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.

cologne

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

gelato

Jon Meckley, associate professor of engineering, with gelato. 

cathedra

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.

 

 

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.

PLET10

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.

PLET9

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!

plet8

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.

PLET trip3

Rosenborg Castle

PLET trip - crown

Christian IV’s Crown from 1596

PLET trip - little mermaid

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

PLET trip4

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

PLET trip 5

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.

When You Give an Engineer a Problem….

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

Plastics recycling - Valerie Zivkovich and Olivia Dubin - horiz.jpg

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.”