Bill Nye the Science Guy draws large crowd at Penn State Behrend


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Vee Butler was in search of a draw. She needed to find a speaker capable of filling the house.

“I just saw (Bill Nye’s) name and I thought, ‘What do ’90s kids like more than bonding with other ’90s kids about ’90s things?’ It seemed perfect,” said Butler, a junior arts administration major and executive director of the Lion Entertainment Board at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.

A jam-packed, standing-room only crowd of almost 2,000 squeezed into Junker Center at Penn State Behrend Wednesday evening to watch Nye as part of the college’s Speaker Series. Nye hoped to inspire students to change the world, but it’s clear he’s already done his fair share of inspiring.

It’s been 15 years since a new episode of the PBS television show “Bill Nye the Science Guy” has been produced, but the effects of the show are still evident today.

Sophomore chemistry major Joshua Wilkins said Nye’s show actually inspired him to pursue a science degree. He was more than a little excited when he heard that Nye would be visiting Behrend.

“Ever since I found out he was coming, it’s been in the back of my mind,” Wilkins said. “It’s been a highlight of my year.”


Wilkins said “Bill Nye the Science Guy” is one of his most cherished memories from the sixth grade. He recalled struggling to get through science class, but things always became bearable once the teacher popped a “Bill Nye the Science Guy” tape in the VCR.

“He made science funny. We could all feel his enthusiasm, and he was always the guy we wanted to see because he took us away from the traditional classroom setting,” Wilkins said.

Junior project and supply chain management major Chad Muscarella agreed.

“From his television show to the experiments to the ride at Walt Disney World, I remember it all,” Muscarella said. “He was always making education fun.”

In its five-plus year run on PBS, “Bill Nye the Science Guy” won 18 Emmy Awards and continues to be used in classrooms for educational purposes. An attraction at Walt Disney World’s Future World at Epcot, Universe of Energy, is based on the program. Nye also has written five books under “The Science Guy” moniker.

Zany phrases, wacky experiments and quirky music were par for the course on “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” which is one reason Nye believes it continues to be successful.

“This is an extraordinary claim, and I do not have extraordinary proof of this, but there’s a lot of entertainment there,” Nye said. “The show was information-packed and fun to watch.”

However, even Nye is at a loss for words when he hears of how the show has inspired lives.

“I say all the time that I don’t think I get it,” Nye said. “People come to me and say, ‘You’re the reason I became an engineer. You’re the reason I’m a scientist,’ and I’m like, ‘What?’ It amazes me.”

Behrend student offers disaster relief in Philippines over winter break


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

So how’d you spend your winter break?



Catching up on some z’s?

Penn State Behrend senior nursing major Andres Morales opted to spend his break in a less conventional way.

Morales, along with his wife Katie, father-in-law, and another member of the Federated Church of East Springfield, made a trip to the Philippines this December to offer disaster relief to victims of Typhoon Haiyan and the earthquake that hit the island of Bohol.

Morales, a native of Costa Rica, had been searching for a way to help the relief efforts for some time, and he found his answer after he searched Google and discovered the nonprofit organization, All Hands Volunteers. Like the name implies, All Hands Volunteers is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization offers hands-on assistance to communities around the world.

Through All Hands Volunteers, Morales and his church group set up a relief trip to the island of Leyte in the Philippines. To make the trip, Morales had to give up part of his winter break, but it was an easy sacrifice.

“If they can’t have a nice holiday, then why should I?” Morales said.


The group arrived at Leyte on December 10. A total of 65 volunteers from all over the world joined Morales’ group, and they spent the majority of their time doing deconstruction work. They took down unsafe homes and also cleared out rubble and trees with chain saws.

Morales said the experience was humbling, and that was especially true after his group took a ride on top of a jeepney.

The jeepney, which is the most popular form of public transportation in the Philippines, took Morales to the area that had been most affected by the typhoon.

“Entire blocks were just flattened. You couldn’t recognize anything. You would go miles before seeing actual homes,” Morales said. “A lot of us just went speechless. It’s just hard to grasp because you think of the things back home, and then you see these people who lost everything.”

While the natives may have had next to nothing in the way of material possessions, Morales said they never hesitated to express their gratitude toward Morales and the other volunteers.

“Strangers would buy food for us during work time, and they didn’t have much,” Morales said. “All they could afford was a loaf of bread and a Coca-Cola. You didn’t want to accept it, but it meant everything to them.”


On December 20, Morales and his group then took two ferries to Bohol where they began to focus their relief efforts toward the 7.2 moment magnitude earthquake that had struck the island on October 15.

Once again, the group began to deconstruct homes and salvage materials.

On Christmas Day, Morales and his church group returned to the United States. Morales said the trip had a profound effect on him.

“On Sunday, I didn’t want to go out for an easy run,” said Morales, who is a member of Behrend’s track and field team.  “But if the people from the Philippines can get back up from nothing, then why can’t I go on a three-mile run?”

Most importantly, Morales’ trip to the Philippines may have provided him with a sneak peek at his future. He will graduate in May, and he hopes to use his nursing degree to benefit the less fortunate.

“The only reason I want to get a job in critical care and pediatrics is to utilize that experience in another country where there’s not as much access to healthcare,” Morales said. “Our mission was two-fold. Yes, we went there to help, but it also allowed us to get our feet wet as to what the future may hold. Disasters are going to keep happening, and someone needs to be there.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Commemoration offers great message

MLK day (canstockphoto15309028)

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may no longer be with us, but his dream is alive and well.

Monday marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and organizations across the country are prepared to celebrate Dr. King and his legacy. You can count Penn State Behrend among those organizations.

In honor of Dr. King and his dream, the college will hold the 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Commemoration. Numerous themed events will be held during the week, including an “I Am His Dream” March, a community service project, viewings of the film The Butler, and more.

Andy Herrera, director of the Educational Equity and Diversity Office, chaired Penn State Behrend’s MLK Committee this year and helped plan many of the events.

I talked with Herrera about the importance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the activities planned at Behrend.

Steve: The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Commemoration has been a regular tradition at Behrend. Why is this an important week for the college?

Andy: I’ve been at Behrend for the past eleven years, and I’ve chaired the MLK Committee for most of those years. I’m very proud of the fact that Penn State Behrend has always been recognized in the Erie community for its MLK programming. We’ve had speakers ranging from Al Sharpton to Jesse Jackson. I recognized that when I started, and I wanted to continue the tradition of strong MLK programming.

It’s very important for two reasons. The first is the significance of that era in our nation’s history. It’s important for us and our students to learn about the Civil Rights Movement. It was not just about Dr. King, but he was the driving force behind that. The second reason is the message. The message of peace, justice, and equality for all is outstanding. It’s important to commemorate, celebrate, and promote the historic value and message within our campus community, especially to our students.

Steve: This year’s theme is titled “We Are His Dream.” How did you choose that theme?

Andy: Activities and events are planned by the Behrend MLK Committee, which includes faculty, staff, and students. A college-wide invitation is made in September and then different participants come together for discussions about the commemoration. For example, I ask each member of the committee, ‘Why are you on this committee? Why is this important to you?’ Everyone then shares their perspective on why it is important to them, and then we start looking for a theme. We may come up with a theme then and there, or we may look at possible events and performers to provide us with a theme.

When we were looking for performers this year, we ran across Michael Fosberg, who has a play called Incognito. The play details Fosberg’s life experience of being adopted and growing up to find out his father was an African American, which was an incredible realization for him. He then starts to try to figure out his background and identity. The story sounds incredible, so we decided to invite Michael and have our theme revolve around identity. We then started to think about who we are as a college. Of course, we are Penn State. But we also believe we are the type of community where all are respected, where there is equal justice, and where there is harmony. Hey, that sounds like Dr. King’s dream. So, in a way, we are his dream.


Steve: How has the MLK Commemoration changed since you started at Behrend eleven years ago?

Andy: When I first started, the luncheon used to be a breakfast, and we wanted to do it before everyone went back to work, so it would be at 7:00 a.m. If we were lucky, we would have one student show up. At some point, we decided to turn it into a brunch, and it helped. This year, we made it a lunch to help us fit in the march. The events have remained similar, though. We always try to have events that are meaningful and entertaining. We also try to do at least one community service project. This year, we will be partnering with the Erie City Mission to feed needy families. In the past, we have done Habitat for Humanity, and we did a college fair for Diehl Elementary School.

Steve: I can tell that a lot of planning and preparation goes into all of these events. What’s the ultimate goal in mind?

Andy: I think the ultimate goal is for people to learn about this time period. Students have some level of knowledge now, but it’s always good for them further learn about these moments in our nation’s history. Most importantly, I want them to be inspired to become better people.

Steve: Do you see the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Commemoration remaining a staple here at Behrend?

Andy: This is something that I think we’ll continue to do for as long as I’m here. This occasion is a good time to pause and ponder about that era and how it impacted our society for the better. Every year, I think this MLK Commemoration lends itself to a moment of reflection. Hopefully we can continue to learn about it, and also find inspiration in knowing that the efforts made during that time period have helped us become a better society and community.

Scheduled events:

Monday, Jan. 20:  Incognito. Acclaimed author and performer Michael Fosberg shares the story of his personal journey to discover himself, his roots, his family, and the difficult history behind the tragic American complexity of “race.”
Campus Family Luncheon, 11:30 a.m., McGarvey Commons
(Presentation begins at noon).

Tuesday, Jan. 21: Students and MLK Commemoration Committee members will visit the Early Learning Center and conduct activities with the children related to MLK.
Early Learning Center, 3:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 22: The Butler. The Lion Entertainment Board presents the story of White House butler Eugene Allen, who witnessed great social change while serving eight different presidents over thirty years.
9:00 p.m., Reed Auditorium
(The film will be shown again at 9:00 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, and at 10:00 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24, and Saturday, Jan. 25.)

Thursday, Jan. 23: “Who’s Cooking What?” The MLK Committee will partner with the Erie City Mission to help serve lunches to needy families. The committee will fundraise to purchase the ingredients, and students and volunteers will serve the families.
8:30 a.m., Erie City Mission

Behrend alumnus’ company grows following Shark Tank appearance


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Sometimes our biggest victories can come in defeat. Just ask David Artuso.

In March 2013, the 2011 Penn State Behrend alumnus attempted to impress investors, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, on ABC’s Shark Tank by pitching cellhelmet, a cell-phone case company he started in 2011 with two friends. The company was founded with the goal of offering cell-phone users a new, sleek case that comes with a guarantee: if the phone breaks in the case, the company will replace everything for $50.

Cuban and the other investors on Shark Tank decided against investing in cellhelmet as they felt competitors would be able to undercut the company’s pricing, but the entire experience can hardly be considered a loss for Artuso and his partners.

“It’s a really good leveraging point when you talk to people,” says Artuso, who is cellhelmet’s CMO, co-founder and master technician.  “You can have a sales guy call a person and ask, ‘Have you ever seen ABC’s Shark Tank?’ They’ll respond, ‘Yeah, I saw that,’ so it’s a nice entry point that helps us get in front of people. It established a lot of legitimacy that we didn’t have before.”

After the show was filmed, cellhelmet reached a deal with Eldridge Communications, a Pittsburgh-based Verizon Wireless retailer, to place cases in their stores. The agreement was a win-win for all parties, but it also had a significant impact on how cellhelmet would later reevaluate its business strategy.

Repairs have always been part of what cellhelmet does, but it had never been the focus. However, that changed thanks to the partnership with Eldridge Communications.

cellhelmet began to fix phones for Eldridge Communications, which would then sell them as refurbished phones. Since then, cellhelmet has focused its efforts on repairs, and the results have been very positive.

“It’s actually growing faster than the cases,” Artuso says. “We still sell a decent amount of them, but our main focus is repairs.”

cellhelmet repairs phones and tablets for a handful of companies and offers public repairs via mail order on its website. Customers can also visit the company’s headquarters in Wexford, Pa., for a walk-in discount.

“We use certified repair technicians, the highest-quality grade parts and offer a lifetime guarantee on our repairs,” Artuso says. “We basically built our entire business model on quality. We like you, but we don’t want to see you again because you probably don’t want to get your phone fixed again. When we’re done fixing a phone, you basically have a brand new device.”

cellhelmet has big plans for the future. Artuso says the company would like to open a few retail locations in the next year that will focus on repairs, and the ultimate goal is to franchise the business model.

“We have our hands in the right area now,” Artuso says. “It’s just a really good platform for us to grow.”

cellhelmet will continue to sell its small, compact cases for which the company is named, but the focus has definitely changed. Artuso says there are no plans to manufacture new cases in the near future because of the high costs involved.

The company recently doubled in size to eight employees in November, and there are plans to hire more as well.

No, Artuso may not have been a “winner” ten months ago when he appeared on Shark Tank, but it’s clear he’s winning now.

So, would he go back and do it all again?

“Oh, yeah. Drop of a hat,” Artuso says.

Link to the Shark Tank episode featuring Artuso