Bus shelter transformed into interactive exhibit at Penn State Berks

Reading, Pa. — When students wait for the BARTA bus at Penn State Berks, they will enjoy an interactive experience of sight and sound during their stay. Faculty and staff at the campus recently collaborated on a special project, combining the arts and engineering to create an interactive exhibit titled "Knowledge Is Power" in the bus shelter, located in front of the Franco Building.

Marilyn Fox, arts coordinator, wanted to design and create an installation that would identify the unique spirit of Penn State Berks and, using visual devices and sound, project our mission to visitors.

"Ideally, visitors will be able to walk into the shelter and get a flavor of our academic life, the students and faculty in just three to four minutes," Fox explained.
Enlisting the support of engineering faculty, Fox joined forces with Dale Litwhiler, associate professor of electrical engineering, who liked the idea.

"This is a unique opportunity to integrate art and engineering technical education," Litwhiler explained.

With the help of Jeff Wike, supervisor of electrical engineering laboratories, and Frances Jallu, a junior majoring in electro-mechanical engineering technology, the installation incorporated snippets of student conversations, ranging from a tour given by a Lion Ambassador to discussions on scholarships and financial aid, to a student reciting poetry, to a tutorial by a mathematics instructor. It also features a conversation with a very famous Penn State alumnus and other interesting tidbits.

Jallu, a native of Honduras who was recently granted citizenship, worked closely with Litwhiler and Wike in circuit assembly, circuit design, layout and testing the enclosure, which needed to house a solar cell to create renewable energy to power digital sound recordings.

"I've learned a lot of things in this project — working with renewable energy, which is what powers the battery to run the MP3," noted Jallu. "It's the first time I worked on a project of this kind."

Litwhiler worked on sound editing, recording audio files, circuit design and creating an enclosure for the solar cells and circuitry.

"I'll also be using the information gained in the classroom," Litwhiler added. "We can transit out the telemetry on the solar panel and battery status to use in studying energy conversion and ‘green’ energy sources."

Fox designed visuals for the glass windows on the shelter that show students and faculty working together, as well as the Nittany Lion mascot and some scenes of the campus. Coupled with images and sound, the phrase "Knowledge is Power" — in several languages — is stenciled in and around the shelter.

"As a naturally curious person, I would walk right up the shelter and press the sound button to see what it's all about," Fox said. "I hope students, visitors and the academic community will do that as well."

The project was sponsored by funds raised through the Office of Gifts and Endowments.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010