At first look, it’s an ordinary room, the Innovation Commons at Penn State Behrend. Students work independently at computers clustered at workstations in the middle, and shelves stocked full of equipment line the walls.
But what looks ordinary is actually full of cutting-edge technology—and those School of Engineering students are at the center of it. They’ve built many of those instruments, including 3D printers, powerful robots and other automated devices, and they’re hard at work designing and creating more.
Nearby, in a lab at the Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Center, other students examine polymers at up to one million times their size under the beam of an environmental scanning electron microscope. And more engineering students work independently on their own inventions—from a remote-control lawnmower to manufacturing conveyers to musical instruments made of cardboard tubes.
Those innovative, hands-on experiences are part of what has earned Behrend’s School of Engineering a top-40 ranking on U.S. News & World Report’s list of best undergraduate engineering schools in the nation.
“Behrend’s Open Lab strategy, in which students and faculty work directly with external partners, has kept us at the leading edge of manufacturing and materials science,” said Tim Kurzweg, director of the School of Engineering. “This blend of traditional academics with research and outreach prepares our students to be leaders in engineering.”
The School of Engineering is not alone in this Open Lab approach – it is a campus-wide commitment, no matter what the major.
In the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, students are inventing, too. They’re bringing a unique, creative perspective to video game design and digital media, and they’re finding imaginative uses for virtual reality, with projects linked to history, the environment, forensics and mental health.
Students in the School of Science are learning from rewarding research done in the college’s new state-of-the-art biomedical translational research lab, part of Behrend’s partnership with Magee-Women’s Research Institute. More students are preparing for futures in health care – this time as direct caregivers – in advanced simulation nursing labs. And other students are sampling and studying the local environment, from the waters of Presque Isle Bay to the ecosystem of Wintergreen Gorge.
Likewise, Black School of Business students aren’t just learning from textbooks. They are taking their finance, marketing and management skills global, with corporate partnerships, guest executives and top-of-the-line technology like Bloomberg Terminals – and a $1 million student-managed investment fund.
The hands-on, personalized student experiences are an essential part of a Penn State Behrend education—and they are enhanced by Behrend’s unique position within the Penn State system.
“Our students enjoy close interaction with professors – in classrooms, in research, and just with some one-on-one time. But they also have that key connection to a large university known around the world,” said Behrend Chancellor Ralph Ford. “It truly is the best of both worlds: Our students can be part of something big, while being at home in a welcoming atmosphere right here in northwestern Pennsylvania.”