Just Plane Fun: Society of Women Engineers Visits Bellefonte Middle School Students for Engineers Week

by Katie Ciccaglione

On Thursday, February 27, four Society of Women Engineers (SWE) members traveled to Bellefonte Middle School to give an outreach presentation to half of the 6th grade class. Although the presentation was given to both male and female students, the event was scheduled to occur on National Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, which is part of the week-long Engineers Week celebration. On Monday, March 2, three more SWE members returned to the school to give the same presentation to the other half of the class.

The presentation began with an overview of what engineering is and the impact it has on the world. We also discussed the different disciplines of engineering, and shared our own personal engineering experiences. Finally, we talked about how they, as middle school students, can “test drive” engineering by going to STEM camps or job shadowing an engineer that they know. The presentation was very interactive, as the students already had a decent grasp on engineering, so they were very eager to answer our questions and even ask their own!

The second part of the presentation included an interactive design activity. The purpose of the activity was to teach the students about aviation science and the engineering that goes into making a plane fly. The students were then given a chance to work in groups to create their own airplanes using different types of paper, paperclips, binder clips, and tape to see which group could design the plane that traveled the farthest. Before diving into the design activity, we gave a brief overview of the four main forces affecting the flight of an aircraft: thrust, lift, drag, and gravity.

Nicki Gallegor, outreach director of SWE, says she was excited when the students understood these different properties and how to apply them to simple paper airplanes to make them fly. For example, they knew that for the case of their paper airplanes, thrust would be generated by the forward throwing motion of their hand, as opposed to a jet engine.

When the groups of students were given their materials, there was slight chaos as they began the design process. However, when the time came to test the planes, the students were very cooperative and had a great time cheering on their classmates!

The top two teams whose plane traveled the farthest, and the team with the most creative design, were given prizes. Nicki says her favorite part was when the students came together to take an epic selfie while holding up their creations.

Outreach events like these are very important to SWE because we recognize that the only way to supply the world with future engineers is by getting students interested in engineering at an early age. Interactive presentations are a great way to do that, because students are able to see first-hand how cool engineering can be!

Katie Ciccaglione is vice president of student relations for SWE. A native of Pittsburgh, PA, she will graduate this May with her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Katie plans to move to New Orleans to work as a well interventions engineer at Shell Oil Company.

Nicki Gallegor is a mechanical engineering sophomore from Pittsburgh, PA. She will complete an internship at Rockwell Automation this summer. 

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The Turner Prize: What Does Academic Collaboration Mean?

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford

That powerful quote was used by Karen Sweeney (’80 AE) to close out the 2014 Henry C. Turner Prize for Innovation in Construction event on Wednesday, December 3, 2014 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

Sweeney, Senior Vice President: Diversity, Inclusion and Community at Turner Construction, served as moderator of the panel discussion after the Penn State Department of Architectural Engineering was recognized for bringing together students, educators, researchers, government entities, and industry to build efficiencies in the building industry and encourage energy-efficient building solutions.

The award committee specifically cited architectural engineering’s GridSTAR Center efforts at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia as one of the reasons for honoring Penn State with this year’s prize.

“We were missing a real practical practice in engineering so the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation went to Penn State to collaborate on the Navy Yard development,” explained John Grady, Turner Prize panelist and president, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation. “Penn State warmed to the challenge quickly, especially the College of Engineering and especially the Department of Architectural Engineering. They knew how to be a difference maker. They were entrepreneurial and recognized that coming into Philadelphia meant bringing something new to the relationship.”

Panelist Ted Lynch (’92 AE, ’96 PhD), president, Southland Industries, agreed that Penn State is willing to adapt to the needs of its partners. “Penn State architectural engineering is responsive to the needs of the design/build industry,” he said.

One area of opportunity, Lynch said, is for industry and higher education to collaborate in the research areas that would help address the many issues and challenges facing the industry.

“The traditional university system isn’t set up to encourage collaboration, or at least not without too much bureaucracy,” Grady said.

“We have the freedom to establish programs like GridSTAR and engage students who are interested in these programs,” said Chimay Anumba, department head, Penn State Department of Architectural Engineering.

Another panelist and former under-secretary at the United States Department of Education, Martha Kanter, said that other universities should look at Penn State architectural engineering’s track record of preparing students for success and scale it to help solve the nationwide issue of students being underprepared for the work force.

“The nation needs graduates with imagination; students with cross- and multi-disciplinary approaches to problem solving,” Grady said. “Universities have the opportunity to bring all this together in order to train future leaders.”


Turner 1

The presentation of the Turner Prize (l. to r.): Chase Rynd, executive director, National Building Museum; Chimay Anumba, department head, Penn State Department of Architectural Engineering; David Riley, professor of architectural engineering and director of the GridSTAR Center; Anthony Atchley, senior associate dean, Penn State College of Engineering; Peter J. Davoren, president and chief executive officer, Turner Construction.

Turner 2

Karen Sweeney, left, moderates a conversation on innovation, education, and collaboration as driving forces in economic development and a 21st-century workforce. Panelists (L-R): Chimay Anumba, John Grady, Martha Kanter, and Ted Lynch.



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Stay Connected to Penn State … Now and For Life

by Roger Williams

On Penn State campuses across the commonwealth, students are immersed in their schedules, a fall chill is in the air, and alumni are returning to relive those magical college moments. The Penn State Alumni Association is focused on connecting passionate Penn Staters like you and reinforcing the value of your Penn State degree. I’m often asked by alumni, “How can I get involved?” While each person’s approach to staying connected is different, here are some great ways to get involved.

  • Foster your Penn State spirit, no matter how far you are from Dear Old State.

For many, the chance to watch a Penn State game with fellow alumni is the ultimate experience. Connect with a local Penn State chapter to learn about local football-watching parties. Others are interested in connecting with their college or campus via our established alumni societies. Still others prefer to be connected by a common Penn State interest—an alumni interest group. Whichever your preference, there’s a community that’s thrilled to welcome you.

  • Give back to your local community and the broader Penn State family.

Many groups organize events ranging from highway cleanups to golf tournaments that support scholarships for Penn State students from their area. If you’re dedicated to making a difference in your community, your Penn State family is here to help. Click here to find a chapter in your area and begin making a difference.

  • Contribute to projects that preserve Penn State history and the Penn State experience. 

March in the annual Homecoming parade, attend a THON–related fundraising gala, take part in a Penn State student sendoff picnic near you, or join the Volunteer Admissions Program. Live your pride in infinite ways.

With more than 300 affiliate groups—the backbone of your Alumni Association—there’s sure to be a community for you. Visit the Penn State Alumni Association’s website to learn more about ways to connect.

Always remember … WE ARE!!


Roger L. Williams ’73, ’75g, ’88g became the tenth executive director of the Penn State Alumni Association in June 2003. He came to the Alumni Association with more than 25 years of higher education experience in communications, public relations, and marketing, having served as the chief public relations officer at three major universities.

Williams started as a writer–editor in Penn State’s Department of Public Information in 1978 and rose through the ranks of manager of special projects, assistant director and director of Public Information, then served as the assistant vice president and executive director of University Relations (1986–1995). From 1995–2003, he was associate vice president for communications at Georgetown University and associate vice chancellor for university relations at the University of Arkansas.

Williams is also an affiliate associate professor in the Penn State College of Education and serves on the editorial board of the scholarly journal Perspectives on the History of Higher Education.

He holds three degrees from Penn State: a bachelor’s in history, master’s in journalism, and doctorate in higher education.

Williams lives in State College, Pa., with his wife, Karen Magnuson ’75.

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