Students showcase research, IT at the Undergraduate Exhibition

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State is renowned for its faculty researchers, and each year at the Graduate and Undergraduate Exhibitions, students get the chance to prove they have research chops too. This spring marked the 23rd Undergraduate Exhibition with a performing arts showcase on April 8, and poster sessions and an award ceremony April 9.

Approximately 240 students gathered in the HUB on the April 9 to showcase their research on posters and short videos. In many of the projects, IT played an instrumental role, inspiring innovation and fostering learning through methods like gamification, digital map technology and data set analysis.

Using gaming to bring health care to Kenya

Iuri Costa Rezende, senior in industrial engineering, knows that turning something into a game makes it more fun. He and his research group studied how community health workers in Africa are collecting health care data through Mashavu, a telemedicine company in Kenya that enables people to digitally connect with doctors in nearby cities. luri's team wanted to find out whether they could improve this process through gamification.

They found the health workers were using paper receipt forms to gather health data after attempts to use smartphones failed. But no one was filling them out correctly — or at all. Plus, the paper receipts couldn’t be digitized due to local resource constraints, rendering the information that had been recorded ineffective.

Iuri and his teammates designed devices that could "gamify" the process, by using colorful screens, lights and sounds to make the process more like a game. The team designed a gamified tablet, cube and wearable digital notepad for use in Sierra Leone and Kenya. The gamified elements make the gadgets more interactive while maintaining an easy-to-use interface.

“When data collection is turned into a fun experience, the patients will hopefully be more motivated to do it as opposed to filling out paper receipts,” said Rezende, who was joined by Joshua Bram, Martin Marino, Boyd Warwick-Clark, Eric Obeysekare and Greg Wenner on the project.

Mapping the spread of natural gas wells

When choosing a research subject, Antoinette Mastropieri remembered the news she’d been hearing about natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania. A junior double majoring in energy business and finance, and geography, she wanted to test her hypothesis that the number of wells was increasing in Washington and Bradford counties by mapping the well’s coordinates.

Using the geographic information systems (GIS) software ArcGIS, Mastropieri created digital maps that compare the number of wells in the first half of 2011 to the number in the first half of 2013. She also designed maps that cited the number of wells in relation to the counties’ poverty levels, population densities and education levels.

When the maps were complete, Mastropieri could see that the number of wells had indeed increased.

“Marcellus Shale is an issue with a lot of coverage right now, and I’d been hearing a lot about it in my classes,” Mastropieri said. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to use GIS technology to map the development of these wells.”

Mastropieri’s project “A Comparative Analysis of Marcellus Shale Drilling in Washington and Bradford Counties” won an honorable mention for the University Libraries Award for Information Literacy.

Analyzing everything from relationships to the von Willebrand Factor

Although the quality of peoples’ relationships has a big impact on their health, not much scholarly work has been done on the fleeting romantic relationships of adolescents. Kenya Crawford, junior in human development and family studies, wanted to delve a little deeper.

Crawford worked with data gathered over 10 years and the software SAS 9.2 to conduct a multi-level model to analyze how the adolescents’ relationships with their parents affected their perceived competence — the ability to facilitate the acquisition, development and maintenance of mutually satisfying interactions — in romantic relationships.

As suspected, Crawford discovered that youths reporting better relationships with their parents also reported being more romantically competent.

“It’s interesting to note that father-child conflict seemed to have a greater negative effect on romantic competence than mother-child conflict,” said Crawford. “This could be because father-child conflicts were more rare, so they had a bigger effect.”

Crawford’s project “Longitudinal Links Between Childhood Family Experiences and Perceived Romantic Competence in Adolescents and Young Adulthood” was awarded the Phi Kappa Phi Peter T. Luckie Award for Excellence in Research by a Junior.

Also using IT to collect and analyze data was Monica Corsetti, senior in bioengineering, in her project testing the effects of shear stress on von Willebrand factor (vWF), a protein involved in blood clotting. vWF was applied to a polystyrene bead, which was suspended in a fluid chamber and held in place with a laser. She tested how much shear (stress produced by fluid moving against the bead’s surface) the vWF could stand before unraveling.

Corsetti organized her findings, including an increase in molecule length at 157 s^-1 of shear, on a variety of charts and graphs.

“I was drawn to this research because it’s important to the health care industry,” Corsetti said. “It could potentially be used to design better artificial hearts.”

Corsetti’s project “An Experimental Setup to Test the Effects of Shear Stress on von Willebrand Factor” won second place in the engineering category.

For more stories about IT at Penn State, visit Current at

Media Contacts: 
Last Updated April 22, 2014