Class of 2017: Meet Aizat Fadhill (Mechanical Engineering)

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

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2017 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next couple months, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Aizat Fadhill:

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Major: Mechanical Engineering

Home country: Malaysia

On choosing Penn State Behrend: The Mechanical Engineering program is accredited and highly regarded. I also liked the environment at Behrend; it’s diverse but not too large.

On choosing to major in Mechanical Engineering: I’ve been mechanically inclined all my life. I’ve always been more interested in how things work than what that particular thing can do. Mechanical Engineering is a versatile degree that covers a lot of different sectors and gives me a wide skill set.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: My proudest accomplishment was reviving the Diverse Organization of Photo and Video Enthusiasts (DOPE) club. I am president of the club, which had been dormant for three semesters when I took it over. The workshops and services we organized were unique and fun.

Campus involvement: In addition to being president of DOPE, I have been involved with the Multi-Cultural Council, Muslim Student Association, Model United Nations, and Makerspace during my time at Behrend.

Avid shutterbug: I’m passionate about photography. Capturing that perfect moment is priceless to me.

What inspires him: Sacrifice inspires me. The act of doing something for the benefit of someone else is very sacred, especially when it is done anonymously. There are people in my life who deserve to claim my achievements as their own because, without their sacrifices, I might have taken a different path.

After his graduation in May, Aizat plans to return to Malaysia and begin his career in engineering.

Engineering Grad to Serve in Peace Corps in Africa

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

Alex Laffey - first choice

This is the time of year that graduating college seniors are making decisions about their future. Should they accept the job offer in Baltimore or the one in Chicago? Should they go to graduate school or pursue a research position?

For Alex Laffey, a senior Mechanical Engineering major, there are no questions. She has known what she’s wanted to do after college since her first year of high school.

“I learned about the Peace Corps in my freshman history class, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it,” Laffey said. “Former president John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps as a means for individuals in America to volunteer internationally, and I figured this was the best way to go to combine my passion for traveling and service.”

Laffey, a Pittsburgh native, will leave in July to serve for two years as a secondary math education teacher in Sierra Leone, Africa. We caught up with her to ask her about the exciting adventure she will embark on after her graduation in May.

What solidified your decision to volunteer with the Peace Corps?

Last summer, I traveled to India for two weeks to visit a friend. It was the first time I had ever been away from my parents and home in a completely new environment, and I loved it. I loved trying all of the new foods, being a minority, and even learning a little bit of the language. Seeing the country also showed me how much the rest of the world needs our help. As soon as I came back from India, I immediately started my application.

Did you choose Africa, or does the Peace Corps decide where you go?

When I applied, I was asked to list the top three places I would like to serve. Sierra Leone was my first choice. It stood out in my mind from a book I had read—A Long Way Gone. I didn’t even put a second and third choice because I figured that if I couldn’t go to Africa, I’d be happy to go wherever they needed me. Luckily, it worked out that they needed math teachers in Sierra Leone and the Corps had a new group leaving in July.

Has anyone in your family ever served in the Peace Corps or do they volunteer?

Nobody in my family has ever served in the Peace Corps, but my parents always taught me to help others. Not only have they helped me with everything tremendously, but they also go out of their way to help others. They are constantly volunteering and making a difference in our community and abroad. They were my inspiration for wanting to go.

Do you choose what you will be doing there?

You volunteer in one of six sectors for the Peace Corps: agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health, and youth development. Like with location, I had to rank my top three preferences. I initially wasn’t sure what sector I wanted to volunteer in, but after speaking with a recruiter she suggested teaching because of my engineering degree.

Will you be in the same location for the entire two years?

I will be in the same country for the whole two years, but in different cities. When I arrive in July, I will be staying with a host family for three months to help with cultural integration and adjustment. After those three months, I will begin my two years of service, and the Peace Corps will decide where to place me. So, as of right now, I know that I will be in Sierra Leone. I just don’t know exactly where.

What do you know about Africa? Do they speak English? Do you go to any training to help you before you leave?

When I arrive in July, I will begin with three months of training. This includes safety, health, teaching, and even how to properly do laundry. The official language is English, but throughout the villages, many different languages are spoken so I will get a basic overview of all of those. Right now, I have been reading a lot different books about the location, and the Peace Corps has provided me with a lot of information. They also put me in touch with Peace Corps volunteers who were in Sierra Leone and that has been very helpful!

What are you taking? How does one pack for two years?

I am honestly not sure how I am going to pack all of my stuff! I can only take a carry-on, one personal item, and two suitcases. I’ve been reading a lot of blogs, and talking to returned volunteers about what is most essential. I know I will definitely be getting a hammock to enjoy the nice weather, and a bunch of solar chargers so that I can use my laptop and phone while I am there.

Where will you be living? What are the conditions like? Are they primitive?

After my first three months with a host family, I will move to my official site where I will stay for two years. It could be in a city or a village, and I won’t know that until later. Regardless, I will have internet access, so I can keep in touch with friends and family.

How many vaccinations do you have to get?

So far, I have only had to get two shots, but I have had a lot of blood work done. The Peace Corps gave me a list of twenty-some tasks that I must complete to be medically cleared to go. It has been taking awhile to get through all of those. Many of them are to ensure the country I’m traveling to can handle any medical needs I may have, and that I will respond well to medicines commonly available there.

What are you most excited about?

All of it! I cannot wait to meet the people I will be serving with and the students I’ll be teaching and to see the country. I’ve read a lot about the country and the people there and, at this point, I’m just ready to experience it all first-hand.

Is there anything that makes you nervous/apprehensive about this trip?

I am definitely nervous to be so far away from the amazing support system I have at home. It’s definitely going to be hard to do it all alone, but I know that my family and friends are only a phone call away, and that I have other volunteers to lean on while I am there.

What did your parents say when you told them you were doing this?

At first, they were really supportive, but I think that’s because they thought I wouldn’t go through with it. When I was accepted, I was hesitate to bring it up because I didn’t want them to worry. It is a lot for them to deal with. I mean, their daughter is graduating from college and moving 5,000 miles away to living in an African village for two years. But they’ve already planned a trip to visit me, and I think that has really helped ease their minds.

What are you hoping to get out of this experience?

I am hoping to gain a new perspective, and make a difference. I can get caught up in my “problems” and think that I’m having a bad day, but the truth is that I am very fortunate. I also want to teach others and encourage them to keep learning. If I can help just one student while I am there, it will be enough.

Will you get to come home at all? How will you keep in touch with your family/friends while you’re away?

I am not allowed to travel outside of Africa for the first six months or the last three months of my service. Other than that, I am able to come home or go to other countries to sightsee. I receive two vacation days a month and I can save them up for a longer trip. Friends and family are welcome (and encouraged) to visit!

What are you plans when you return to the states?

I have no idea! I am hoping to come back and spend time with friends and family, eat all of the food I will have missed, and then hopefully find a job in engineering.

Laffey plans to blog about her experiences in Africa. Follow her at alexandralaffey.wordpress.com. Read more about Laffey in her Standout Senior profile.

Class of 2017: Meet Ryan Kelley (Computer Engineering)

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

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2017 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next couple months, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Ryan Kelley:

Ryan Kelley - first choice

Major: Computer Engineering

Minor: Game Development

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa.

On choosing Penn State Behrend: I chose Behrend because of its high-quality engineering facilities and attentive faculty and staff. The engineering equipment and labs at Behrend were impressive.

On choosing to major in Computer Engineering: When I was growing up, my father, who is a mechanical engineer, and I used to tinker with a random assortment of computer parts in our basement to build our own “Frankencomputers.” I learned how to program in HTML, C++, and Java in high school.

Scholarships/Awards: I received the Council of Fellows Leadership Scholarship.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: My proudest accomplishment so far has been my research work: Leveraging Web Technologies with PLC Interfacing.

Campus involvement: I have been involved in the Behrend Design Group, Triangle Fraternity, the Association of Computer Machinery (ACM), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Game Development Club, and the Behrend Engineering Ambassadors.

Jack of all computer trades: I’m extremely adept at working with just about anything related to computers. I can make apps, design video games, develop hardware from start to finish, work on industrial applications, and more. If it has a circuit board and/or operates on computer code, I can figure it out.

What you’d be surprised to know about him: I’m a third-degree black belt and was a varsity lacrosse goalie for four years in high school. I can also speak German.

Beyond computers: I like to spend time outdoors. In my spare time, I enjoy biking and fishing. My favorite sport to watch is hockey, especially the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Failure is an option: When engineers are trying to solve a problem, they fail a lot. You get used to it and don’t get discouraged by it because it really is just part of the process. Learning what doesn’t work leads you to what does work.

Advice for first-year students: Hit the ground running (and studying) because classes are only going to get harder. If you start out with a work-oriented mindset and discipline, you’ll have an easier time in the later years than some of your peers.

After his graduation in May, Ryan plans to work as an embedded systems field engineer.

Class of 2017: Meet Alex Laffey (Mechanical Engineering)

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

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2017 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next couple months, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Alex Laffey

Alex Laffey - first choice

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Pittsburgh

Home Sweet Second Home: I know it sounds cliché, but the moment I stepped onto campus at Behrend, I knew it was the only place that would feel like home to me.

On choosing to major in Mechanical Engineering: I loved math and science in high school, so I figured engineering would be a great fit for me.

Campus involvement: I am currently serving as president of Reality Check. I am also involved in Gamma Sigma Sigma and THON. I’m a Lion Scout and I played on the varsity tennis team my first three years of college.

On helping others: I’m passionate about helping others. I love to volunteer in my free time. I try to be the kind of person who people can lean on if they need help.

Off to Africa: I’m leaving in July to serve for two years in the Peace Corps as a secondary math education teacher in Sierra Leone, Africa!

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: Being selected to dance in THON 2015 was one of my happiest moments. It was an honor to stand for 46 hours for people who can’t. The event is a cherished memory I’ll hold with me forever.

Scholarships and Awards: I received the Irvin Kochel Lion Ambassador Award and the Council of Fellows Leadership Scholarship.

A voracious bookworm: I have the ability to ignore anything and everything when I’m reading a good book. During summer break, I usually read at least twenty books.

And an adventurous eater: I love food. I love trying new foods and I’m willing to try anything that’s edible. When I visited India this summer, everyone was surprised at how quickly I became comfortable with all the different foods there.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: I’m afraid to go into a car wash. When I was five, I was in the car with my grandpa when he got stuck in one and I haven’t been back in one since!

Wicked racket skills: I won the AMCC Athlete of the year for tennis my first year at Penn State Behrend.

Advice for current students: Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. There are so many opportunities for you at Behrend! You don’t have to join all the same clubs and do all the same activities you did in high school. Try many things until you find the right fit for you. You’re going to change a lot in college, and that’s a good thing!

After her graduation in May, Alex is joining the Peace Corps and going to Sierra Leone, Africa, to serve as a secondary math education teacher for two years.

Class of 2017: Meet Rachel Sheridan (Mechanical Engineering)

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

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2017 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next couple months, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Rachel Sheridan:

Rachel Sheridan - first choice

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Rillton, Pa.

On choosing to major in Mechanical Engineering: I’ve always had a knack for problem solving and my best subjects in school were math and physics. My favorite part of physics was mechanics and when you pair that with my interest in problem solving, Mechanical Engineering is the perfect major for me.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: I am most proud of developing a good balance between my involvement on campus and academics. I’ll be graduating with a Grade Point Average of about 3.5.

Campus involvement: I was vice president of Lambda Sigma National Honor Society and Theta Phi Alpha Fraternity, where I held a few other positions, too. I’m a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society and the Tau Beta Pi National Engineering Honor Society.

Scholarships: I received the William F. Roberge and Shirley Roberge Trustee Scholarship multiple times.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: I own and have worked to restore a 1965 Ford Mustang.

Rachel Sheridan's car1

Driven to excel: I am passionate about exceeding people’s expectations of me. I strive to excel at everything I do and surprise those who may overlook my abilities.

Advice for first-year students: Try to get an internship in your major early on. Seeing what you will do in your chosen field may change your perspective and affect the direction you want to go in.

Rachel has accepted a position as an engineer at BCI Engineering in Pittsburgh, following her graduation in May.

Class of 2017: Meet Krystal Elliott (Software Engineering)

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

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2017 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next couple months, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Krystal Elliott.

Krystal Elliott - first chocie

Major: Software Engineering

Minor: Computer Science

Hometown: Staten Island, N.Y.

On choosing to major in Software Engineering: It allows me to engage with a few of my passions—language learning and creativity—in a lucrative way.

On second chances and the power of positivity: This is my second degree. I came to Behrend after deciding the first career I had chosen (English) was not for me. I have endured a lot of struggle along the way in both my personal and academic life, but I don’t let failures or setbacks keep me down. I’m a positive person and I turn every challenge into an opportunity to do or be better.

On cheerleading: I enjoy spreading my optimism around. My talent is challenging people to grow and helping them believe that they can.

Her definition of the good life: Doing something that allows me to positively impact the world around me. I think this is why I love front-end development so much. People are directly interacting with whatever I develop. If I can make it a stress-free interface, I’m making their lives better in some small way.

On global perspectives: I was fortunate to have experienced studying abroad in Limerick, Ireland, in my junior year and it really widened my view of the world. I want to continue traveling, engaging, and learning from the places and people around me.

On a little (or a lot) of help from friends of the college: I’m fortunate to have had support from several donors. I received the Lindsay Anne Graygo Trustee Scholarship, the John K. Henne Endowment for International Study, the Charles and Lillian Binder Foreign Studies Grant-in-Aid, and the Black Family and Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation Trustee Scholarship. I can’t even express how grateful I am. It has really helped to ease my financial stresses and allow me to focus on my studies.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: I’m intensely shy! I’m very good at socializing, though, so people can’t usually tell that it’s difficult for me.

Advice for current students: Seek mentors, both personal and professional. Also, try new things, don’t fear failure, study abroad, express sincere gratitude for those who help you, and don’t limit yourself to the things you can do well; nothing is beyond your reach if you’re willing to work hard at it!

After her graduation in May, Krystal plans to move to Austin, Texas, to be near her family. She plans to look for an engineering position in front-end software or web development.

 

Building the STEM Workforce of the Future

By Heather Cass

Publications manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

As the number of jobs in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields continues to grow, industry leaders and educators are recognizing the need to start “recruiting” early. Very early, as in, elementary-school early.

In the early years, however, “recruiting” looks nothing like people in ties and suits sitting at desks. It looks more like an engineer in a sweatshirt and jeans overseeing a noisy and boisterous game of life-size Jenga, or a high-school robotics team member encouraging kids to pilot a LEGO robot through a maze, or a chemistry major helping kids concoct a bubble they can hold in their hands.

“It starts with getting young children interested in and excited about STEM concepts,” said Melanie Ford, director of Penn State Behrend’s Youth Education Outreach efforts and a lecturer in computer science and software engineering.

That’s why, for the last three years, GE Transportation and Penn State Behrend have teamed up to host a STEM Fair that is open to the public and geared toward students of all ages. This year’s fair is Monday, February 20, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Junker Center.

In addition to at least a half dozen GE divisions and nearly twenty Penn State Behrend clubs and organizations, a variety of other Erie STEM companies and organizations, including Erie Insurance, the Erie Maritime Museum, Acutec, and Cummins, will also join in the fun.

“Every table will have some sort of hands-on component or activity,” Ford said. “The funny thing is when younger kids are doing these activities, they don’t even realize that they are experimenting and exploring in chemistry, physics, math, and engineering. They’re just learning that STEM can be fun and challenging.”

They are not the only ones having fun. The business and industry professionals, faculty members, and Behrend students who volunteer at the event are having a blast, too.

“Our students really step-up for our outreach events, and they clearly enjoy sharing their knowledge with the younger generation,” Ford said. “They think what they do is cool and they pass that passion on. The added bonus is the college students end up with a better understanding of these concepts as well.”

Join in the STEM fun – Monday, February 20, 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Junker Center

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