IST groups earn awards at Campus and Community Sustainability Expo

Britt Munnell, Ryan McGurgan, Sergios Dikos, Nathaniel Cox and Ryan Diers are members of one of three College of IST student groups that won awards at the Campus and Community Sustainability Expo, hosted by State College Borough in November. Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Three student groups from the Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology won awards for their posters and presentations at the Campus and Community Sustainability Expo, hosted by State College Borough on Nov. 29.

The expo is facilitated by Penn State’s Sustainable Communities Collaborative (SCC), part of the University’s Sustainability Institute, and pairs community partners with Penn State classes to address sustainability challenges. The collaboration gives students real-world experience while providing local businesses and government representatives with information that guides strategic planning for a sustainable future.

“Our SCC projects with the Borough of State College have not only provided students hands-on experiences in the workplace and local government, but have also advanced the borough’s capacity to address threats and explore new technology,” said Ilona Ballreich, SCC program manager.

Three of the expo’s six winning projects were developed by students in the College of IST’s fall 2018 capstone class, led by associate teaching professor Mike Hills.

“These projects offered students an excellent opportunity to apply many of the principles they have studied during their time in IST and to provide solutions to real-world problems the borough experiences,” Hills said.

The winning IST projects included:

Preparing emergency responders for a mass casualty event

By creating a tabletop exercise with a scenario of a potential active shooter at a Penn State football tailgate, students helped local emergency response agencies understand how they should respond and communicate with each other in a real-world similar situation.

“It’s a terrifying thing, but the reality is that it could happen, and mass panic could cause even more problems,” said Fletcher Bucolo, a senior studying security and risk analysis. “You can’t prepare for everything, but different perspectives are important [in an emergency situation].”

“[This exercise] made people think,” he added. “That’s what we wanted to do — facilitate different ways to look at what could happen in a similar event.”

Integrating community calendar details into Alexa

This student group saw an opportunity to bridge the idea of family and community with modern technology, and to enhance the town-and-gown relationship between students and residents in State College. They developed a platform to make borough calendar events available to users through the Amazon Alexa smart assistant platform.

“You used to learn about community events by word of mouth or the newspaper,” said Teddy Kompa, a senior studying information sciences and technology. “Alexa is a newer technology. Smart home devices allow you to be connected constantly. This is a good use of that constant connectivity.”

“It’s a way to get more community involvement [with students] after football season ends,” added Christian Porrini, a senior majoring in information sciences and technology.

Analyzing State College Borough phishing campaign data

After analyzing the borough’s current phishing awareness campaign used in employee training, students offered tailored recommendations on how to educate borough employees to recognize and safely react to potentially malicious emails they receive.

“Cyberattacks are costly,” said Ryan Diers, a senior studying security and risk analysis. “This is a large concern for local governments due to the high-valued assets that they store such as social security numbers and tax information.”

“All it takes is one successful breach by a cyberattacker, then it’s game over,” added Britt Munnell, a senior security and risk analysis major.

Last Updated September 20, 2019