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BUILDING A BETTER BATTERY 10 Microscope Magnifies Opportunities  5 Engineering Careers 2.0  6 Alumnus Chosen as NASA Flight Director  8 New Building Opening Soon  12

DIRECTOR’S MESSAGE As a faculty member and now interim director of the School of Engineering, I am gratified to see the many accomplishments of current and former students highlighted in this Russell Warley, Ph.D. magazine. Mary Lawrence, who will be the keynote speaker at our Fasenmyer conference in April, has been named a flight director for NASA. Alumni like Ron Crowl are leading innovative companies such as FeneTech. Under the guidance of faculty members, our students are conducting research on fuel cells, learning how to thwart would-be cyberthieves, and building the first hybrid vehicle for Supermileage competition. The first students in our new Master of Manufacturing Management program will graduate in May. Our new Industrial Engineering program is growing. Innovation Commons in Burke Center is becoming a resource for the Erie region. Finally, the Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Center will open in late spring in Knowledge Park. It will expand open lab space for research and development by students, faculty members, and industry partners and accommodate the school’s growing enrollment, which is now at more than 1,600 students! We are uniquely positioned to engage with industry and support advanced faculty-student research while staying squarely focused on the success of our students. This focus, combined with the support of our many stakeholders, ensures a bright future. I am pleased to be leading the school in realizing this future, and I welcome your thoughts and ideas about our efforts.



The School of Engineering was recently provided with ETAP power lab software, a state-of-the-art tool used by leading electrical power systems industries worldwide. ETAP, an acronym for Electrical Transient and Analysis Program, provided the package valued at $552,637. Dr. Mohammad Rasouli, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, said Electrical Engineering students are already using the software to conduct power systems analysis. “Blending ETAP into our Power System Analysis curriculum, which is being offered for the first time at Behrend, gives student an excellent opportunity to learn and apply essential power system concepts,” Rasouli said.


There are many labs in Burke Center, but none like the newest one. Innovation Commons is an idea laboratory, maker space, technology playground, legal office, marketing agency, and entrepreneurs’ gathering spot all under one roof and adaptable to the needs of inventors and entrepreneurs. The lab, which is equipped with 3D modeling/design/analysis software, scanners and 3D printers for prototyping, was partially funded by a $50,000 Invent Penn State seed grant. Invent Penn State is an initiative launched last year to leverage the University’s research, knowledge, and entrepreneurial spirit in order to drive job creation, economic development, and student career success. The space is also part of a $1.5 million Ignite Erie job creation initiative, a partnership of Penn State Behrend, Mercyhurst University, and the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority.

Penn State president Eric Barron, center left, and Penn State Behrend chancellor Ralph Ford, center right, cut the ribbon on Innovation Commons. They were joined by, from left, Samuel P. “Pat” Black III, chairman of Erie Management Group and longtime supporter of the college; Neil Sharkey, vice president for research at Penn State; Madlyn Hanes, vice president for commonwealth campuses at Penn State; Kathy Dahlkemper, Erie County executive; Perry Wood, executive director of the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority; and Scott McCain, chairman of the Penn State Behrend Council of Fellows.


STUDENT HACKERS DO WELL IN COMPETITIONS When it comes to cybersecurity, it’s common to fight fire with fire. For every hacker with criminal intentions, there are dozens of “good” hackers working to thwart them and protect companies and consumers from malicious software and cyberattacks. Penn State Behrend engineering students have been proving their mettle in this growing field, placing well in two large hacking competitions.

Capture the Flag

More than two dozen students in a cybersecurity class taught by Dr. Zhifeng Xiao, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering, participated in Capture the Flag (CTF), a 48-hour hacking competition hosted by New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering. “CTF is the most influential hacking competition for college students and one of the best venues for our cybersecurity students to practice offensive security skills they’ve learned at Behrend,” said Dr. Meng Su, associate professor and chair of computer science and software engineering. Behrend’s team hacked its way to the top, ranking in the top 10 percent of the 2,400 teams that participated!


Last spring, Software Engineering major Rachel Rattay and Computer Science major Robert Hansen teamed up with two students from other Penn State campuses and won the API Challenge at HackPSU, a 24-hour hacking competition hosted by University Park. The API (Application Programming Interface) Challenge awarded $2,500 in bitcoins, a digital currency, to the team that used the API library in the most creative and useful way. Rattay and Hansen’s team won the competition with Coin Rider, a game developed to teach users how the Bitcoin market works.

The school welcomed eleven new faculty members: Dr. Charlotte DeVries, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Dr. Naseem Ibrahim, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering; Dr. Paul Lynch, assistant professor of industrial engineering; Dr. Xinwei Niu, visiting assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering technology; Dr. Richard Zhao, lecturer in computer science and software engineering; and lecturers in mechanical engineering Jill Johnson, Brian Lani, Dr. Barukyah Shaparenko, Dr. Yustianto Tjiptowidjojo, Dr. David Beevers, and Dr. Amir Danesh-Yazdi.


Five faculty members were recognized with school awards in 2015: Dr. Alicyn Rhoades, associate professor of engineering, Excellence in Research Award; Dr. Nancy Study, lecturer in engineering, Excellence in Outreach Award; Dr. Bill Lasher, professor of mechanical engineering, Excellence in Service Award; Dr. E. George Walters, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, Excellence in Teaching Award; Rich England, associate professor of engineering, Excellence in Advising Award. Denise Brooks, research assistant for the School of Engineering, recently received a University faculty and staff achievement award for excellence in staff support. She was honored at a ceremony at University Park.


Dr. Wen-Li Wang, associate professor of

computer science and software engineering, has returned from a sabbatical where he researched wind energy storage/generation and algorithms to minimize the cost of green power network connections spreading over diverse terrains. Dr. Rob Weissbach, associate professor of engineering, will begin a one-year sabbatical this fall. He plans to conduct research that will improve prediction of the energy storage needs of an off-grid residence through improved simulation of the variation of available wind energy at a given site.




Chris Schreck ’07 will be one of the college’s first Master of Manufacturing Management graduates in May.


hris Schreck ’07 was working as a mold engineer at Samtec Inc. in Erie when he was promoted to a management position. While Schreck, who earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology at Penn State Behrend, certainly understood the technical side of things, he wanted to learn more about business and management. He considered getting a Master of Business Administration degree, but at a local Society of Plastics Engineers meeting, he learned about Behrend’s new Master of Manufacturing Management program administered by the college’s School of Engineering in collaboration with the Black School of Business. “I liked that it was a master’s degree program based on something beyond business, something (engineering) that I was familiar with,” Schreck said. The MMM degree, unique among the Penn State programs and offered exclusively at Behrend, was a perfect fit for Schreck, who will be one of the program’s first graduates in May. The 32-credit master’s program is designed to give students a unique set of engineering, business, qualitycontrol, and communication skills that are considered to be essential to management success today. Students learn the fundamentals of materials, processes, and product design, as well as leadership and team-building techniques and process-improvement methods that focus on lean manufacturing and Six Sigma standards.

Schreck, who oversees a team of twenty associates in global mold design and build operations at Samtec, said he has been able to immediately apply what he is learning at work. “Manufacturing Systems Planning and Control opened my eyes to EOQ, the economic order quantity, and how it can be used to make decisions when purchasing materials,” he said. “I learned the essentials on the business side from Randy Brown, lecturer in management, who helped me better understand net present value, income statements, and how the data can support making sound financial decisions.” Classes in the MMM program are offered in evening sessions to enable working professionals to enroll, however, starting this summer, students can elect to attend full-time and earn their degree in as little as one year. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in an engineering, engineering technology, business, or science discipline with coursework in calculus, statistics, and computing. Schreck points out another important requirement: Commitment. “The MMM Program was as demanding of my time as I thought it would be,” he said, “but I’m fortunate to have an understanding wife and an employer who sees the value in education and allows me flexibility when needed.” For more information about the MMM program, call 814-898-6153 or email



he small room at the northwest corner of the new Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Center was, for months, a provisional storeroom, with contractors’ tools stacked on temporary shelves. This spring, when the building opens, adding 60,000-squarefeet of classroom, lab, office, and industry space, the room will house a far more powerful tool: a $662,000 environmental scanning electron microscope, or ESEM. An ESEM uses an electron beam to magnify the surface of materials by up to one million times. Researchers can use the equipment to study contamination in a sample or to better understand the structure, property, and processing characteristics of hard surfaces, including plastics, ceramics, and metals. They also can test softer, tissue-based samples, including biological materials. “It’s the only tool in the world that can do both,” said Dr. Greg Dillon, associate director of technology transfer for the college and associate professor of engineering. “This equipment will put us front-and-center on a number of nanotechnology projects.” Samples are placed in a vacuum chamber, which researchers can manipulate to suit the characteristics of particular materials in order to conduct compositional or microstructure analysis. A material scientist, for example, can heat a surface to 1,800 degrees and determine the effects of stress or changes in chemical distribution. If a substance emits a gas or vapor, the ESEM can compensate for that, too. Access to an ESEM will advance the research of faculty members and students in both the School of Engineering and the School of Science. Dr. Jason Bennett, associate professor of chemistry, will use the instrument to test designs for an electrochemical sensor that could help detect hydro-

‘Furnace debris’ by William Monroe. Image courtesy of FEI.


gen sulfide gas in the human body. Small amounts of the gas are produced naturally; scientists are studying how this molecule is linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Bennett’s sensor is fitted with a polymer coating. The magnification power of the ESEM and the ability to conduct elemental analysis—an X-ray reading, of sorts—will help him isolate any imperfections in the polymer. “Is it rough? Is it smooth? Are there holes in it?” he asked. “This will give us a much better understanding of what we have, and what we still need to do.” The purchase of the ESEM was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation, which often supports the installation of costly research equipment where it can serve as a regional resource. To meet that intent, the college, through its open-lab initiative, will make the ESEM available to researchers at Erie County’s other universities and to scientists at local companies. Additional programs will be developed to support regional K-12 STEM outreach.

“ We will make this available to the entire northwestern Pennsylvania research community. An asset like this has even more impact when you place it at an undergraduate college that is committed to working with industry, and with students of all age levels.” —DR. GREG DILLON 5

Software Engineering major Krystal Elliott, right, in the game development lab with Dr. Richard Zhao, lecturer in game development and computer science.

THE CHANGING FACE OF E Engineering is sometimes viewed as an industrious, few-frills career path, but that old-school outlook couldn’t be further from the truth for today’s progressive engineering firms. We talked with one such company that happens to be led by a School of Engineering graduate. As a young engineer, Ron Crowl ’83 dreamed of working for his ideal company, one where he would look forward to going to work every day. A stable company, but with the energy of a startup. A company that had heart, understood the value of relationships, and cared deeply about its customers and employees. Not only did Crowl find that company, but now he leads it. He is the president of FeneTech, a leading provider of Enterprise Resource Planning software for the glass fabrication and window and door industries. It’s a company that he calls the realization of his dream. 6

“We work together to solve real-world problems,” he said. “We are stable, but motivated to grow. We care, we travel, we have fun, but we work hard, too.” At FeneTech, employees can nosh fruit on Wellness Wednesdays, indulge in $2 in-house chair massages every other week, sip free coffee, and hop on a company bicycle to take the one-mile trip to a sister facility. They can appreciate world-class art in the hallways, participate in workshops to learn about new market trends and technology, and compete against colleagues in friendly fitness competitions. These are just a few of the employee-driven perks. “We have employees actively involved in creating an atmosphere that is enjoyable to work in,” Crowl said. “As professionals, we spend a great deal of time here, so why not make it as enjoyable as possible? All of these things help create a positive corporate culture that drives our business and our success.”

Ron Crowl ’83, president of FeneTech.

A WINNING EXPERIENCE Krystal Elliott’s co-op at FeneTech not only helped her gain experience, but $50, too, as she also was chosen as the winner of the Academic and Career Planning Center’s annual Ultimate Internship Contest. “We really encourage students to do internships because it gives them a chance to explore their industry,” said Katie Robb Sewall, internship and career counselor.

ENGINEERING The company is based in Aurora, Ohio, but also has an office in Bertrange, Luxembourg. Between the two facilities, Crowl oversees about sixty employees, several of them alumni of Penn State Behrend’s School of Engineering, where Crowl earned an associate degree in Electrical Engineering Technology in 1983. (He earned his bachelor’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1986.) Crowl said FeneTech and its sister companies, RoviSys and RoviSys Building Technologies, employ nearly two dozen Behrend alumni. Company recruiters frequently attend the college’s internship and career fair held each semester. “Making opportunities available to Behrend students is one way I can give back to the college,” said Crowl, who also has served on the School of Engineering’s Board of Visitors. “We find Behrend grads well-prepared and eager to work.” Two years ago, they found Krystal Elliott, a Software Engineering student, who did two co-ops at the company.

“The first year, I worked in the Quality Assurance department, where I helped test software,” Elliott said. “The next summer, I worked in software development.” Elliott said the software engineering co-op helped clarify the lessons she’d been learning. “In my sophomore year of classes, I was struggling a little to understand some of the concepts,” she said. “But at FeneTech, I was able to see the system as a whole, and how I could apply that knowledge. It was really helpful.” Crowl said the benefits were mutual. “Krystal’s contributions were widely recognized,” he said. Elliott won’t be returning to FeneTech this summer as she was recently accepted into GE’s Information Technology Leadership Program. “I’m really excited about the ITL program because I want to be in a tech leadership position someday,” she said. “But I will miss the $2 massages at FeneTech.” 7





very day that Mary (Good) Lawrence ’01 drives to work, she steers her car past rockets towering hundreds of feet in the air and is reminded of the magnitude of what she and her colleagues at NASA in Houston are trying to accomplish. Space travel, while practically routine for NASA today, is still a proposition fraught with danger and risk. “Protecting people and vehicles in space is a daunting job,” said Lawrence, a Mechanical Engineering graduate who was recently selected to be a flight director for the International Space Station. Following completion of her training this summer, Lawrence will be one of twenty-seven active flight directors at NASA. It’s a prestigious and challenging position that Lawrence said plays to her personal strengths. “I’ve always enjoyed both engineering and leading teams,” she said. “In this position, I get to work on technical operations and also oversee a group of extraordinary individuals. It’s the best job at NASA, in my opinion.” We recently talked with Lawrence, an Erie county native, about her skyrocketing career and life in Houston.

What does a flight director do? We lead teams of flight controllers, research and engineering experts, and support personnel in protecting and supporting the crew and equipment in space. The majority of the control of the space station actually happens from the ground. This is so the astronauts can focus on the real mission of the space station, which is research and science. So, you have a lot to keep tabs on? Yes. Flight directors have to watch the overall picture and also keep track of a lot of moving parts. It all comes together at the flight director console. We’re the last line of defense in any mission we’re trying to achieve. How many engineers will you oversee as flight director? There are five to ten flight controllers in the room with us in Houston, but we work with control centers in Russia, Japan, and other countries. We’re all flying the space station together, though Houston is the lead along with Russia. There are hundreds of engineering support staff. What fascinates you about your job? The technology and what we’ve been able to achieve on a relatively small budget. There are a lot of smart and resourceful people at NASA who can do impressive things with very little money. It’s mind blowing. What frightens you about your job, if anything? To be a good flight director, you need to maintain a level of healthy fear. You have to focus and do your best every single day because you are responsible for keeping the astronauts safe. What would people be surprised to know about NASA? We’re not all rocket scientists and geniuses. It’s a lot of ordinary people working together to do extraordinary things.

Mary Lawrence ‘01 in the mission control center at NASA in Houston.


Family: Husband Andrew Lawrence

’99 is a Plastics Engineering Technology alumnus working in the oil industry. They have a 3-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son.

Hometown: Wattsburg

Fondest memories of Behrend: “Playing volleyball and late-night study sessions.”

What she misses about Erie: “I miss three out of the four seasons. I don’t miss Erie springs, though.”

Favorite space-related movie or book: “I loved The Martian. There

were embellishments in the story, but a lot of the technical challenges Andy Weir wrote about are things we’d really face on a mission to Mars.”

Hopes for space travel: “Anyone

who works at NASA will tell you that a human mission to Mars is our goal. Much of the work that we’re doing at NASA right now is building up to that next great mission.”

Mary Lawrence ‘01 will be the featured guest speaker at this year’s Fasenmyer Engineering Design Conference in April. For more information, visit



Dr. Adam Hollinger, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, left, and Dan Doleiden, senior Mechanical Engineering major.



ho hasn’t found themselves tied to an outlet, waiting for a device to charge? Sure, there are portable power banks, but they require the forethought to charge in advance and take just as long to power up as your phone. What if you had a portable device about the size of a business card that allowed instant recharging? Imagine: no more lingering around outlets at the airport or sitting in the car to give your phone a few more minutes on the USB adapter. It’s not wishful thinking, but a real project that Dr. Adam 10

Hollinger, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and four School of Engineering students have been working on using fuel cell technology. Fuel cells, devices that generate electricity by chemical reactions, aren’t new. They’ve been used in the auto, military, and aerospace industries for at least a decade. But Hollinger, who first started researching fuel cells as an undergraduate at Penn State ten years ago, wondered if it would be possible to create a fuel cell that is an attractive alternative to lithium-ion batteries.

“There are two basic challenges with fuel cells that have to be solved to do that, though—weight and manufacturing cost.” Hollinger said. “Fuel cells are typically encased in metal, which makes them heavy and impractical for portable use. The obvious solution to that would be to use plastic instead.” What polymer blend to use has yet to be determined, but when he’s ready to tackle that problem, Hollinger expects to enlist help from the college’s Plastics Engineering Technology program. For now, he and his students—Dan Doleiden, Nazlihan Argun, Paul Montagna, and Lauren Bertges—have been concentrating on reducing the manufacturing cost of fuel cells. Doleiden, a senior Mechanical Engineering major, has been working on the project with Hollinger for three years. His efforts have garnered him several research awards—including five fellowships from the School of Engineering, the 2015 Penn State Behrend Undergraduate Research Award, and an Erickson Discovery Grant from the University. “I’m involved in every step of Dr. Hollinger’s research, and I think that’s a really unique opportunity that few undergraduates are given,” Doleiden said. The students assist Hollinger with experiment design, apparatus design and operation, data gathering, data analysis, and publication. “Right now, we’re improving a mathematical model of direct methanol fuel cell performance,” Doleiden said. “Though it’s only partially complete, the model shows promise as a tool for optimizing and simulating the effects of input parameters such as flow chamber geometry and fuel molarity.” The model will be important for reducing production costs of the fuel cells and streamlining the design process. “Ultimately we hope to develop a tool that allows researchers and designers to simulate methanol fuel cell designs without the necessity of constructing the physical components,” Doleiden said, “This will reduce the reliance on iterative fabrication, which will result in significantly accelerated design and less budget strain.” It’s an equation that Hollinger says technology companies will be quick to embrace. “I know that Samsung and a few others are already researching fuel cell technology. It not only offers an immediate recharge, but also may improve battery life due to the high-energy density of methanol.” Initially, Hollinger envisions a fuel cell power pack as a secondary power source for small electronics similar to the portable lithium-ion battery backups on the market now. Doleiden and his fellow student researchers are already at work on that, too. “Our senior capstone project aims to design a portable power source that would be compatible with all USBbased devices, instantly rechargeable, safe, and reliable,” he said.

Dan Doleiden, above, has applied to the Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. program at University Park and hopes to become a postdoctoral researcher; thanks to Dr. Adam Hollinger, he’ll be well prepared. He has presented his work at national conferences, has contributed to academic papers, and is coauthoring a full-length publication. “I don’t think I’d have had these opportunities elsewhere,” Doleiden said. “I’m very appreciative of the support I’ve received from Dr. Hollinger and Penn State Behrend.”


Penn State Erie, The Behrend College School of Engineering 242 Burke Center 5101 Jordan Road Erie, PA 16563-1701

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REACCREDITED: Four Penn State Behrend engineering programs—electrical, computer, mechanical, and software engineering—have been reaccredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET. This is a voluntary peer-review process. Degrees from ABET accredited programs are highly valued, and often required, by employers in technical fields. For more information, visit



onstruction is nearly complete on the $16.5-million Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Center (AMIC) in Knowledge Park, just south of Burke Center. The two-story, 60,000-square-foot building will be a collaborative research and development facility with classrooms, engineering labs, faculty offices, and private industry


space. Industrial tenants are expected to occupy nearly half the building along with mechanical and industrial engineering faculty. The college expects to open the center, which will also include a Tim Hortons bakery and coffee shop, by late spring.

Engineering News is published annually and provided free to alumni and friends of the Penn State Behrend School of Engineering by the Office of Marketing Communication, William V. Gonda,, director. Editor: Heather Cass, Designer: Martha Ansley Campbell, This publication is available in alternative media upon request. Penn State is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer, and is committed to providing employment opportunities to minorities, women, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and other protected groups. U.Ed. EBO 16-279

Engineering News - 2016  

News from Penn State Behrend's School of Engineering

Engineering News - 2016  

News from Penn State Behrend's School of Engineering