Middle school students experience life at Penn State

Jennifer Miller
August 12, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Middle school students from Washington, D.C. were able to see firsthand Aug. 5 how the technology that powers their favorite video games is the same technology that helps golfers improve their swing.

A lesson in the technology utilized by PGA Professional Golf Management (PGM) faculty members and students in the Penn State Golf Teaching and Research Center opened the eyes of children participating in Higher Achievement, an afterschool and summer academic program that closes the opportunity gap for middle school youth in at-risk communities.

At the center, Burch Wilkes, PGM director; Eric Handley, center director; and Matt Bakowicz, graduate student, demonstrated 3D Motion Capture technologies, which collects detailed, quantifiable data of a golfer's swing. Through the tool, the center is able to analyze and evaluate with a greater level of detail, communicate more effectively with the golfer, and conduct golf biomechanics research.

PGM with Higher Achievement participants

Matt Bakowicz, graduate student, and Eric Handley, director of the Penn State Golf Teaching and Research Center talked with Higher Achievement participants about how math, science and technology are incorporated into the game of golf. 

IMAGE: Kevin Sliman

Afterward, the PGM team walked students to a putting green at the Penn State Golf Courses to review putting techniques.

“It’s not only great to be outside, but it’s also great to be able to show the students the science behind the game,” Wilkes said. “But more than anything, we want to show them golf is fun.”

Handley appreciated the opportunity to step outside his routine of instructing college students who already have a passion for golf.

“It’s actually the most important thing for a PGA professional to do in the industry by getting young people interested in the game, participating in the game and working in life lessons while teaching the game,” Handley said. “It also gives them an opportunity to be outside, be with friends and enjoy competition and games.”

Not far away, in Ford Building, Constance Kossan, speech language pathologist, and Judy Creuz, audiologist, both with the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, discussed communication with Higher Achievement participants.

Kossan introduced the students to basic anatomy of the larynx, or the “voice box,” reviewed breath support for speech, and explained how vocal cords vibrate to create pitch. Each student had a chance to record his or her voice using Sona Speech, a software program, and analyzed their average pitch, or how many times their vocal cords vibrate per second.

“My goal was to give them a peak into what a speech-language pathologist does, using computer software to actually see their voices recorded in real time,” Kossan said.

Kossan with Higher Achievement participants

Constance Kossan, speech language pathologist in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, discussed the anatomy related to voice with Higher Achievement participants.

IMAGE: Kevin Sliman

For the audiology session, Creuz took students into the Penn State Speech and Hearing Clinic where they were able use various equipment, including using the audiometer to screen their peers’ hearing and a video otoscope to look at their ear canals and eardrums.

In the session, student and Blue Band member Suzanne Hamilton demonstrated a sound level meter to show how loud an iPod is at maximum volume, which is 105 to 110 decibels. Any sounds over 85 decibels can cause damage to the inner ear, according to Creuz. Students also received earplugs to protect their hearing when exposed to loud sounds. 

“It is a good experience for my students and me,” Creuz said. “It is great to meet the middle school students from Washington, D.C. and answer their questions about our field.”

Higher Achievement's model provides a year-round learning environment, caring role models, and a culture of high expectations, resulting in college-bound scholars with the character, confidence, and skills to succeed. On average, 95 percent of scholars who complete Higher Achievement graduate high school on time.

Higher Achievement was founded in Washington, D.C. in 1975 and currently operates achievement centers in Washington, D.C.; Alexandria, Virginia; Baltimore, Maryland; Richmond, Virginia; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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Last Updated August 14, 2015