It was a record-breaking year for the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Fair, 2019 edition, with 114 students displaying posters, giving paper presentations, or performing (in some cases, doing more than one). URCAF organizer Laura Rotunno, associate professor of English and Honors Program coordinator at Penn State Altoona, did not hold back on her enthusiasm for this year’s participants: “It was truly flabbergasting to see just the number of students who were presenting amazing work and then when you got to talk to them–just wow! We have students who are already changing the world and will continue to do so.”
The URCAF was held in the Adler Sports Complex, a change in venue from previous years, and one that provided more room to spread out, which benefited the large number of attendees. As Rotunno said, “We had the Adler rocking as I don’t think it ever has before!” Here is but a sample of the entries:
Students Jarrett Imler, Michael Tokar, and Luke Richey presented a poster of their work to find ways to prevent car theft for cars that use PKES (passive keyless entry system). (Syed Rizvi, associate professor of information sciences and technology, served as their advisor.) This particular research project was debuted in March when the three students presented a paper on their research, “Securing PKES against Relay Attacks Using Coordinate Tracing and Multi-Factor Authentication,” at the 53rd annual Conference on Information Sciences and Systems (CISS) at Johns Hopkins University.
Jacob Tomas, Erikson Miguel, and Teresa Pond (advisor Christopher Martin, assistant professor of mechanical engineering) presented a poster on “Oxyfuel Flame” – for more on oxyfuel, see R&T’s article “Cutting-Edge Automation.”
Leon Yang and Devon Reed (advisor Kofi Adu, associate professor of physics) developed a poster titled
“Quantum Confinement Effect in the Absorption Spectra of Graphene Quantum Dots” – and if you’re wondering about graphene quantum dots are made, see the R&T article “The Benefits of a Summer of Research.”
The poster created by Brianna McClellan and Keiyana Christie (advisor Lindsey Lilienthal, assistant professor of psychology) was titled “Helping Low Spans Remember More: Trial Distinctiveness in Visuospatial Working Memory.” They tested people to see if adding color or color and sound would help memory recall.
History major Jennie Graham’s poster was quite a change of pace: “The Care and Feeding of the Dead.” Graham, under advisor Mark McNicholas, associate professor of history, studied the rituals of feeding the dead in China and Japan, including communal feasts and Butsudan, family altars that are a sacred part of the home.
Among the students who prepared posters for their internship was Veronica Mysliwiec, who presented “Recycling as a Process” (advisor Tim Dolney, associate professor of geography and GI science). Mysliwiec interned at Intermunicipal Relations Committee for Recycling in Blair County, where she worked as an investigator to check up on trash haulers and businesses to see if they were participating in recycling.
And most likely the most unique presentation of URCAF 2019 was Kristin Newvine and Peyton Loomis, “Princesses and Princessing: The Sociology of Making Magic” (yes, princessing is a thing—it means dressing as a princess for events). Newvine was in full Ariel (Disney’s The Little Mermaid) regalia. Their advisors were Brooke Long, assistant teaching professor in sociology, and Nicholas Rowland, Faculty Scholar for the Engaged Scholarship Academy (2017–19) and a Faculty Fellow at the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence (2017–19).
Giving students the opportunity to present their work to the public benefits more than just the students who presented. “Not only were our student-presenters inspiring,” Rotunno noted, “but it was heartening to see so many other students come out to find out about these cool projects.” She was equally thrilled with the support the students received from all corners: “There were many impressed friends and family and, of course, the fabulous Penn State Altoona faculty and staff who have instructed, guided, supported—as well as been inspired by—these students.”
—Therese Boyd, ’79