Penn State Berks hosts Berks County STEM Network Meeting

WYOMISSING, Pa. — On Wednesday, March 13, Penn State Berks hosted the Berks County STEM Network Meeting, which brought high school and middle school teachers and STEM coordinators together to discuss best practices to generate interest for STEM subjects in grades K–12. The conference ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and was held in the Multipurpose Room of the Perkins Student Center.

Attendees heard a variety of presentations throughout the day, beginning with “Bridging the Gap from K–12 to Higher Education” by Sonia DeLaquito, coordinator of the Learning Center, and Ryan Hassler, assistant teaching professor of mathematics.

Then there was a panel discussion with Penn State Berks students titled “What I Wish I Knew / Did in High School.” The panel included seniors Robert Miller, a mechanical engineering major from Daniel Boone School District, and Kelsey Conn, a biochemistry and molecular biology major from Boyertown; junior Morgan Schwartz, an electro-mechanical engineering technology major from Wilson; sophomore Hector Dominguez, a mechanical engineering major from Reading; and first-year student Alexis Shoener, a biology major from Fleetwood.

After the panel discussion, Mahsa Kazempour, associate professor of science education, talked about integrating STEM in elementary education, and Marietta Scanlon, assistant teaching professor of engineering, gave a presentation on Trimatis, a startup founded at Penn State Berks by recent mechanical engineering graduate Jason Lehrer, current electro-mechanical engineering technology student Tito E. Orjih, and Scanlon. The team is tackling the issue of plastic waste by using it as filament for 3D printers. 

During lunch, Sara Stump from Suburban Labs gave a presentation on what companies like hers look for from graduates, such as lab experience and computer skills.

Following lunch, the attendees toured some of the facilities that support STEM education and research at Penn State Berks. In the newly renovated Luerssen Science Building, the tour included the Cadaver Laboratory, the only teaching cadaver lab in Berks County, as well as one of the biology labs. In the Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building, the tour showcased the state-of-the-art mechanical engineering labs and the recently constructed Fluid Discovery Laboratory — the only open access fluid dynamics laboratory in the Penn State system, designed by Azar Eslam Panah, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and built by Panah and her students. Finally, the group toured the Human Movement Research Center.

Following the tours, students presented five-minute research “blitz talks” where they discussed the highlights of their research. Student presenters included the following:

— Nick Ficca, a senior mechanical engineering major from Owen J. Roberts School District, presented his research on biomimetic stingray.

— Josh Price, a senior biology major from Wilson, presented his research titled "Characterization of Pathogenic Microbial Communities in Human Use Waterways through Chemical, Metabolic, and DNA Sequencing Analyses."

— Justin Hammer, a sophomore kinesiology major from Blue Mountain, presented “Virtual Reality & Measuring Physiological Reactions.”

— Corryn Stump, a senior biochemistry and molecular biology major from Oley Valley, presented “Regulation of Polyamine Transport by Chmp1 Overexpression in Drosophila melanogaster.”

— Bridget Baska, a senior information sciences and technology major from Blue Mountain Academy, presented “MOSCH: A Multi-Objective Spatial Clustering Algorithm with Constraint-Handling Methods.”

The day concluded with a presentation on the college’s degree programs and admissions requirements by Admissions Counselor James McCarty.

For more information about the Berks County STEM Network Meeting, contact event coordinator Ryan Hassler at [email protected].