Class project results in Thon Webcast

February 17, 2005

University Park, Pa. -- What began as a class project has become a reality that will allow thousands who are unable to attend the 2005 Penn State Interfraternity/Panhellenic Council Dance Marathon (Thon) to view the 48-hour philanthropic event online.

From the launch of the 33rd annual Thon at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb 18, to the final moments at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20, telecommunications students from Penn State's College of Communications will be operating multiple cameras inside Rec Hall to provide continuous footage which will be streamed live at on the Web, and it's largely thanks to the work of six students in Communications 487, Telecommunications Management, with instructor Kerrie Carfagno.

Thon supports the Four Diamonds Fund for pediatric cancer research and patient support.

A team of six students, four of whom graduated following the spring 2004 semester, assessed the bandwidth and equipment needs, as well as implementation and personnel requirements, as part of their final project for the class. The group presented the research and recommendation to the Thon Overall Committee, which agreed to implement the proposal.

In addition to the Web site, the live video streaming will be available via Internet2 to Penn State locations and other Big Ten universities and unicast directly to an auditorium in Hershey, Pa., so Four Diamonds families not able to attend still can be a part of the event.

"The hope is that the live feed will provide additional support to the dancers, Four Diamonds families and dedicated alums who can reconnect with Happy Valley from all over the world," Carfagno said. "There is hope that viewing Thon live will increase online giving via the Web site."

The project has seen help from throughout the University and beyond. College of Communications students and staff will handle equipment and expertise to record the live video, manage the multiple camera views and edit the feed that will be broadcast. Penn State's Information Technology Services helped make a reality access to the video feed via Internet2 and direct connection for the families. Media communications technology company Sonic Foundry was integral in making Thon available to families, students, parents and alumni everywhere, donating their equipment and data center to enable more people to view the event. The School of Information Sciences and Technology stepped up as technical liaison and provided their expertise in the installation of the video feed to the Internet.

Alumni came to the aid of the project at the last minute as well. When it turned out some video equipment for the weekend was not compatible, an e-mail went out to College of Communications alumni asking if anyone had what was needed. Susan Rickens, an Alumni Society Board of Directors member and 1983 journalism graduate, contacted her husband, Ron Rickens, a Penn State alumnus and video instructor at The Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pa., who promptly responded with a donation of the necessary equipment.

The original team of students included Daniel Endres, Sarah Erdtmann, Bill Massi, Nicole Papp, Kristin Schreiber, Brock Wesoski. While the others graduated, Endres and Massi returned to Penn State in the fall and continued guiding the project. Classmate Sarah Graham joined Endres and Massi in the fall to help bring the project to life.

"I didn't think this class project would come to reality as it did," Erdtman said of the project she helped begin. "Hopefully this project will support Thon in every way we hoped. I will definitely be one of those thousands watching the live Webcast."

Since 1972, Thon, believed to be the largest student-run philanthropy in the nation, has raised more than $30 million for the Four Diamonds Fund, which provides direct financial aid to patients' families and other support services. Over the next six years, Thon has pledged a $10 million grant to create a pediatric cancer pavilion at the Penn State Children's Hospital. This gift will revolutionize the way the Four Diamonds can implement the family-centered care that has cured so many children. Thon dancers are not allowed to sleep or sit during the 48-hour span of the event.

For more information or to make a donation, please visit

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 20, 2009