PPL Grant Assists Innovative Projects for ESU Students and Area Entrepreneurs

Posted by: Elizabeth Richardson on March 27, 2018, No Comments

Tick repellent, virtual reality, drones, advanced information systems and men’s athletic skin products.

These innovative projects at East Stroudsburg University are all part of the PPL Entrepreneurship Across the Colleges program. A recent grant from The PPL Foundation supported two creative faculty initiatives and five grants for student internships/externships in science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). With the goal of developing an entrepreneurial workforce for the 21st century, the program fosters entrepreneurial approaches across academic disciplines.

Alana Roberts, regional affairs director for PPL, says PPL is eager to support these innovative educational projects. “We are proud of our partnerships with ESU and other educational institutions.  We feel the workforce of the 21st century will be very entrepreneurial. Many future jobs don’t even exist right now. Creating opportunities in the community is an extension of our own innovative culture.”

Drones and virtual reality for a campus tour? Professor of art and design Darlene Farris-Labar, an expert on virtual reality applications, Robert Smith, professor of physics, and Shixiong Hu, professor of geography, are combining their disciplines to create a virtual reality tour of ESU’s campus.  The team used grant funds for technology, so a high-tech drone and camera can fly across campus and produce images.  “Creating 3D virtual immersive space and augmented reality applications expands our minds and creativity”, says Farris-Labar, “and takes students to the next level.”

Can essential oils repel ticks?  Student at the ESU Northeast Wildlife DNA Laboratory (NEWDL) set out to find an all-natural tick repellent.  Students collected ticks, then conducted research on the effectiveness of a number of essential oils, ultimately identifying three that successfully repelled ticks. Vigon International and Hayward Laboratories supplied the essential oils and cocoa butter for a product base. Eleven other students from a variety of disciplines developed and tested the products, designed a 3D prototype of a lotion bottle, and created a plan for marketing. Future plans include licensing and manufacturing the final product for commercial use.

Five PPL Scholar grants created internships for students in a variety of businesses, some of which were initially headquartered in ESU’s Innovation Center.

Facial wipes for guys? Game Face Grooming produces facial wipes, a formerly almost exclusively female market, for male athletes to help cool down, swipe away dirt and leave skin hydrated. Jeff Shapcott ’17, a marketing major, interned in marketing and creative design, handling everything from national magazine advertising and product packaging design to trade shows and social media.

For Game Face Grooming, established in 2015, CEO Philip Williams says ESU interns are “super valuable” as a resource to a small company. Shapcott calls the opportunity for “real-life experience” in marketing invaluable, as was the chance to learn about actually running a business.

Shapcott was hired as Game Face Grooming’s creative director upon graduation in December.

Williams is proud to state that Shapcott was also offered equity in the company when he joined the company. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the internship,” Shapcott says.

Rachel Swartz ’18, also continues to work part-time at her company internship. She used her major in fine arts/product design at Solid Dynamics, LLC, working in marketing and client outreach, including 3D printing and CAD modeling.

Elijah Dillon ’17 and Chester Williams ’18 interned at FD Software Enterprises in Bangor, which specializes in developing advanced software systems for defense, homeland security and medical applications. The students worked on FD Software’s automated testing systems and expanding the functionality of the system.

Calling the interns “a great asset,” CEO Marc Kurtz says the benefits go both ways.  “This helps us catch bugs early in the development process and produces a higher quality product. The benefit to us is that we get to interact with new talent. It allows us to mentor students in our industry and help guide them how to be productive in a working environment so they are prepared for the job force.”

“We are most excited that students actually became employees and most of them are planning to work in Northeastern Pennsylvania after graduation,” says PPL’s Roberts.

Mary Frances Postupack, vice president, economic development and entrepreneurship, notes that entrepreneurship is not limited to “business. “ “Entrepreneurship crosses disciplines, expands thinking about opportunities and encourages creative thinking and innovation in all areas. These projects are proof of that. They would not have happened without this grant. We are grateful that PPL has supported ESU in such a meaningful way.”

Of the projects, Roberts says, “They are important to students, but they are also important to the community. Besides delivering power, PPL is looking for ways to empower the community.”