Penn State Mont Alto holds 16th annual Academic Festival

Penn State Mont Alto Academic Festival
Credit: Penn State

MONT ALTO, PA.― Eighteen students were recognized for outstanding research and academic work during the 16th annual Penn State Mont Alto Academic Festival. 

Held virtually due to COVID-19, on April 16 the festival showcased the academic work of 42 students in 18 projects. Project topics ranged from health and wellness to engineering to marketing and reflected the breadth of the academic experience available to students at the Mont Alto campus.

“Despite the remote nature of this year’s Academic Festival, I was thoroughly impressed by the caliber of the research presented by our students and the professionalism they exhibited when interacting with campus members,” said Michael Doncheski, chief academic officer at Penn State Mont Alto. “Of note was how our students were able to engage in conversations in an accessible manner that made it easy for individuals without previous content knowledge to understand and participate — something that can only be accomplished if the scholar has a true depth of knowledge in their subject matter.”

In his congratulatory remarks to the participants, Penn State Mont Alto Chancellor Francis K. Achampong acknowledged the challenges COVID-19 continues to present and praised the students for rising to the occasion and refusing to be deterred from being engaged.

“Congratulations on your determination and resilience, you should be absolutely proud,” he told them.

The following students received recognition for their research during the festival.

Informational Exhibits

First place: “Stand for Solar Powered Camera,” Konnor Koons

Faculty mentors: Jacob Moore, associate professor of engineering; Linghao Zhong, professor of chemistry

Project description: Our goal is to study the effect of solar panel fields on bird behavior. We are designing and building a weatherproof camera stand to mount two cameras, one pointing towards the sky above the panels, the other pointing towards the sky away from the panels. A computer software program will be used to count birds within the photos.

Second place: “Military Related PTSD and Suicide Prevention,” Emily Yeeles, Michia Herman, Jalen Smith.

Faculty mentor: Anne Devney, assistant teaching professor of nursing

Project description: The cost of serving in the military can be significant to those who made that decision, physically and mentally. One of the difficulties that service members or veterans may face is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD has many causes and symptoms and affects many service members and veterans. However, there are treatment options available. Another result that is too common is suicide. Like PTSD, there are many causes, signs, and treatment options for those who are thinking about or have attempted suicide. It is our goal to recognize and raise awareness for the sacrifices that these men and women bravely made.

Research Projects

First place: “Effects of Skin-to-Skin Contact,” Kylee Hoover, Mackenzie Martin, Alexis Sieg

Faculty Mentors: Stephanie Unger, assistant teaching professor of nursing;
Anne Devney, assistant teaching professor of nursing

Project description: Skin-to-skin contact (SSC) has been proven to be beneficial to both the mother and the newborn after delivery. The current standard of care indicates SSC for premature infants only unless specified in the birth plan. The purpose of this research is to evaluate the impact SSC has on the vital stabilization of newborns compared to the traditional method of placing the newborn on the warming station for assessments and care. A search for literature was conducted using ProQuest and PubMed using keywords including skin-to-skin contact, temperature stabilization, and vaginal delivery. Eight research articles were reviewed. The research found that SSC between the mother and newborn resulted in vital signs that stabilized faster, an increase in bonding time, and maximized breastfeeding opportunity.

First place: “Effects of Breastfeeding Versus Formula Feeding in Infants during the First Year,” Mackenzie Weagley, Peyton Ramp, Peter Andrews

Faculty mentor: Stephanie Unger, assistant teaching professor of nursing

Project description: This is an evidence-based practice project designed to answer the PICOT question, “In infants, how does breastfeeding compared to formula feeding affect growth and development within the first year?” Databases including CINAHL, PubMed and MeSH were utilized to synthesize primarily peer-reviewed journal articles using Penn State’s library database access. Research identified consistent, positive relationships between infant health outcomes and breastfeeding.

Second place: “A Comparison of Pre-Hospital Stroke Assessments,” Morgan Kime, Ashlyn Grove, Nicole Himes

Faculty mentors: Stephanie Unger, assistant teaching professor of nursing;
Anne Devney, assistant teaching professor of nursing

Project description: Finding the most accurate stroke assessment tool is critical as rapidly identifying a stroke can lead to better patient outcomes in the prehospital setting. A comparison between the Cincinnati Prehospital Stroke Scale and the Los Angeles Prehospital Stroke Scale was made to determine the most effective one to use. Several quantitative and qualitative studies were reviewed to find evidence and statistics to back up the studies' results. The most accurate stroke assessment was the Los Angeles Prehospital Stroke Screen (LAPSS) after reviewing the different studies. It would be recommended to use over the Cincinnati Prehospital Stroke Scale (CPSS) due to its accuracy.

Oral Presentation

First place: “From Chicago, Illinois to Tionesta, Pennsylvania: A Tale of Two Women and Their American Experience,” Maegan Aleshire

Faculty mentor: Alice Royer, assistant teaching professor of English and women’s studies

Project description: The American experience is the culmination of the individual stories of all American citizens. And while we as a nation have a collective American experience, shaped by history, politics, news, and culture, women within America have a unique and vastly different journey. Within this oral presentation, the American experience of two different women, both who were born in the 1930's, comes to life. From personally interviewing Kathryn DiGregorio and Nancy Eck, I will share what it meant to grow up in America, discuss their individual life stories, and illustrate what it was and is like to be a woman in America.

Sustainability Award

“Prejudice and Mental Health,” Blasia Drumm

Faculty mentor: Jacob Sawyer, assistant teaching professor of psychology

Project description: People with mental illness need to have a strong support system in their family and community to have a good quality of life (Lavie-Ajayi et al., 2018). We wanted to see how much prejudice still exists today. Using Qualtrics and SPSS, we found that the results showed that prejudice still does exist today.

University Libraries Award for Information Literacy

"The Relationship Between Breastfeeding and Postpartum Psychiatric Issues,” Sarah McElwain, Jessica Irvin, Tamia Lopez

Faculty mentor: Stephanie Unger, assistant teaching professor of nursing

Project description: Studies have found links between the presence of postpartum depression (PPD) and breastfeeding success. In postpartum women, how does breastfeeding affect postpartum mental health? A systemic search was utilized for this purpose. The outcome from this study is that women who do not breastfeed or were unsuccessful in their attempts are more likely to suffer from PPD.

Research abstracts and presentations can be viewed online via ScholarSphere.

The members of the Academic Festival committee said they would like to thank the faculty mentors who worked with students on their projects and the faculty and staff judges who attended the festival. The Academic Festival is supported by the Penn State Mont Alto Alumni Society, Penn State Mont Alto Career Services, and faculty and staff donations.