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Solar Decathlon 2009

It was a wet, soggy trip to DC, but the students in AM ST 100H, ENGL 030, and HONOR 301H made the trip to our nation's capital to visit various places.  The focus of the HONOR 301H course was to document each of the entries in the Solar Decathlon 2009 competition. 

View the student projects in our Honors YouTube channel, or explore the mini-video documentaries in Google Earth!

In Fall 2009, students enrolled in HONOR 301H engaged in a multimedia project with two overarching goals: (1) to gain additional knowledge pertaining to primary education and what is being done to make education equal and accessible to all; and (2) to identify and grow your own innovative ideas pertaining to sustained change towards the UN Millennium goal for universal primary education. View the solutions designed by two of the teams!

Looking Abroad for Answers: Solutions for American Education Problems, by John Formento, Lauren Orner, Nina Zeoli

Improving Enthusiasm for Education in Youth Through Parental Involvement and Mentoring, by Mary-Therese Capaldi, Carl Doonan, Diane Paolo

Schreyer Scholar defends her thesis and presents her innovative and inspiring creations of her new jewelry line International Charm '09 (July 16, 2009).

View her video she created introducing the inspiration for her new line.

View a photo collection of images from the jewelry show.

Inspired by the book Not Quite What I was Planning: Six Word Memoirs from Writers Famous and Obscure, Penn State Brandywine honors scholars in GEOSC 021H (Earth & Life) in Spring 2009 individually contributed six words that define their view on the term "evolution."

Wordle ( was used to create "word clouds" from the submitted text. In the images, greater prominence is given to words that appear more frequently from the six word collection. Click on the link and/or the image below to see a full screen view of the Wordle.

Wordle for Evolution (pre-semester) (LINK)
Wordle: Six Words on "Evolution" (pre-semester)

Wordle for Evolution (post-semester) (LINK)
Wordle: Six Words on "Evolution" (post-semester)

Six Words on "Building A Global Awareness"

Inspired by the book Not Quite What I was Planning: Six Word Memoirs from Writers Famous and Obscure, Penn State Brandywine honors faculty, students, and alumni individually contributed six words that define their view on the honors mission of "building a global awareness." See the individual contributions at:

Wordle ( was used to create "word clouds" from the submitted text. In the image below, greater prominence is given to words that appear more frequently from the six word collection. Click on the image to see a full screen view of the Wordle.

 Wordle: Six Words on "Building A Global Awareness"

Binding a book in an innovative way

In Fall 2008, the HONOR 301H course (The Role of Knowledge in Society) focused on the theme of "innovation." To stay connected with the overarching honors theme of hunger and poverty that semester, the scholars were given a very creative assignment. The scholars were required to write a book for an audience of children 8-10 years old on hunger and/or poverty, but the scholars were challenged to present their story in an innovative way instead of the same old book format. To assist the scholars, a book binder was brought in to show the students several creative ways to present their stories. The photos below are from the book binding workshop.

 Book making workshop, Image 1    Book making workshop, Image 2

Smithsonain Dinosaurs, Part 2

It all began with an honors option project in Fall 2007.  Alyce DiLauro and Teron Meyers were enrolled in EARTH 150--Dinosaur Extinctions and Other Controversies.  The scholars completed an honors option project in the course.  At the suggestion of Dr. Guertin, they documented the dinosaur type specimens at the Smithsonian Institution through the creation of an enhanced podcast.  (see blog posting)


In Spring 2008, Alyce and Teron presented their podcast and a poster at the Eastern Colleges Conference of Sigma Xi (The Scientific Research Society). The scholars received comments and valuable feedback on the information and presentation of material in the podcast.


One would think that the project would certainly have been done-and-over with by this point--the honors option project ended in the fall, and a conference presentation was given in the spring. However, Teron and Alyce did not want to end there! Based upon the feedback they received at the conference, they decided to redo the project during the summer--not for academic credit, but to improve upon their original project. Little did they know that their summer journey would be filled with significant opportunities!


Dr. Guertin knows the dinosaur collections manager at the Smithsonian, Dr. Michael Brett-Surman. As Teron and Alyce wanted to take some additional photos and record some video of the dinosaurs, a trip was arranged for the students to receive a private tour of the dinosaur hall before it opened to the public in the morning, and then take a behind-the-scenes tour of the collections. To aid with collecting notes and data, scholar Jen Choi joined the group for the trip.

The story now takes many interesting turns.  For example, Teron and Alyce learned of Jen's artistic talents, and Jen is beginning to sketch some of the dinosaurs on display.  Teron and Alyce also learned that the dinosaur hall will soon be closing for at least five years for renovations.  With significant changes taking place in the dinosaur hall, the group decided to collect as much information as possible to officially document the mounts and displays with the hope of creating several short videos that can be viewed by others.


Teron and Alyce went back to work to redo their initial dinosaur type specimen podcast. It is now a video that can be viewed in YouTube, and is part of the K-12 educational content in Penn State's iTunes U channel! Stay tuned as these scholars continue to document the dinosaurs.


You can view their video at:


On left:  Alyce, Jen, and Teron posing with a Triceratops skull outside in front of the Smithsonian.  On right:  Teron, Alyce, and Jen with Dr. Michael Brett-Surman in the type specimen room touching a type skull of a saber-toothed cat.

Scholars with Triceratops skull.jpg   stegroadkillA.jpg
In 2007, Cooper Honors engineering scholars Douglas May and Matthew Liskowycz contacted the College of Engineering at the PSU-University Park campus to explore the possibility of participating in the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.  Penn State Brandywine had never sent a team to the competition.  But the leadership of Doug and Matt brought together fellow freshmen and sophomores in the Engineering Club to create a team - and a machine that assembles a hamburger consisting of no less than one precooked meat patty, two vegetables, and two condiments, sandwiched between two bun halves.  Under the mentorship of Dr. Ivan Esparragoza, the team brought their machine to the Penn State competition and beat four other Penn State teams to place first.  The first-place finish has earned the team a spot in the national competition to be held at Purdue University on April 5th.  Best of luck, Brandywine engineers!

40th anniversary lion-art exhibition


In connection with the 40th anniversary of the Penn State Brandywine campus, local artists are painting statues of our school symbol, the Nittany Lion. Under the supervision of Professor Connie Kirker, honors scholars and Alyce DiLauro and Teron Meyers interviewed some of the artists that are creating these one-of-a-kind masterpieces. For their ART H 112 honors option project, Alyce and Teron compiled a blog with images and information about each of the artists. The lion statues will be auctioned off at the 40th anniversary gala with proceeds going towards student scholarships.

View the blog here.

Smithsonian classic dinosaur specimens


For their honors option project in EARTH 150H (Dinosaur Extinction and Other Controversies), Alyce DiLauro and Teron Meyers explored the classic specimens in the dinosaur collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

Why are some dinosaurs more unique than others in the Smithsonian's collection? Which dinosaurs are the 'classic specimens'? Tune in to the photo and audio tour put together by these scholars to find out!

Download the podcast here for iTunes and/or your iPod.

If you do not have an iPod, view online the same m4v file.

SCA/Mazda Conservation in Action Contest

Students enrolled in EARTH 100H/STS 200H in Fall 2007 participated in a Conservation in Action Contest sponsored by the Student Conservation Association and Mazda. The goal of the SCA/Mazda was, "... to engage the intelligence, the passion, and the leadership of America's young people to help restore and protect our physical world... Show us your action-oriented practical solutions that engage young people in addressing an environmental challenge..."

The honors scholars took the challenge to heart and created some amazing summaries of and solutions to environmental challenges on planet Earth. Many students utilized the the multimedia technological tools available in the Digital Commons, the campus' audio/video recording studio.

Below is a listing of the EARTH 100H/STS 200H students and their topics of research.

Erika Acuna, Concern for Overfishing: What Can Be Done About This Problem? - I discussed the problem of overfishing. There is too much fishing being done and because of the lack of control governments have over their coastlines we are quickly running out of fish. The laws have to be tightened and we as consumers can also make a change by knowing what fish we are buying.

Rocco Arena, Small Scale Community Networking on the Web for the Purpose of Environmental Progression in Respective Neighborhoods (link) - Proposed is a website that will further environmental change through community networking. The site is designed to be user friendly in essence and design. The system, when fully developed, will give the average citizen the opportunity to contact their neighbors and representatives and will offer a window to a vast amount of information on how change what we've always wanted, but have previously hesitated to because of time restraint.

Corey Borchers, Green Education (link) - In order for something to be done to help the environment, a majority of the population needs to actually care and be aware of the environmental problems we face. I believe that if schools began giving mandatory classes to teach children how to conserve and to create awareness of world problems, we could slowly create a population of caring and aware people. With an aware population, more people would find more solutions to our current environmental problems and we as a population could make an incredible "green" impact.

Lindley Jones, In The Context (link) - Our Earth is facing an increasing pandemic concerning the pollution and waste we humans are relentlessly creating, most of which is easily preventable. According to "In the Context" by Lindley Jones, this havoc and destruction, which will inevitably destroy our natural creation if nothing is done, can be sufficiently reversed by respecting the environment around us and becoming less egotistic. Using expressive lyrics and propelling visuals, this music video is the key to evoking a passionate change in our society.

Matthew Liskowycz, Global Vehicle Emissions (link) - There are an increasing number of automobiles that are gas only. Our atmosphere is being overwhelmed with carbon emissions from these automobiles. I propose a total elimination of the production of gas only vehicles.

Emily Robb, Mercury Pollution - Mercury pollution is becoming a serious problem in our environment. It is in our homes and is being dumped into the Great Lakes by industries. Every small change makes a difference which is why I made suggestions on how to remove mercury from the home, and reduce it from our water bodies.

Chris Thomas, Charging the PHEV Movement (link) - While hydrogen fuel cells are on the way, they still have a ways to go. In the meantime, something needs to be done to reduce auto emissions as we wait for the big shift to hydrogen to fully take place. I propose that we spread awareness of and hopefully ignite a demand for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV's) in order to provide an "emissions cushion" between now and whenever a sufficient hydrogen economy is finally established, to reduce the pollution damage that could accumulate between now and then.

Raquel Silano, Wildfires (link) - People are raised to think fires are bad and should be controlled. However, research has proven the current means used to fight wild fires and past methods of suppressing the fires is ineffective - costly in lives, natural resources, manpower and money. The basis of my plan is a different "attitude" towards fire, gained through understanding that will come from learning about them, in both a newly proposed educational plan, classes for those who are no longer in school, governmental mandates and news coverage by the media.

Peter Spizzirri and James Woodruff, They Say We Can Change The World (link) - Our environmental challenge concerns the consequences of everyday actions that individuals engage in within society. Through a collaborative effort combining a visually illustrative video with a song whose lyrics represents everyday actions that individuals can take to ensure environmental health, we hope to compel everyday citizens to lower the environmental impact. If each individual makes small, practical changes everyday, we can collectively decrease our impact on nature and society.

AlumniBook1.jpg AlumniBook4.jpg

In November 2007, first-year honors scholars in ENGL 030S were busy interviewing faculty and alumni that were present at the beginning of the campus formerly known as Penn State Delaware County. The students are working under the direction of their instructor, Dr. Phyllis Cole, in writing a book on the history of the first ten years of the campus.

View the online video to see images of the students in conversations with former faculty and alumni.

AlumniBook2.jpg AlumniBook3.jpg

Virtual tour of the 2007 Solar Decathlon


On October 16, 2007, the students enrolled in honors courses traveled to Washington DC to visit and tour the energy-efficient homes built for the international Solar Decathlon competition. Now the competition is over, and the houses have been broken apart and shipped back to their home institutions. If you missed the opportunity to see the solar-powered homes, no need to fear - the students in ENGL 030S and EARTH 100H/STS 200H have created a virtual tour of the competition!

Viewable in Google Earth, each honors scholar was assigned the task of visiting 1-2 Solar Decathlon homes. The ENGL 030S students wrote an overall summary about each home, and the EARTH 100H/STS 200H created an online audio and photo tour of each house that includes interviews with builders of the homes.

The Solar Decathlon virtual tour is complete! You can read the house descriptions and see the audio/image files by clicking on this link that will open in Google Earth.

Note that to utilize the Google Earth module, you will need to download Google Earth, a free program, onto your computer.


In Fall 2007, the honors scholars enrolled in EARTH 100H/STS 200H engaged in a community outreach project that utilized the new digital technology available on campus. Nearby, Ridley Creek State Park has a multi-use trail with 48 numbered trees. To assist with the Park's educational objectives, the students created an audio walking tour enhanced with photos that can be downloaded on an iPod for visitors to the park. For people at a distance that are unable to come to the Park, a virtual tour in Google Earth was created to share information on Pennsylvania's tree biodiversity to a much larger audience.

Download the podcast here for iTunes and your iPod.

If you do not have an iPod, view online the same m4v file that will play on an iPod, or view the virtual tour in Google Earth. Note that to utilize the Google Earth module, you will need to download Google Earth, a free program, onto your computer.

View the credits for the project, recognizing the hard work of the scholars.

The rapid growth of technology for communication has created new opportunities for developing collaborative projects and research beyond the classroom experience. Students majoring in engineering especially need practice and an awareness in engineering design, teamwork, and global competencies. In Spring 2007, the students in Dr. Ivan Esparragoza's introductory-level engineering design course, including honors scholars Matt Liskowycz, Chris Thomas, and David Plecenik, engaged in a collaborative global design project.

The Penn State students worked with their peers at Latin American universities to design a can crusher that could be installed at different points through a campus. The apparatus was to have a storage bin to collect the crushed cans, a mechanism to remove the tabs before crushing, and a bin to collect the tabs. The mechanism had be accessible by the whole community including students in wheelchairs and it needed be easy to use even for a person with limited physical strength. In addition to the research involved with the design of this new product, students developed valuable collaborative research skills with international partners through professional online conferencing tools.

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