Spring 2021 Virtual Campus and Community EXPO Community sustainability projects conducted by Penn State students as part of the Sustainable Communities Collaborative


The Sustainable Communities Collaborative is pleased to introduce the 2021 spring semester student projects addressing community sustainability needs as defined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Despite COVID 19 challenges, students and community partners have worked together virtually, and we hope you enjoy a 'scroll' through this virtual EXPO.

A Message from Paul Shrivastava, Ph.D., Penn State Chief Sustainability Officer and Director of the Sustainability Institute

Thank you to our Sustainable Communities Collaborative (SCC) team, our community partners, students, and faculty for these 2021 Spring Semester projects. These projects address many of the Sustainable Development Goals we are pursuing as a university. Accomplishing the projects under the uncertain and risky environment of the Covid-19 pandemic was especially challenging.

Students being mentored by faculty and solving community problems are the heart of the SCC program. I am amazed by the depth of collaboration with communities, the diversity of problems tackled, the quality of analysis and research, and the practical solutions developed by these projects. We want communities to continue giving us ever more complex and challenging problems for our students and faculty to address. This will make both the SCC program and our Pennsylvania communities more vibrant.

Covid-19 has wreaked a heavy toll on many communities, especially around our Commonwealth Campuses. Communities across Pennsylvania are challenged not only by food, water, energy, and health issues, but also by joblessness, economic decline, and decaying infrastructure. Ensuring community resilience will be the foremost sustainability challenge of the post-Covid era.

Our students, faculty, and community collaborators are emerging from the pandemic with new managerial, technological, and social skills for transitioning society to a sustainable future. They have honed and fine-tuned their skills of community engaged scholarship. Students have learned rigorous analysis. They can deliver actionable solutions. Their commitment to going that extra distance to make these projects a great success is commendable. This virtual expo is testimony to your determination, hard work, persistence and resilience. Our hearty congratulations to all of you.

We are committed to the SCC program, and to continuing to serve the emerging needs of our communities. Please reach out to us with ideas about how SCC can continue to serve these needs.

-- Paul Shrivastava

Walnut Springs Footbridge Design

Walnut Springs Park in State College, PA offers a variety of trails for public use. One of the footbridges over a running stream has become unsafe and needs to be replaced or restored. The objective of this project is to provide recommendations for bridge location and design, such as a new design similar to the existing footbridge built to withstand stormwater event flow rates, instream or streambank structures to address erosion problems, and ADA compatibility.

The stream's narrow channel allows for water velocity to increase flow. Stormwater excess is causing footers of the bridge to be eroded.

Student quote:

Our experience working on Walnut Spring Park’s new bridge design was both challenging and fulfilling. Coming into the project, the team had diverse backgrounds when it came to strengths and weaknesses on different pieces of the project. The project was very structurally focused, which was new to most members of team, as we have stronger backgrounds in stream analysis. However, because of this, the team learned a lot, both about structures and effective research and communication. The site for the bridge is subject to flooding under most larger storm conditions, which posed a lot of obstacles and considerations for our final bridge design. However, the final design will be able to withstand a 5-yr storm, and hopefully a 10-yr storm as well, as a bridge designed for a storm of greater magnitude would just not be realistic for the location’s current condition. As we finish up the project, we are fulfilled from the accomplishment and the knowledge that our work will be used for the benefit of the community. We are confident that the final design is one that is reliable under the stated conditions within the final report and designed with effort and excitement.

This project supports educational outreach lessons during fair season and during off-season. Through partnership with a 4-H club or the PA Dairymen's Association, milkshakes will be crafted with milk produced by a mobile dairy unit, thereby promoting the PA dairy industry and providing an incentive for fairgoers to visit the unit. In addition to milkshakes, the unit may have left-over gallons of milk. This milk can be donated to the community’s local food pantry to help benefit the low-income families that may live within the area. During the off-season, it can be utilized for educational purposes in urban school districts for youth who may never encounter this process.

Successful consumer education may also aid in helping local dairy businesses by connecting producers to consumers while educating the public on milk production, which could potentially change negative opinions and ignorance around milk production. If this design proves to be successful, it will help provide easier access to fresh milk and educate fair patrons where they can access milk regularly, locally, and directly from the producer. This unit could prove to be of high value to the dairy industry through successful consumer education at Pennsylvania fairs.

Bellefonte, PA

Talleyrand Park

Bellefonte Borough seeks design recommendations to make changes to the dam in Talleyrand Park to allow kayakers to travel over the structure safely while addressing flooding and erosion issues and enhancing the water quality of Spring Creek to support the trout population.

"Working to address the issues at Talleyrand Park with Bellefonte Borough has been a great learning experience for us. Even with COVID-19 restrictions, our team was able to obtain survey points needed to create an accurate stream model using HEC-RAS. In some ways, the difficulties brought on by the pandemic allowed our team to easily meet with many experts via Zoom meetings. Our team also became more tech-savvy through learning modeling software, using AutoCAD, and creating an artistic rendering of the park. In particular, Jamie learned how to design nature-like step pools and how to estimate sediment build-up using AutoCAD, which required external research and was a rewarding experience. Aaron learned about a natural way to reduce bank erosion and overland erosion. This included live staking and water tolerant plants that can be planted near stream banks to stabilize the streambank. He also learned about a way to obtain design discharge values using statistical analysis of peak discharges of each year (Log pearson type iii distribution). Additionally, Taylor learned how to create and model a waterway with and without a dam structure in HEC-RAS and run analyses tests through the software to make observations of the creek behavior. Tyler developed skills necessary to create and simulate flooding events in Talleyrand Park. He also developed skills in modeling streams in HEC-RAS and Excel. Overall, it was a great engineering experience for the team!" -- Team members: Aaron Miller, Jamie Weikel, Tyler Scowden, Taylor Erickson

Castle Shannon, PA Detention Pond Retrofit

A detention basin located in Castle Shannon, PA was constructed to serve as a stormwater management structure for a nearby housing development by providing for groundwater infiltration and minimizing the volume of runoff on the streets during a storm event. The basin is no longer effective and the primary consideration for this project is to determine if the existing basin can be retrofitted in order to serve as a functioning drainage system or if the basin should be replaced. The evaluation for this project will be based upon the functionality of the design, while also considering stormwater discharge policies and cost.

"The Sustainable Communities Collaborative allowed us to explore more deeply what sustainability means within a community. We loved interacting in a real-world setting to evaluate the needs of sponsors and community members, all while working to promote sustainability. We learned how to approach real-world scenarios and create solutions that will have a lasting impact for future generations." - Castle Shannon Student Team

Community Forum

During the spring semester 2021, the Centre Region Council of Governments (COG) worked with students in a Penn State Law class to better understand stakeholders’ concerns about climate impacts and identify potential opportunities and activities for climate action in this region. The students--including law students, graduate students, and international students--were enrolled in “Mediation of Environmental and Public Conflicts,” which focused on helping students develop the skills to mediate and facilitate complex multi-party public issues. The class centered on climate as a topic and prepared for and facilitated a public forum on April 13, 2021.

To optimize the results of the forum, the preparation process involved conducting a situation assessment to better understand the needs of the Centre Region. A situation assessment involves gathering information to recognize potential issues and stakeholders, determine what information is known and what needs to be developed, and identify potential ways to proceed. The students interviewed more than 30 people to learn more about their main issues, interests, and concerns.

At the same time and during class, students prepared for the forum by studying climate, community engagement, and different forms of dispute resolution. In addition, the class engaged in several role play scenarios to practice conflict resolution tactics, including participating in simulated mediation sessions over two class periods, allowing the students to experience the role of facilitator and participant.

For the forum itself, participants watched an introductory presentation about the climate in the Centre Region, then participated in smaller breakout discussions of 8-10 people facilitated by two students. After introductions, students asked about climate impacts, opportunities, and key messages to share with the COG as it builds recommendations for its Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. The students kept notes of the sessions and afterwards came together as a class to report back on individual findings. The information from both the stakeholder interviews and the forum is being compiled into a final report to share with the COG.

Climate Action Marketing

Students in COMM 473 worked with Penn State Disability Services to create an awareness campaign about disabilities, and how to best promote awareness, reduce stigma, and promote available services at Penn State. Students were inspired by the movie "Crip Camp" and visiting speaker and disability advocate Judy Heumann.

Sidney Friedman Park

Landscape Architecture 116 Design Studio II: Spatial Design

In this final project of first-year landscape architecture design studio, students conducted a series of site investigations and design studies for Sidney Friedman Park in downtown State College. Sidney Friedman Park is an important green space in the middle of a dense neighborhood. Its role in the community currently supports a number of activities and festivals, provides space to view high school football games in Memorial Field, and serves general needs as a small community park. With the recent improvements to Memorial Field completed, we take this as an opportunity to reimagine what Sidney Friedman Park can be and how it can meet the needs of its users in the future.

Sketch by Charles Theuer

First, students produced a site inventory focusing on the physical properties of the site and context. Students met with people who work at the State College Borough to get a sense of the values and concerns for the community park. To accommodate remote learning, students who were not able to visit the site in person were provided with a virtual tour captured by a 360-degree camera. Next, based on the findings from their inventory work, students created a set of analytical plan drawings that built on their interpretation of their research. Students then participated in a series of charrettes and “idea blasts” where they layered and synthesized site information and explored creative responses to social, cultural, and environmental design challenges.

LARCH 116 representatve poster created by Yiru Zhang and Fahimeh Farhadi

Composite of student designs

1. Aaron Solderich; 2. Robert Beihl ; 3 + 12. Hailey Sukols; 4. Tegan Lochner; 5. Hailey Verrelle; 6. Rebecca Jones; 7. Amelia Gority; 8. Layla Khalifa; 9. Elijah Pfeiffer; 10. Kyle Skrapits; 11. Clareigh Ellis

Carbon Footprint

In this capstone project students narrowed down an extensive commodities list to a managable review of meats and vegetables. The meat and vegetable categories were selected for the initial assessment due to the relatively high CO2 emissions and amount of on-campus food waste, respectively. Detailed findings and next steps are outlined in the PowerPoint presentation below.

Williamsburg, PA

This year, the SCC started conversations with the small, rural central Pennsylvania community of Williamsburg towards a multi-faceted partnership that will advance economic development in the community.

Students in RPTM 425 conducted a community listening session, while students in EGEE 437 explored solar opportunities. Landscape Architecture faculty, Alec Spangler, received a Stuckeman School grant to create a trail masterplan as a foundational document to advance further trail development.

A report on the community listening session will be posted soon.

Williamsburg, PA is a small, rural community in central Pennsylvania. Interest in exploring solar applications were sparked by the proximity to a power substation and a recent acquisition by the borough of the land adjacent to the substation. In addition to commercial application at a local manufacturing facility and the municipal wastewater treatment plant, students were tasked to explore installation of solar next to a popular outdoor recreation trail.

Cenveo is a local paper product manufacturing facility in immediate proximity to the substation with additional land available for development.

The following two projects explore ground-mount solar adjacent to the trail.

The Grace Pointe Church in Williamsburg is interested in reducing its significant energy bills. Since they just upgraded their roofing, students focused on the adjacent church-owned building.

The municipal water and wastewater treatment plant is of interest due to the significant energy use by the facility. The project explores if solar is feasible and could help reduce costs.

EGGEE 437 students usually complete a project with a community partner, examining the real-world conditions, restrictions, and opportunities. Due to Covid 19, this opportunity was significantly curtailed, but our Penn State campus operations presented good alternatives. Working with the operations liaison in the Sustainability Institute, we were able to identify Penn State projects, some at the University Park, and others remote. Students were presented a scenario and argument for the specific site and tasked to explore solar application.

Beaver Stadium Parking Solar Canopy

This project explored the feasibility of a solar canopy on the parking lot adjacent to Beaver Stadium and also serving the Bryce Jpordan Center on the Penn State UP campus. The project aims to solcialize the idea of solar canopies and to serve as an example in the community and on campus.

Penn State OPP Truck Parking Lot Solar Canopy

This project was initiated by the Office of Physical Plant at Penn State to explore feasibility , opportunities, and challenges for the installation of a solar carport at the truck parking lot

This project explores ground-mount solar on an 11 acre lot adjacent to the Penn State Altoona Campus.

This project explores solar on a 25 acre parcel near the Penn State Berks Campus.

CED 309's adaptation to Covid-19 restrictions on in-person teaching and projects resulted in three studies on the effects of Covid-19 on land use and economic practices and adaptations during this semester. Students researched real estate market implications, outmigration, and racial and economic inequities due to Covid-19. The semester ended with a class discussion with planners and land use professionals from Harrisburg, PA and Londonderry Township near York, PA.

This semester, the SCC started conversations with the City of Reading, PA to explore future collaborative projects. Since we could not conduct in-person site visits and install necessary measurement equipment, students in METEO 440 relied on PurpleAir real-time air quality monitoring data in selected locations. The following is one example of a student project relating to Reading.


City of Reading Air Quality

Project by Nick Guzzo; METEO 440

The Penns Valley Conservation Association in partnership with Keystone Water Resources created lesson plans about the effects of climate change in local watersheds for middle school science teachers to adopt for use in their classrooms. Graphic Design 203 students were tasked with creating an attractive 'package' for the lesson plan to encourage incorporation into the exisiting curriculum.

Student teams created a logo for the project titled MC2WET, a teacher's workbook, and student journals. Text (lesson plan) was provided, and students worked in teams to create a holistic, comprehensive, and attractive presentation.

Team 1

Teacher's Workbook
Student Journal

Team 2

Teacher Workbook
Student Journal

Team 3

Teacher Workbook
Student Journal

Team 4

Teacher Workbook
Student Journal

Thank you for visiting!

If you would like to review additional project materials, or have questions about the student projects presented, or about the Sustainable Communities Collaborative, please contact us at ixb20@psu.edu.


Created with images by telophase - "tokyo japan city" • jwvein - "chimney smoke the industry" • mrganso - "photovoltaic system solar solar energy"