Brandywine engineering course helps local church with sound absorption

photo of new sound absorption panels on the ceiling in the church's common room

The new sound absorption panels on the ceiling in the church's common room.

Credit: Megann Hedgecock

MEDIA, Pa. — Students in a Penn State Brandywine engineering course are helping their local community through their educational experiences. Led by Lecturer Megann Hedgecock, Cornerstone Engineering Design (EDSGN 100) works with members of the community, whether on or off campus, on engineering design challenges.

In Fall 2022, a group of students in Hedgecock’s class worked with the Delaware Valley Christian Church, located across the street from the campus, to help figure out how to dampen the sound in its community room.

“Vippy Yee, the former Rosenberg director for the Center for Social Impact, introduced me to one of the church’s elders when she first heard of this need,” said Hedgecock. “We took a trip across the street to the church to take some measurements and talk with the elders about what exactly they needed.”

Upon returning to campus, the students began researching what products currently exist to help absorb sound in a large room used for community gatherings. They then came up with objectives for the project based on their research and developed prototypes from arts and crafts materials to represent their intended design.

The teams also designed a component of their concept using the Computer Aided Design software SolidWorks; these components were sent to Penn State Great Valley, where they became three-dimensional using a 3D printer. When the designs were completed, the teams created presentations and final reports to give to the church.

Though this all occurred one year ago, the church’s sound absorption project wrapped up in November 2023.

“The church invited me over to see the final product, and they were very pleased with both the effectiveness of the sound absorption as well as the aesthetic of the sound-absorbing panels,” Hedgecock said. “They said the real test was their monthly trivia event in early November, and everyone was able to chat more easily at their tables thanks to the panels!”

Hedgecock teaches EDSGN 100 each semester and develops new projects to help members of the community. This semester, her students are working to create an irrigation system for Brandywine’s campus garden. Hedgecock said she hopes next semester her class can partner with the church once again, this time to add lighting to the parking lot.

“The church recently informed me that, especially in the fall and winter with the sky getting darker much earlier, they want the community members who come for activities in the evening to feel good about walking to their cars,” she said.

When asked what her favorite part about teaching EDSGN 100 is, Hedgecock noted how much she loves the creativity she sees.

“Seeing what the students come up with is amazing,” she said. “Often, their ideas are topics that I have no prior knowledge about, so I’m learning along with them. They’re practicing the whole design process top to bottom, and it’s super neat to see what they come up with.”