Young Recycling Recruits Thrive at Bootcamp

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

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Plastics recycling class opens eyes, options for high school students

When you toss your 2-liter soda bottle or yogurt container in the recycling bin, you may not think about where it ends up or how it might be recycled, but ten Erie-area students, recent “graduates” of Penn State Behrend’s Recycling Bootcamp, sure do.

The students, ages 14-18, saved their home plastic waste for a week before the all-day bootcamp event in August in Burke Center. It was led by Plastics Engineering Technology (PLET) faculty members—Dr. Alicyn Rhoades, associate professor of engineering; Dr. Gamini Mendis, assistant professor of engineering; Anne Gohn, assistant research professor; and Dr. Xiaoshi Zhang, engineering researcher. Several Behrend PLET students helped throughout the day, as well.

The students started the day identifying the different types or families of plastics they collected. They then counted the number of pieces in each family and calculated the weight fractions of each type of material, which is critical for cost-effective recycling.

“Students shredded their high-density polyethylene (recycling code #2) materials, extruded to pelletized form, and injection-molded test samples and plastic building bricks,” Gohn said. “Samples were tensile- and impact-tested at various levels of recycling content. The students then stretched and impact-tested the samples to analyze changes in material properties.”

The work they put into recycling their plastic waste opened their eyes to the challenges involved in the process.

“They were surprised by how much recycling affects the strength of plastic material and how complicated the process can be,” Gohn said.

Comments from student participants reflect the value of outreach efforts and learning in a hands-on environment. Several students said they were now “excited about plastics” and at least one is considering a career in plastics engineering. That’s just what organizers of the event hoped would be the result.

The bootcamp was funded through a $500,000 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program grant awarded to Rhoades. The CAREER program is designed to support early-career faculty members who serve as academic role models in research and education.

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Answers for “Mom, I’m bored!”

Penn State Behrend’s Youth Education Outreach offers ideas to educate and entertain kids over winter

By Heather Cass, publications manager, Penn State Behrend

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In a normal year, most of us would have a December calendar bulging with holiday events, activities, and to-dos. But, this year, of course, the majority of community events have been canceled, big holiday parties prohibited, and travel anywhere discouraged.

Add to this the fact that most schools are extending holiday break or going remote to control the spread of COVID and parents are working from home or working reduced hours.

All of this means that many of us will have a lot of family time on our hands in the next several weeks. As any parent will tell you, that is both wonderful and terrifying.

But Penn State Behrend’s Youth Education Outreach (YEO) program, the folks who work to engage thousands of kids on campus for weeks every summer in College for Kids, aren’t scared. They know a thing or two about educating young people with activities that are so much fun they don’t even realize they are learning important concepts in STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.

We asked the members of the YEO team to put together a little holiday/winter toolkit for parents, and they came through with lots of websites where you can find activities to while away many a winter day.

Sites to explore

We have provided a link to a specific activity or list of ideas, but each of these sites offers a wide variety of experiments, crafts, and fun. Just click around.

Build some (hot cocoa) bombs

Baking is food science. Learn how to whip up the hottest new holiday treats – hot chocolate bombs – here.  Not into hot cocoa? Here are more ways to teach science through baking.

Crafting with STEAM concepts

Go on a wild GooseChase

Join Behrend’s Winter Wonderland GooseChase game, which runs through March. GooseChase is a free application for your smartphone. Create an account, join the game (code is JW1DB1), and start checking off the “missions” posted. Tasks include building a Nittany Lion snowman, er…snowlion;  constructing a LEGO winter scene; making an ice lantern, and much more. As your family completes the missions, post a photo or video and then check that mission off as completed. More missions will be added throughout the duration of the game. You can find step-by-step instruction for joining and playing GooseChase here.

 

Behrend’s Youth Outreach Wants to Send You on a Wild GooseChase this Summer

By Heather Cass, 

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

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With many camps and activities canceled this summer, it can be challenging to keep the kids entertained, but Penn State Behrend’s Youth Education Outreach program came up with a fun and family-friendly idea: an all-ages digital scavenger hunt utilizing a free smartphone application called GooseChase.

Just download the application and join the “Behrend Summer Fun” game to get a list of weekly tasks. Behrend will add new “missions” every week until the end of August.

The missions might be indoors or out and will include things like photo challenges, family games, hands-on activities, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) challenges, and more. Trying new things will be encouraged!

This week’s missions are themed around the Fourth of July. A few sample tasks (each worth 100 points): Take a photo of yourself dressed in red, white, and blue; build something using only red, white, and blue LEGOS; take a photo with an American flag; design and enjoy a home-made slip-n-slide, and more.

“The tasks are designed to get kids out and about having fun while also sneaking in some educational activities and lessons,” said Melanie Ford, director of Youth Education Outreach at Penn State Behrend.

Need more incentive? Prizes will be awarded to the top three players and other randomly-drawn players, too.

Download the GooseChase application at your favorite app store and search for “Behrend Summer Fun” or use the code: JW9WLZ to join the game.

For more information and the latest news on the “Behrend Summer Fun” scavenger hunt, follow Behrend’s Youth Education Outreach program on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PSBOutreach/.