Abington students pivot to present undergraduate research fair online

Abington undergraduate research

The Penn State Abington undergraduate research fair moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Credit: Penn State Abington

ABINGTON, Pa. — The annual ACURA — Abington College Undergraduate Research Activities — poster fair normally showcases rooms full of excited Penn State Abington students exhibiting their findings from ventures developed with faculty mentors. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the exhibitors had to quickly pivot to a new format. 

“During spring break, our undergraduate researchers were busy building posters to describe their research ... and then, within only a few days, all plans changed. Students weren't able to complete research on campus, and they were asked to design a way of telling the story of their project only online,” Ann Schmiedekamp, professor of physics and ACURA coordinator, said. 

“In the face of challenge, innovation is born. Forty-five students rose to the occasion and developed presentations to show us their projects online. Some even recorded videos,” she said.

This format for the undergraduate research fair provided students with a new opportunity to hone sought-after professional skills.

“The spring 2020 ACURA mirrors a global effort as many academic conferences transitioned to online conferences. This year gave our undergraduates experience in what will surely become an even more utilized global vehicle for communicating results,” Schmiedekamp said.

Projects for the 2019-20 project fair include:

  • "An Analysis of Giant and Super-Giant Pulses of the Vela Pulsar at 1.4 GHz": Using data from the 20-meter radio telescope at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, high intensity pulses of the Vela Pulsar were analyzed for changes over time.
  • "Maturity, Mentorship and Masculinity: Heterosexual Men’s Discussion of Sexuality": Students explored how a sample of 59 U.S. heterosexual men talked about sex, how they felt about talking about it, who they talked with, and what subjects they talked about. They looked at the relationship between heterosexual men’s discussion of sexuality and their contributing outcomes relating to sexual experiences. The students will collaborate with Beth Montemurro, distinguished professor of sociology, on a manuscript based on their ACURA research to be submitted to a peer-reviewed social science journal.
  • "LIDAR-Enabled Electrical Wheelchair to Assist Navigation for the Visually Impaired": This project integrates sensors to improve the operating experience of wheelchairs for users with disabilities. Such systems intend to add a level of intelligence to the wheelchair to make navigational decisions. This could compensate for the users’ lack of precision in controlling the wheelchair. Various sensors are being studied to develop a low-cost yet smart system.
  • "Development and Refinement of a Mechanical Testing Protocol for 3D Printed Lower Extremity Prosthetic Sockets": Fabrication methods for lower limb prosthetic sockets have remained nearly static for decades — despite it being time-consuming, messy, somewhat expensive, and labor intensive. Advances in 3D-printing technology present the possibility to reduce fabrication time, labor and cost, make the process more uniform and objective, and provide a perfect digital copy for any subsequent fabrications. The students described initial findings on the effect of material and 3D-printing parameter choices on print speed, post-fabrication modification (i.e. workability) and strength of 3D-printed sockets. 

See all of the 2020 undergraduate research projects here.

“The spring 2020 ACURA mirrors a global effort as many academic conferences transitioned to online conferences. This year gave our undergraduates experience in what will surely become an even more utilized global vehicle for communicating results.”

— Ann Schmiedekamp, professor of physics

The purpose of undergraduate research is to develop critical thinking and creativity in Abington student scholars. ACURA provides up to three semesters of collaboration between faculty and students so they can explore their interests through scientific experimentation, inquiry-based research, or creative works. Students earn credit for ACURA and participate in the annual research competition.

About Penn State Abington

Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With about 3,700 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 21 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics, and more.