FirstEnergy Foundation boosts student research at Penn State Behrend

Three people hold a check announcing a donation from the FirstEnergy Foundation.

Marybeth Smialek, director of external affairs at FirstEnergy, and Scott Wyman, president of Penelec, present a foundation check to Penn State Behrend Chancellor Ralph Ford. The FirstEnergy Foundation has provided $175,000 to support student research and industry partnerships at three Penn State campuses, including Penn State Behrend.

Credit: Penn State Behrend

A $175,000 gift from the FirstEnergy Foundation will support student research and industry partnerships at Penn State’s Behrend, Berks and University Park campuses.

The gift includes $50,000 of direct support for student research in the School of Engineering at Penn State Behrend, where yearlong capstone student projects are developed with input from industry partners. This year’s projects, which will be presented at the Richard J. Fasenmyer Engineering Design Conference on April 28, include a robotic lawn mower, an autonomous tracking system for drones and a wireless network for wind farms.

“The capstone experience is a signature component of our School of Engineering,” Penn State Behrend Chancellor Ralph Ford said. “When our students apply what they have learned to a real problem in a specific industry setting, everyone benefits.”

Capstone projects prepare School of Engineering graduates for diverse roles in technical workplaces, including FirstEnergy. The company has hired 19 School of Engineering graduates in the past decade.

The FirstEnergy Foundation gift also provides general support for the Bernard M. Gordon Learning Factory at University Park, a state-of-the-art engineering facility equipped with CNC machines, water jet cutters and 3D printers. More than 1,000 Penn State students use the facility every year.

The Berks Learning Factory at Penn State Berks also will receive funding.

“FirstEnergy and its foundation have long supported programs that help to build a viable workforce into the future, and efforts like these are a perfect fit for our mission to do so,” said Scott Wyman, regional president of Penelec, a FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE) utility. “We’ve already seen firsthand the benefit of student-industry partnerships, and our hope is to broaden these efforts to both increase the benefits to area companies and to increase the value of the student experience.”

Gifts from Penn State’s alumni and friends have been essential to the success of the University’s land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University has launched “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives of a public university: Private support will keep the doors to higher education open to hard-working students regardless of financial well-being; create transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impact the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit