and his grandma didn’t host monthly family brunches.

Asked if it’s unusual that a business major and an engineering major would win a writing contest, Cabot cites the value and of cross-disciplinary learning, which can be beneficial to students in any major.

“It’s easy to grow absorbed in disciplines, like engineering, that are extremely career-focused and require huge amounts of time spent on very specific tasks,” he said. “Adding courses in history or psychology or any of the humanities can provide a healthy balance. The knowledge gained from an occasional hour spent studying the humanities can be as relevant in the real world as the knowledge gained during any of the last eight or ten hours spent sizing a planetary gear train or debugging a C++ program. They both have value.”

But, Cabot said, the ultimate reward for him in exploring the humanities is finding something new and interesting to scratch his creative itch and expand his skills beyond the lab.

You can find links to Cabot and Barringer’s stories as well as the other winners and honorable mention entries here.

Darwin, Sharks, and Cake (Oh, my!)

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February 12 event at Penn State Behrend celebrates Darwin and his Theory of Evolution

By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

One of nature’s greatest success stories is one of its most fearsome creatures. Look no further than the top of the oceanic food chain– sharks—for the ultimate lesson in evolutionary survival.

“Sharks have a fossil record that extends back more than 420 million years,” said Dr. Todd Cook, assistant professor of biology at Penn State Behrend, who has done extensive research work on sharks and rays from the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras. “As a group, they have been able to survive several mass extinctions and events that have wiped out countless terrestrial and marine species.”

Learn how these predators have adapted and evolved on Wed., Feb. 12 when Penn State Behrend’s School of Science hosts Darwin Day, an international celebration of the life and work of Charles Darwin.

“Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by means of natural selection is the central tenet that unites all areas of biology,” Cook said. “This day recognizes his immeasurable contribution to science, but especially to the natural sciences.”

Don’t be fooled by the word “theory,” Cook cautions.

“Common everyday use of the word ‘theory’ would imply that it’s simply an idea or a guess,” Cook said. “But Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is a well-substantiated explanation for natural phenomena that is supported by vast amounts of evidence. It has been, and continues to be, extensively scrutinized, and it holds up as a solid scientific theory.” 

The public is invited to celebrate Darwin at Behrend from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., beginning with “Life: A Cosmic Story” at 6:00 p.m. in Yahn Planetarium, followed by a presentation “The Evolutionary History of Sharks” by Cook in Room 101 of Otto Behrend Science Building.

The event is free, open to the public, and geared toward those of all ages. After Cook’s lecture, attendees are invited to stay for a celebratory piece of cake.

Alumna honored for professional achievements

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager at Penn State Behrend

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Ainslie Brosig, a 2001 Communication graduate, was recently chosen to receive the Behrend Commission for Women’s 2019 Woman of Impact Award.  The award honors women who are significantly involved with Penn State Behrend and have served as a positive force in their community.

As Brosig, executive director of the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum, accepted the award at a luncheon at Behrend on Wednesday, the first thing she did was share the spotlight.

“I feel like I get all the credit, but it’s because of all the awesome work that they do,” she said, gesturing to members of her museum team seated at a nearby table. “They make me look good.”

Also in attendance at the luncheon were several of her former professors including Dr. Rod Troester, Dr. Miriam McMullen-Pastrick, Dr. Colleen Kelley, and Cathy Mester, who Brosig remembered had given her a “B” in her class.

“I’d like a retest,” Brosig joked.

She would surely get an “A” today. Brosig is credited with breathing new life into the children’s museum, which was struggling to stay open when she took the helm five years ago.  Brosig and her staff made slow and steady improvements as well as developing corporate and community partnerships that ultimately helped the museum double attendance and triple memberships.  The increased activity has led to even bigger things: Brosig just announced plans for a $15.1 million expansion and renovation of the children’s museum.

A mother of three, Brosig said the most rewarding part of her job is providing opportunities for families to have fun together.

“Children remember their mom going down the slide or their dad helping them build a dam in the water table,” she said. “Those types of interactions are precious and few for many families today.”

This year, Brosig worked with Melanie Ford, director of the college’s Youth Education Outreach program, on a partnership that allowed Behrend’s College for Kids program to offer week-long STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) camps for youngsters at the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum.

“Up until this summer, College for Kids had not been able to offer a lot of programming for very young kids,” Brosig said. “Of course, that’s what we specialize in, so we were happy to fill that need.”

Ford spoke highly of Brosig’s leadership skills at the luncheon: “You’ve heard the adage that it takes a village to raise a child,” Ford said. “Ainslie is making a huge impact on the children in our village through her work at the museum.”

Commission for women 2019 - ainslie brosig and comm professors

Communication alumna Ainslie Brosig ’01, executive director of the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum, center, was awarded the Behrend Commission for Women’s 2019 Woman of Impact Award at a luncheon in November. Brosig, center, was joined by some of her former professors, from left, Cathy Mester, Dr. Rod Troester, Dr. Miriam McMullen-Pastrick, and Dr. Colleen Kelley.

Student Wins Bronze in State Equestrian Competition

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager at Penn State Behrend

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While many college students spend their weekends working or catching up on sleep, one Penn State Behrend Marketing major spends her free time in a saddle, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Faith Wheeler, a first-year student from Edinboro, Pennsylvania, has been riding horses since she was in preschool. She began participating in 4-H horse shows when she was ten years old.

“I started out showing a little pony that I got for Christmas,” Wheeler said. “I still have him!”

It was Ziggy, however, Wheeler’s faithful Quarter Horse, on which she rode to third place in Pennsylvania in the Ranch Horse Pleasure division of 4-H equestrian competition last month. The two also placed fifth in the state in Reining.

The Behrend Blog recently chatted with Wheeler to find out more about her equestrian hobby and accomplishments.

What equestrian events do you compete in?

For the most part, I compete in reining and ranch riding. Reining is a pattern class that consists of large fast circles, small slow circles, spinning, and sliding stops. Ranch riding is a class that also has a pattern. You do multiple things including loping, trotting fast, slow riding, spinning, and backing up. In this class, you want to have a western outfit and ride like you’re out west working on a ranch.

What type of horse is Ziggy?

Ziggy is his barn name. His registered name is Ima Dream Chex. He is an 8-year-old registered Quarter Horse. His grandfather is the famous Hollywood Dunit.

Horses are said to have distinct personalities. What is Ziggy’s personality like?

Horses absolutely have personalities. Not everyone can see them, but when you have a bond between you and your horse, you can definitely see it. Ziggy has great personality. He is very loyal toward me and willing to do things that he is not 100 percent sure about. I believe he puts in just as much effort as I do and that’s why we compete so well together.

How do you train while you’re a student at Behrend?

I live on campus but go home on weekends. My weekends are devoted to my family and horses. I practice on Saturdays and Sundays for about two hours each day. The shows I compete in are usually on weekends, so it doesn’t interfere with classes.

What does it mean to have gone to 4-H state competition?

States is the largest Pennsylvania 4-H horse show.  You have to qualify by placing in the top three in your class at the district show. Ziggy and I placed in September at the Crawford County fairgrounds.

What does it take to do well in this sport?

It takes commitment, a lot of hard work, and dedication to your horse. It takes both horse and rider competing as one. The horse needs to enjoy what they are doing. If they don’t like it, it would be a constant battle and that would be no fun for the horse or rider.

What would people be surprised to know about your sport?

The level of discipline, exercise, and practice required. The rider is an athlete! Riding requires strength in the arms, legs, and core. Riders also have to have patience and courage to build a working relationship with a 1,200-pound animal. Horses have good and bad days and riders must learn to adapt and figure out what works on any given day.

What are your career goals?

I’d like to work in marketing for a national, brand-name company in the horse/western industry.

 

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PLET student travel to Germany — final report

Guest Post by Lauren Hampton, 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. 17th, a group of PLET majors embarked on an 11-day trip to Germany. We asked student Lauren Hampton to keep a travel log and tell us about the trip. Here is her final report on the experience: 

Day 9 — Friday

Today, we visited Rosenheim University of Applied Sciences. They have a plastics engineering program similar to the one we have at Penn State. Additionally, students from both Penn State Plastics Engineering Technology and Rosenheim Plastics Engineering can participate in a semester study abroad program at the respective school. During our visit, we had a wonderful tour of their labs and got lots of information about the different research projects they are currently working on.

After our tour at Rosenheim, students had a free afternoon in Munich. Some toured the Allianz Arena where FC Bayern Munich plays. Others explored the city.

Group Photo at RosenheimStudents at Allianz ArenaStudents at Allianz Arena

Day 10 — Saturday

Today, we had a free day in Munich and it was our last (non-travel) day of the trip. Students did a variety of activities during the day. A couple of students visited Eagle’s Nest. Others went to some museums and went shopping in Marienplatz. In the evening, we had a group dinner at Schneider Bräuhaus.

Students at Eagle’s Nest

Students at Eagle’s Nest.

Glockenspiel at Marienplatz

Glockenspiel at Marienplatz.

Parting thoughts

I would like to give a special thanks to all of the faculty members—Jon Meckley, Dr. Gary F. Smith, Lucy Lenhardt, and Dr. Israd Jaafar—who took us on this once-in-a-lifetime trip. I can say on behalf of all of the students, we had a wonderful time and this is an experience that we will remember and cherish for many years to come.

Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland!

 

PLET Students travel to Germany — Travel Log #2

Guest Post by Lauren Hampton, 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. 17th, a group of PLET majors embarked on an 11-day trip to Germany. We asked student Lauren Hampton to keep a travel log and tell us about the trip. Here is her report latest report from Germany:

Day 6 — Tuesday

Today, we toured the Mercedes Benz engine plant in Stuttgart. We learned about the company’s history in the Neckar Valley. The afternoon was spent doing various activities. Students toured museums, visited landmarks, and explored the town.

at Mercedes

Students at the Mercedes engine plant in Stuttgart.

Birkenkopf

Students at Birkenkopf.

Dr. Smith and Cake

Dr. Smith likes cake. 

Day 7 — Wednesday

Today we toured Arburg, a prominent injection molding machine manufacturer. Following the tour, we traveled to Füssen. In Füssen, students went out for dinner and explored the town afterwards. Throughout the day, we rode on a total of seven trains – which is a lot of trains, if you ask me.

Group Photo at Arburg

Group photo at Arburg.

Happy Train Travelers featuring Dr. Smith, Dr. Jaafar, and Ryan Malatesta (Rye Bread)

Happy train travelers — Dr. Smith, Dr. Jaafar, and Ryan Malatesta.

Mr. Meckley

The lonely traveler: Mr. Meckley.

students at dinner

Students at dinner.

Day 8 — Thursday

Today we hiked up to Neuschwanstein Castle. We had a private tour inside the castle and then explored the surrounding area. Some went shopping while others hiked up Säuling Mountain.  Then, we travelled to Munich – our final destination.

neuschwanstein castle

Group photo at Neuschwanstein Castle.

Dr. Jaafar at the top of Säuling Mountain

Dr. Jaafar at the top of Säuling Mountain.

 

 

PLET students travel to Germany – Travel Log #1

Guest Post by Lauren Hampton, 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. 17th, a group of PLET majors embarked on an 11-day trip to Germany. We asked student Lauren Hampton to keep a travel log and tell us about the trip. Here is her report from the first five days:

DAY 1 — Thursday, Oct. 17

Day One… Here we go! All the professors showed up to the airport bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (specifically Mr. Meckley rocking his flip-flops and plaid cargo shorts). However, the students were slightly less bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Some would say they looked like zombies. Nevertheless, everyone was excited and raring to go!

first flight

First Flight

The first flight went very well. Most slept, some listened to music. Then… DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNN…. THE. EIGHT. HOUR. LAYOVER. Below are some of the activities students chose to participate in to pass the time, including: homework, card games, chit-chat, and of-course some sleep.

layover homework

Homework! Of course!

 card games

Card games

Days 2 & 3 — Friday & Saturday

We arrived in Cologne (Köln), Germany early Friday morning. We had two free days in the city. During that time, we explored the city, ate lots of good German food, and took in all the beautiful views.

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Cologne Cathedral and the Rhein River (Awesome Photo Taken by Dr. Jaafar!)

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Jon Meckley, associate professor of engineering, with gelato. 

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Cologne Cathedral

jaafar and pretzel

Dr. Israd Jaafar, assistant teaching professor of engineering, and a giant pretzel. 

Day 4 – Sunday

We attended the K Show in Düsseldorf – the world’s number one tradeshow for plastics and rubber. We visited a number of companies and learned many new things!

smith and meckley with race car

Dr. Gary F. Smith, assistant professor of engineer, and Mr. Meckley with a Race Car at the K Show

interacting with lifting machine

Interacting with Lifting Machine

 

stduents at K show

Students at the K Show

Day 5 — Monday

We attended our second day at the K Show.  We met with companies and got to see the new generation of molding machines!  Then, we hopped on a two-and-one-half-hour train ride to Stuttgart.  We arrived in Stuttgart around dinner time and spent the evening relaxing and getting ready for our next tour.

virtual reality of the K show

Virtual Reality at the K Show  (Inside of a Blow Molding Machine)

group pix at the train station

Group Photo at the train station. 

NEXT: The PLET students will tour the Mercedes Benz engine assembly plant followed by tours of the Mercedes Benz and Porche Museums. Then, they’ll visit several other cities in Germany before ending in Munich where they will tour the University of Applied Sciences Rosenheim.  We’ll post updates from Lauren as they arrive.