FirstEnergy Foundation boosts student research at Penn State

$175,000 gift will help to fund engineering projects at Penn State Berks
FirstEnergy Foundation presented a check to Penn State Berks.

Representatives from FirstEnergy presented a check for $25,000 to Penn State Berks. Pictured, left to right, are FirstEnergy's Terry Gilman, Ed Shuttleworth and Roger Heasley; Penn State Berks Chancellor R. Keith Hillkirk; Ed Sauer, director of the Berks Learning Factory; FIrstEnergy's Doug Myers; and Paul Esqueda, senior associate dean of academic affairs at the Berk campus.

Credit: Penn State

READING, Pa. — The FirstEnergy Foundation, solely funded by FirstEnergy Corp., has donated $175,000 to support the Penn State College of Engineering’s Learning Factory Senior Capstone Design Projects at the University Park, Behrend and Berks campuses. The gift includes $25,000 of direct support for student research in the Penn State Berks Learning Factory.

The Berks Learning Factory integrates industry-sponsored design projects into both first-year and senior engineering design courses. Local industry benefits from fresh, new solutions for real-world design challenges generated by students and by building relationships with students who may serve as future interns and employees. Students in turn benefit from gaining applied experience, which is essential in training future engineers to undertake design challenges with real-world constraints and parameters.

"FirstEnergy Foundation is pleased to present a grant to The Pennsylvania State University to support the Learning Factory in conjunction with the PennTAP,” stated Ed Shuttleworth, regional president of Met-Ed, a FirstEnergy company, at the check presentation. “The FirstEnergy Foundation is supporting the Learning Factory's focus on the following three areas: engaging Penn State engineering students to assist companies with engineering design, proof of concept, and prototyping with new products and services; engaging senior engineering students in 11 different disciplines with real industry challenges; and finally, providing matching grants to small companies and medium-sized companies demonstrating financial need for engineering assistance.”

Shuttleworth went on to talk about FirstEnergy’s involvement with the Learning Factory at University Park on two separate projects. In the first, students calculated the life cycle cost of their Class 2 rubber gloves and were challenged to make a glove customized to fit a hand using 3-D printing. The second project supported the company's nuclear and fossil power plants. The students redesigned a rubber grommet using 3-D printing to replace the worn out, poor-condition grommets in some of the instrumentation at the power plants. The FirstEnergy Beta Lab indicated the project saved the corporation approximately $550,000 in equipment replacement costs.

“The two institutions, FirstEnergy and The Pennsylvania State University, have a lot in common," said Shuttleworth. "We have 655 employees at FirstEnergy with a Penn State degree. Truly outstanding. Met-Ed and FirstEnergy are proud to help fund this vital program that provides many benefits to the state of Pennsylvania, so we thank you for everything you're doing for all of us and our communities."

Gifts from Penn State’s alumni and friends have been essential to the success of the University’s land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University has launched “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives of a public university: Private support will keep the doors to higher education open to hard-working students regardless of financial well-being; create transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impact the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit