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.



Read More

The inner workings of the Penn State EcoMachine

In the shadow of Beaver Stadium, on the far east fringe of campus sits the EcoMachine Greenhouse, part of The Sustainability Institute.

On a perfect Happy Valley day, I had the opportunity to tour of the facility and meet Dr. Rachel Brennan, associate professor of environmental engineering and director of the EcoMachine initiative at Penn State.

Having previously worked as the marketing director for a small water/wastewater engineering firm, I was aware of some of the steps needed to treat wastewater in order to reuse it for irrigation, industry applications, and even human consumption, but I learned about how Dr. Brennan and her researchers are using duckweed, plants, and fungi to clean water. This video featuring Dr. Brennan says it much better than I ever could, so take a moment to learn about her team’s efforts and see them at work.

Dr. Brennan also provided me with a little history of the EcoMachine concept, founded by Dr. John Todd in 1989, as the basis for a green solution to water and wastewater treatment. In fact, Dr. Todd’s non-profit firm, Ocean Arks International, consulted on the Penn State EcoMachine design.

Dr. Brennan’s enthusiasm for what she does is certainly contagious. I don’t know if it was the perfect weather, the beautiful flowers or Dr. Brennan’s explanation of what they do at the EcoMachine Greenhouse that had me so intrigued by this research project, but I encourage you to learn more about the greening of water treatment, and specifically Dr. Brennan’s work.

And one last thing: Dr. Brennan casually mentioned that her research earned a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, enabling the team to further explore the benefits of using a natural ecosystem to clean water of pharmaceuticals, metals, and other contaminants. While she was very low-key about the award, we at the College of Engineering couldn’t be more proud of her accomplishment. Well done!


Dana Marsh, director of marketing and communications for the College of Engineering, freely admits that she’s not an engineer but is fascinated by how the work of engineers impacts every aspect of a human’s day-to-day existence: from the houses we live in and the roads we drive on, to the smartphones and computers we rely upon. She’s now made it her mission to educate non-engineers about the real-world applications of leading-edge engineering initiatives. 

Read More

Networking: Green vehicle sustainability lives at Penn State

The world is one expansive network. Reminders of this occur all the time.

Last month, Elliott Weinstein was at Penn State for a meeting of Penn State Hillel, of which he’s currently the board chair. Weinstein had just purchased a Tesla S, one of the highest powered and lowest consuming vehicles available. Within a short time of being at University Park, a couple of engineering students spotted the car on College Avenue, engaged its owner in conversation and told him about upcoming sustainability events at Penn State.

As a driver who was experiencing “sustainability” up close and personal on a daily basis, Weinstein surfed and discovered the Sustainability Institute at Penn State, as well as, David Riley, assistant professor of architectural engineering, and Joel Anstrom. Anstrom is director of the Larson Institute’s Hybrid and Hydrogen Vehicle Research Laboratory at Penn State and coordinator of the 21st Century Automotive Challenge, an annual green-vehicles competition that occurs in May at University Park.

Three students at Tesla dashboard, from left to right: Harshad Kunte, Jim Kreibick, Benjamin Sattler

Three students at Tesla dashboard, from left to right: Harshad Kunte, Jim Kreibick, Benjamin Sattler

So this explains why one recent afternoon, Anstrom, three engineering students and a staff member with a camera were – with the owner’s full permission – joyriding in the Tesla while Weinstein was in a meeting. The sleek machine is practically noiseless already, so when it passes other vehicles like they’re standing still and without a sound, it’s enough to make even the most composed engineering student giggle with glee.

“Wow!” said the students. Wow indeed. It’s impressive, what applied engineering can accomplish.

The students are currently volunteering time to work on the Larson Institute’s EV-1, a pioneer machine in the green vehicle movement. They are James Kreibick (electrical engineering), Harshad Kunte (masters student, mechanical engineering), and Benjamin Sattler (mechanical engineering and engineering science).

Weinstein received his B.S. in marketing in 1973 and M.S. in accounting in 1974 from Penn State. He is president of Weinstein Realty Advisors, based in York, Pa.

“We’ve gotta improve the world,” said Weinstein of the Tesla’s advanced technology that produces virtually no pollution and doesn’t send petrodollars abroad.

Foursome with Tesla, front view, from left to right: Jim Kreibick, Harshad Kunte, Dr. Joel Anstrom, Benjamin Sattler

Foursome with Tesla, front view, from left to right: Jim Kreibick, Harshad Kunte, Dr. Joel Anstrom,
Benjamin Sattler

The 21st Century Automotive Challenge will draw together a range of vehicle types and advanced technologies, with a public display event on May 19 at the MorningStar Solar Home, on Penn State’s University Park campus.

For more information about the automotive challenge, visit

To learn about student education opportunities at the Larson Institute, visit For
information about student education opportunities at the Sustainability Institute, visit

CREDIT: Mike Casper

Read More
Skip to toolbar