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Software Engineering Degree Now Online


Engineering Alumni Making Headlines


Students Working with Microsoft’s HoloLens


$500K Grant to Advance Plastics Research



It’s gratifying to see in this issue the many accomplishments of our alumni, students, and faculty members. Plastics Engineering Technology graduate Tiffany Beers, a senior innovator at Nike, was Russell Warley, Ph.D. the keynote speaker at the Fasenmyer conference. Computer Engineering alumnus Dr. Ehsan Hoque was named a Top 35 under 35 Innovator by MIT Technology Review. Our faculty members and students are forming collaborations in Germany and India and designing virtual reality solutions. Enrollment in the School of Engineering is nearly 1,700 students! Our newly-opened Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Center provides space for our mechanical and industrial engineering programs and expands our capabilities for open-lab research with industry partners. It also houses a new environmental scanning electron microscope. Dr. Omar Ashour received Behrend’s first William and Wendy Korb Early Career Professorship. Dr. Alicyn Rhoades, Dr. Shraddha Sangelkar, and Dr. Jun Zhou all received significant funding for their research. Dr. Chetan Nikhare was awarded a U.S. patent for his method to reduce springback in metal forming, which has commercial potential. Our faculty members have designed the University’s first online undergraduate degree in Software Engineering. Penn State Behrend is uniquely positioned to engage with industry and pursue advanced faculty-student research. This, 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.



ENGINEERING PROGRAMS RANKED AMONG THE NATION’S BEST U.S. News & World Report places Penn State Behrend’s School of Engineering among the top 50 schools where the highest degree offered is a master’s. To be included in the ranking a school’s programs must be accredited. Eight of Behrend’s engineering and engineering technology programs are accredited by the Engineering and Engineering Technology commissions of ABET. The board reviews engineering programs at more than 680 colleges and universities nationwide. Other top programs in the U.S. News 2017 rankings include the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Harvey Mudd College, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the California Polytechnic State University. “This ranking is a reflection of our excellent students and alumni, who are highly sought after by employers and graduate schools,” said Dr. Russ Warley, interim director. “It’s also an endorsement of our rigorous, design-oriented academic programs and our commitment to research and outreach in an openlaboratory environment.”

COLLEGE CO-HOSTS MAJOR INDUSTRY CONFERENCE Last fall, Penn State Behrend partnered with Erie’s Gannon University to co-host the 46th annual Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference—an international forum for presentation of ideas and developments in engineering disciplines. The conference theme, “The Crossroads of Engineering and Business,” aligned with Behrend’s open-lab model of learning, in which students and faculty members work side by side with engineers, research technicians, and others from business and industry to explore ideas, advance technologies, and refine products and services. The conference, which drew engineers and educators from twenty-five countries, was sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Education Society, the IEEE Computer Society, and the Educational Research and Methods Division of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

SOFTWARE ENGINEERING DEGREE NOW ONLINE Penn State is now offering its first-ever online engineering degree, and it is being taught by faculty members from Behrend’s School of Engineering. The first classes in the new online Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering will be offered through Penn State World Campus with the start of the University’s fall semester in August. The new degree program comes at a time of increased demand. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for software engineers is projected to increase 17 percent through 2024, a rate that is much faster than the average for all jobs in the country. The bureau attributes the rapid growth forecast to increasing demand for computer software, including applications on mobile devices and tablets. “Software has tremendously reshaped our world and our everyday lives,” said Dr. Xiaocong Fan, associate professor of software engineering and lead faculty member for the program. “Whether it’s small devices or gigantic spaceships, office automation or social networking, online education or e-commerce, software engineers empower things with intangible but innovative applications to make them smarter, faster, and better.” Students will learn software construction principles, computing skills, and project leadership through hands-on projects. They also will study computer programming, software design, validation and verification, software security, and computer networking.

To enroll or learn more, visit

FACULTY & STAFF NEWS NEW FACULTY AND STAFF The school welcomed eleven new faculty members: Dr. Amir Danesh-Yazdi, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Dr. Tarek Elarabi, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; Dr. Richard Zhao, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering; Dr. Adriano Cavalcanti, visiting assistant professor of computer science and software engineering; Anne Gohn, research associate; Dr. Guang Zhang, lecturer in computer science and software engineering; Dr. Kyeiwaa Asare-Yeboah, lecturer in electrical engineering; Dr. Seyed Hamid Reza Sanei, lecturer in mechanical engineering; Dr. Azize Akcayoglu, lecturer in mechanical engineering technology; Dr. Young-Man Kim, lecturer in electrical and computer engineering technology; and Dr. Alex Wouden, lecturer in mechanical engineering technology.

AWARD RECIPIENTS Five faculty members were recognized with college awards in 2016:

Dr. Chetan Nikhare, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, Excellence in Research Award; Melanie Ford, lecturer in computer science and software engineering, Excellence in Outreach Award; Lucy Lenhardt, research assistant, Excellence in Service Award; Dr. Gary Smith, assistant professor of engineering, Excellence in Teaching Award; Brian Young, associate professor of engineering, Excellence in Advising Award.

PROMOTIONS Dr. Eugene George Walters received tenure and was promoted to associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. Dean Lewis was promoted to senior lecturer in mechanical engineering. Jason Williams was promoted to senior lecturer in engineering. Dr. Gregory Dillon was promoted to professor of engineering.



SUPERMILEAGE TEAM ACHIEVES REALLY SUPER MILEAGE! Penn State Behrend’s Supermileage team exceeded its fuel efficiency goal by 500 miles per gallon at the 2016 SAE Supermileage Challenge, and took second place

PLASTICS STUDENTS EXPLORE GERMANY Last fall, thirty-three Plastics Engineering Technology majors embarked on a ten-day trip to Germany. They visited Frankfurt and Cologne before attending the K Show, the world’s largest plastics conference, which draws industry leaders and innovators from around the world. While in Germany, students also had the opportunity to tour Arburg (an injection molding machine manufacturer), the University of Applied Sciences Rosenheim, the Mercedes-Benz Museum, the Porsche Museum, and Neuschwanstein Castle.


overall in the competition. The team’s car delivered 2,500 m.p.g. at the competition, which was held at Eaton Corp.’s Marshall Proving Grounds in Michigan. The team

works throughout each academic year to design and build a vehicle that can squeeze the most miles out of a single tank of fuel.

Tiffany Beers with the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 that she engineered.


Adam Fenster

Tiffany Beers ’02, a Plastics Engineering Technology graduate and senior innovator at Nike, was featured in Wired magazine and appeared on the Today show in November to discuss the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 shoe, a self-lacing sneaker she engineered in Nike’s Innovation Kitchen. Beers was the keynote speaker at this year’s Richard J. Fasenmyer Design Conference. Dr. M. Ehsan Hoque ’04, a Penn State Behrend Computer Engineering graduate, was featured in MIT Technology Review as one of the Top 35 Innovators Under the Age of 35 for 2016. He was recognized for developing two computer technologies — MACH (My Automated Conversation coacH) and ROCspeak— that train people to excel in social settings by practicing communication skills at home using the software and receiving feedback from the program. Hoque, who earned his Ph.D. from MIT, is an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Rochester. Hoque was recently honored with a 2017 Alumni Achievement Award from the Penn State Alumni Association. Dr. M. Ehsan Hoque ’04



wo years ago, multi-line insurance company Erie Insurance cut the ribbon on a state-of-the-art Technical Learning Center (TLC) at its downtown Erie, Pa., headquarters. The 52,000-square foot facility contains a full-size, three-story house and fourteen vehicle bays that serve as a giant interactive classroom, giving agents and employees an up-close look at property damage sustained by vehicles, homes, and businesses. While the TLC has proven to be a valuable and successful training ground, Erie Insurance is continually exploring ways to incorporate additional technology in its training regimen to supplement the in-person experience anywhere in the company’s multi-state footprint.

MIXED REALITY MEETS NEEDS Enter HoloLens, a holographic computer built into a headset that will enable a user to see and hear a claims experience in a virtual environment. ERIE leadership and a team of three Penn State Behrend engineering students are mapping out how the technology would work for the Fortune 500 company. The HoloLens is not just a virtual or augmented reality tool, but a mixed reality device that allows for the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time. “This project could allow us to expand the amount of training we can provide,” said Rita Briody, an I.T. analyst at Erie Insurance, who is serving as a mentor on the project with her colleague, Brett McCorkle. “It’s been great working with the students and faculty members in the School of Engineering over the last couple of years,” Briody said. “We have found that we learn as much from the students and professors as they do from us.”

OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL Through its open-lab approach, Penn State Behrend fosters and encourages close ties and partnerships between industry, faculty members, and students as these collaborations generate benefits for all involved. 6

The Erie Insurance HoloLens project came about when Rachel Rattay, a Software Engineering major who did a summer internship at Microsoft, caught the attention of Mary Jo Ingalls, a member of the School of Engineering’s Advisory Board and an I.T. supervisor in Talent Acquisition and Development at Erie Insurance. “We were familiar with the HoloLens technology, so when I learned Rachel was going to be working with it, I knew we might have the makings of a senior design project,” Ingalls said. “Using the HoloLens to train claim handlers has the potential to further enhance training.” Rattay, who has accepted a job at Microsoft after her graduation in May, was eager to continue working with the HoloLens. “This is what I’m going to be doing at Microsoft,” she said. “Developing software for the HoloLens is very specific, so I’m happy that I’m not going to be rusty when I return.” While Rattay was familiar with the HoloLens, the technology has been all new to her teammates on the project—Software Engineering major Mason Toy and Computer Science major Will Emmel. They say it has been an exciting endeavor.

“It has required a lot of learning, which I really love to do,” Toy said. “It’s also allowed us to implement and actually try some of the concepts and things we’ve learned in class.” Emmel adds that the Erie Insurance project is an opportunity to gain experience with cutting-edge technology. The HoloLens, which is estimated to cost about $3,000, is in a development-only stage and won’t be available for sale to consumers for at least two more years. “The bottom line is that we’re working with groundbreaking technology,” he said. “That’s pretty cool.” Erie Insurance thinks so, too. “Not only is the technology something people have never experienced, but the team has done an excellent job of applying it to insurance-specific use,” McCorkle said.

Senior engineering students, from left, Mason Toy, Rachel Rattay, and Will Emmel, are using Microsoft’s new HoloLens in their Senior Design Project. Erie Insurance has asked the trio to explore how the wearable holographic computer could be used to train agents in assessing property damage.

INNOVATION STARTS HERE The students said the HoloLens device is intuitive for users, but less so for the developers, programmers, and engineers behind it. “Writing and designing for it is a little different,” Rattay said. “We use a 3D editor called Unity to import scans of the room, but finding art of kitchens, bathrooms, and living rooms has been hard for us. So our rooms aren’t ‘pretty.’” That’s OK with Erie Insurance, which is simply looking to better understand how the technology can be used. Aesthetics like window dressings, carpeting, and wooden cabinets can come later. “We anticipate the team will deliver an excellent demonstration of the HoloLens’ capabilities, and their work will act as a starting point for future development,” McCorkle said.

Rachel Rattay has accepted a position as a software engineer at Microsoft in Seattle, Wash., where she will be working on the new HoloLens technology after her graduation in May.



he National Science Foundation has awarded a five-year, $500,000 grant to Dr. Alicyn Rhoades, an assistant professor of engineering, to study how friction and cooling rates during the manufacturing process affect the strength, flexibility, and biodegradation of plastic materials. If successful, the study could significantly shorten the prototyping and production time for plastic products, including critical components in the automotive, aerospace, and medical industries. Researchers at Autodesk, Sigmasoft, and Mettler-Toledo, a top manufacturer of thermal analysis instrumentation, will collaborate on the project, as will academic researchers in Germany and Italy.

AWARD BUILDS ON PARTNERSHIPS The grant, awarded through NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, is the first CAREER award to a Penn State Behrend faculty member. The program is designed to support junior faculty members who have shown the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education.

Dr. Alicyn Rhoades, assistant professor of engineering

$500K Grant Will Advance Groundbreaking Plastics Research Award launches comprehensive study of rapid thermal transition rates in plastics processing 8

“NSF typically funds very fundamental science. This program is designed to develop polymer science, and to see that knowledge through to commercialization, where it can really make an impact for manufacturing. One of the things I’m most proud of is that partners at every point in the product-development process have committed to working with us because they see real value in the endeavor.” The NSF award builds on a $1 million partnership of the college and SKF Aerospace, which in 2014 approached Rhoades and Jason Williams, senior lecturer in engineering, with a design and materials development problem. Rhoades and her team of students investigated the relationships between materials, processing, and ideal properties using, among other assets, an ultra-fast Flash DSC, an instrument that measures the thermal properties of polymers during the injection-molding process. The instrument—one of just eleven in the nation — was purchased by the college with funding that Rhoades obtained from General Motors in 2013. Rhoades also conducts research using the college’s environmental scanning electron microscope. She and Dr. Greg Dillon, professor of engineering, secured $662,000 from NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation program to purchase the instrument in 2015. The ESEM magnifies materials up to one million times, allowing scientists to map material compositions at the elemental level.

The Plastics Lab at Penn State Behrend.

LARGEST UNDERGRADUATE PLASTICS LAB IN THE NATION Rhoades validates much of her research in the college’s Plastics Lab, the largest in the nation dedicated to undergraduate studies. Polymer resin enters a molding machine at high speed, forming thin layers of molten plastic. Those layers create friction—researchers call it shear—when they move against each other. That increases the temperature of the material and the way the polymers physically organize and move under flow. As the plastic cools and solidifies, the temperature of the material can decrease by 1,000 degrees per second. Using the Flash DSC, Rhoades proved that the cooling rate influences the temperature at which commercial polymers crystalize. Before her studies, manufacturing engineers generally believed that polymers always crystalize at the same temperature, regardless of the cooling rate—an assumption that often led to errors in polymer process engineering. A more complete understanding of how shear and cooling rates affect the microstructure of plastic materials will lead to stronger, chemically resistant parts, Rhoades said.

THE ART OF BUILDING A BETTER MOLD “In many ways, the molding process is still considered an art, not a science,” she said. “If you have a good mold, you stick with it, even if you can’t explain why it works. Now we can finally mimic manufacturing conditions at the micro- and nanoscale and establish the fundamental science behind what’s happening.” Poorly designed molds lead to bad products: the fork tine

that breaks off in your food, for example. Good molds for high-quality parts often require three re-tooling iterations, each of which can cost a company as much as $500,000. “It’s like a 3D jigsaw puzzle, or a Lego castle,” said Rhoades, who has worked at Bayer Material Science and the Pennsylvania NanoMaterials Commercialization Center. “If you organize the polymer at the microscale poorly, and then you hit it with a hammer, it’s going to collapse. But if the pieces are really packed in there, it will be strong.”

FURTHERING THE OPEN-LAB INITIATIVE The NSF grant will support the college’s open-lab initiative, in which faculty members, students, and business leaders engage in research and product development as teams. Rhoades will work with both graduate and undergraduate students and will host training workshops for industrial partners. “NSF CAREER grants are more commonly awarded to faculty members at research-intensive institutions,” said Dr. Russ Warley, interim director of the School of Engineering. “This investment by NSF is an acknowledgment of Alicyn’s research capabilities and accomplishments and a significant vote of confidence in the college’s ability to support quality research.” The grant will fund additional analysis on the Flash DSC and other instruments in the Penn State Behrend Plastics Lab and at the Materials Characterization Lab at Penn State’s University Park campus. It will cover the cost of a research assistant and several undergraduate students and will support travel to Germany and Italy, where Rhoades and her team will collaborate with expert polymer scientists. 9

A Vision for India FACULTY MEMBER, STUDENTS WORKING ON LOW-COST DIGITAL BRAILLE READERS India is home to approximately 20 percent of the world’s blind population, with 7.8 million legally blind people. India also has economic challenges; 37 percent of the country’s residents live below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day. While life is a struggle for many in India, it is profoundly harder for those living with a disability such as blindness. Braille books are expensive, bulky, and unavailable to most people living in developing countries. The digitization of information has led to portable, refreshable, braille displays that are now commonly available in developed countries, but they are still out of reach in poorer countries. Dr. Shraddha Sangelkar, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is working to remedy that. Sangelkar is collaborating with Innovision, a company in India that developed the first proof-of-concept for a low-cost, digital refreshable braille reader. She is working to improve the design so that the reader can be connected to a smart phone or tablet, making it more accessible and affordable. “Currently, the available displays on the market use piezoelectric technology, which makes the device very expensive,” Sangelkar said. “In order to reduce the cost, alternative technology is required to raise and lower the braille dots.”

Sangelkar and Innovision recently received a powerful boost to continue their work— a $297,000 grant from the U.S.-India Science and Technology Endowment Fund. Sangelkar’s portion of the grant totals nearly $100,000. “The funds will be used for student and faculty support, material for testing, user studies for comfortability testing, and improvement of the user interface,” Sangelkar said. Four Behrend Mechanical Engineering majors —William Aldridge, Alec Hydock, Marco Nunez, and Anthony Walker— will be assisting Sangelkar with her research work.

“We hope to launch the new-and-improved digital braille display in developing countries by the end of this year,” Sangelkar said. “We are also developing a parallel version for the U.S. market and other developed countries, too. We expect to have that ready by the end of 2018.”

Dr. Shraddha Sangelkar, center, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is working with engineering students, front row from left, Alec Hydock and Anthony Walker, and second row from left, Marco Nunez and William Aldridge, to reduce the manufacturing costs of a braille reader to make it more accessible to those in developing countries. 10



hen Dr. Omar Ashour graduated from high school, he was accepted into both medical and engineering schools. But which to choose? Ashour’s grandmother counseled him to pick medicine. “I remember her saying that it was much better to save lives than to sell detergent, which is what her perception of industrial engineering was.” Instead, Ashour chose engineering —“I was always more interested in solving problems and looking at the big picture of systems than in memorizing medical terms,” he said. Yet the assistant professor of industrial engineering at Penn State Behrend still saves lives, by researching ways to improve health care systems. In these complex structures, poor performance leads at best to patient dissatisfaction and at worst to inflated costs, medical errors, or death. The potential benefit to society of Ashour’s work was one of the factors that led to his receiving the college’s first professorship to support young faculty members, the William and Wendy Korb Early Career Professorship in Industrial Engineering. Funded with a $1 million gift from William B. Korb ’62 and his wife, Wendy ’63, the professorship is designed to attract and support talented industrial engineering faculty members at the start of their academic careers. The Korbs created three rotating professorships that also support faculty members within the Harold and Inge Marcus

Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at Penn State’s University Park campus. The Korb Early Career Professorship provides young faculty members with seed money for innovative research projects and flexible funding to encourage new approaches to teaching.

“I’m really very honored and humbled,” said Ashour, who joined the Behrend faculty in 2013 to help launch the college’s bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering. “This is going to help me involve more undergraduates in my research. The fund was used to buy virtual-reality equipment to test the applicability of it in teaching discrete event simulation and manufacturing systems concepts. VR creates sensory experiences where students ‘see’ the effects of changes on system outputs.” Ashour is currently supervising five undergraduate industrial engineering student researchers. They are working at an Erie-area hospital to analyze and improve healthcare systems in the facility’s operating rooms, emergency department, and cardiology outpatient clinic.


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GIRLS ATTEND WEEK-LONG STEM CAMP: Fifty seventh- and eighth-graders attended GE Girls camp at Penn State Behrend last summer. The program—one of just eleven in the nation—is a week-long science, technology, engineering, and math camp held on campus. GE engineers and Behrend faculty members led classroom and lab sessions, designed to encourage girls to explore concepts and careers in the STEM fields.



Penn State Behrend students won five of sixteen prizes at HackPSU, a weekend-long hackathon held at University Park last fall. More than 600 students participated, including twenty-five from Behrend. Three teams took home awards: • Chris Andrejewski, Rachel Rattay, Mason Toy, and Xiaoyu “Allen” Zhou won first place in the IBM Watson Challenge and the Penn State COIL/EDTech Challenge. • Hozaifa Abdalla, Brandon Bench, Aiden Chiavatti, Daniel Lopez, and Manan Patel won the Optum Challenge to improve health through technology and second place in the IBM Watson Challenge. • Matt Benkart, Tyler Small, and Corey Zalewski won the HackHarassment Challenge, using technology to reduce online harassment.

Penn State Behrend student teams also took home awards at two February hacking events at the Rochester Institute of Technology: Mason Toy, Daniel Kovalevich, Conrad Weiser, and Vily Kolesnichenko won the #HackHarassment challenge at the university’s Brickhack events. They developed Omniclad, a chat bot/ moderator designed to streamline communication and help eliminate bullying and harassment.

Rachel Rattay, Allison Steinmetz, Katie Chuzie, Karlene McCleary, and Alexa Foo won two awards—most novel and best domain name—at the WiCHacks women in computing hackathon. The team developed KickHerassment, a workplace harassment simulation designed to create an awareness of types of harassment.

Engineering News is published annually and provided free to alumni and friends of the Penn State Behrend School of Engineering by the Office of Strategic Communications, William V. Gonda,, senior director. Publications Manager: Heather Cass, Designer: Martha Ansley Campbell, This publication is available in alternative media on request. Penn State is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer, and is committed to providing employment opportunities to all qualified applicants without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or protected veteran status. U.Ed. EBO 17-241


Engineering News - 2017  

News from Penn State Behrend's School of Engineering

Engineering News - 2017  

News from Penn State Behrend's School of Engineering