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Pitt-Greensburg Undergraduate Research and Creativity Spotlight

Pitt-Greensburg is proud to celebrate the forward-thinking research and creative efforts of our students.

Hover over the student images below to learn more about them and their projects. The links accompanying some students' names lead to further information about their project - either a personal project website or an explanatory video provided by the student.

Top Project Winners

Madison Jarnot photo

Madison Jarnot photoMadison Jarnot ('22), Creative & Professional Writing, Political Science

Project Title: When Presidents Propagandize the Public: An Analysis of Former President Donald Trump and RT's Tweets

Project Goal: Social media is ubiquitous in American society. According to the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of Americans use social media daily. Citizens often debate political topics and engage with elected representatives online, which promotes discourse and civic participation. However, social media has also become a hotbed for political propaganda. Foreign adversaries of the United States, such as the Russian government, use social media to sow chaos in the political system and increase Americans' distrust in their government. RT, formerly known as Russia Today, is one of Russia's most well-funded and influential state-owned media outlets. Former President Trump has frequently shared RT's tweets and Facebook posts on his own social media pages. Many of these posts contained propaganda about Robert Hunter Biden, one of President Joe Biden's sons, who is notorious for his struggles with addiction and his involvement with Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings. Could this propaganda have harmed Biden's electoral chances in 2020? Is there any merit to Trump and RT's claims about Hunter? If not, what is to be done about political propaganda online?

To answer these questions, this research investigates tweets about Hunter posted to former President Trump's @RealDonaldTrump Twitter account between March 1, 2020, and January 5, 2021, as well as RT's tweets during that same time period. The results of this research suggest that Trump amplified Russian propaganda about Hunter in order to denigrate Joe Biden and prevent him from winning the presidential election. This has had a lasting impact on Americans and our political landscape. Its effects are even more prevalent today as the Russian-Ukrainian War wages on and Kremlin-funded organizations such as RT flood social media with propaganda about Ukraine. As this research will show, it is crucial that the U.S. government, U.S. media outlets, elected officials, and everyday Americans alike prevent the spread of Russian propaganda online.

Ethan Crosby photo

Ethan Crosby photoEthan Crosby ('25), Undecided

Project Title: Roadar

Project Goal: Imagine you’re planning your route for a road trip. You open Google Maps, enter your destination, and get directions but you’ve heard there may be a winter weather advisory on the way. Roadar is an app I’ve created, designed to bridge this gap. Roadar, as the name suggests, is an app that takes weather data and plots it along a route. Using weather forecasting the data is offset; If you'll be in Erie in two hours, the data is offset by two hours from your departure time. The idea for this project came to me when I was driving home from Penn State during a very harsh snowstorm. On that two-hour car ride, I counted a total of fifteen accidents. It occurred to me that an app like this should exist but when I searched the app store I found that no one had created one yet. If the drivers had used something like Roadar, the app could have routed them around the storm and helped them avoid icy patches. I’ve created a working version of the app and it’s currently in testing. One of the challenges to overcome is caching the weather data temporarily so if two users request weather in the same area the server only makes one API call. The issue was that due to spherical projection, the algorithm I was using became less accurate as it got closer to the equator. The problem was solved with a database system called Redis. Another challenge is implementing routing algorithms that can predict the best route using weather, traffic, and speed data. Going forward I’d like to get access to additional resources that I could use to track ice accumulation on bridges as well as better weather data. Currently, I have written the server software, as well as an Android and iOS app which was developed in a new framework by Google, called Flutter. I plan to release the app fully on both the Android and Apple app stores by the end of 2022.

Elliott Walak photo

Elliott Walak photoElliott Walak ('22), Applied Mathematics

Project Title: Comparing Mixed and Single Roulette Betting Strategies Using Three Betting Systems

Project Goal: Have you ever been to a casino and played the game roulette? The word Roulette is French for "small wheel". The game is played on a charted table with a small spinning wheel. The small wheel does not justify the seemingly infinite amount of betting combinations that can be played. Nonetheless, the game of Roulette has initiated an endless number of attempts to achieve the impossible goal of winning an edge over the house. The goal of my research is to compare how different combinations of betting strategies and systems can be used to maximize winnings while keeping a player at the table longer. A betting strategy is defined as the strategic placement of a single bet or a series of mixed bets on the table. Different strategies are used to create different ways to win with different odds and payouts. I used the single even money and mixed even money betting strategies. A betting system is defined as a systematic approach of changing the amount on each bet based on the outcome of the previous bet. I used the Martingale, Reverse Martingale, and constant betting systems. To extend the work by Gary Greet and Dennis Steiner, I created six different roulette simulations using the programming language MATLAB to compare each combination of strategy and system. The six simulations led to the conclusion that the mixed bet combined with the constant betting system was the best way to maximize playing time. The Martingale system tended to accumulate the most winnings, but it also increased the risk of a player going bankrupt faster. I also found that the mixed bet combined with the Martingale system did not result in longer playing time than a Martingale system with the single bet as originally hypothesized. When comparing the average amounts of money that the player had left after each simulation, I found that the Reverse Martingale system produces the least amount. The single bet combined with the Martingale system had the highest average amount even though it was still lower than the players initial bank roll ($100). In conclusion, the Martingale and Reverse Martingale systems are high risk/high reward. Constant betting allowed the player the most time to play at the table but did not produce any scenarios that saw big winnings. The Single bet Martingale system combination had the highest average winnings and still gave the player a reasonable amount of time to play at the table. I hope my research can grow into comparing other strategies and systems to further help Roulette players play at tables longer while losing less.

 

 

 

 

Madison Jarnot
Creative & Professional Writing, Political Science
Ethan Crosby
Undecided
Elliott Walak
Applied Mathematics

Individual Projects

Lara Bromyard photo

Lara Bromyard photoLara Bromyard ('22), History

Project Title: Early Medici Women in Fifteenth Century Florence: The Family Counsel

Project Goal: Florence in the fifteenth century was much like the rest of Europe in that its women were excluded from politics and were to remain within their homes. What happens then, when matters of state are actively being discussed and political decisions are made inside the Medici household where numerous generations of Medici men are ruling Florence? The early generations of Medici women perhaps played a greater role in their family's politics than the laws of fifteenth-century society allowed.

The early Medici women exercised considerable influence within their family and helped to protect and advise the men who ruled Florence under intense political strife in a time when women held little to no power in fifteenth century Europe. The early Medici women were listened to, and their acknowledgement by the men in the family represents an interesting case where women’s voices are seriously considered in a political context in which they are not supposed to be involved. Analysis of these instances will allow for a different perspective and understanding of the status of elite Renaissance women in fifteenth century Florence. The women that will serve as the focal point in this analysis include Contessina de’Bardi, wife to Cosimo de’ Medici, Lucrezia Tornabuoni, wife to Piero de’Medici and mother to Lorenzo de’Medici, Bianca de’Pazzi, sister to Lorenzo de’Mecici, and Clarice Orsini, wife to Lorenzo de’Medici.

Letters written to and from the early Medici women will serve as the foundation for this analysis, which are found in Janet Ross’s Lives of the Early Medici, as Told in Their Correspondence, published in 1911. These letters are important to research because they include the writing of the early Medici women as well as letters addressed to them or concerning them. It follows correspondence with members of their family, who are in control of Florence, and reveals numerous ways that they communicated with and influenced their family.

The approach in analyzing these documents will differ from other historians because letters not directly related to the Medici women will be considered and compared to the letters that are, bridging any gaps or connections that exist between them to reveal the extent of influence from these Medici women. Sources will undergo qualitative analysis and will be read and analyzed in chronological order, which seems the most efficient way in assessing each letter and the individual Medici woman it concerns following the generations of the family.

Marcus Hale photo

Marcus HaleMarcus Hale ('22), History

Project Title: Avondale Mining Disaster: A Second Look at the Causes, Consequences and the Conclusion

Project Goal: Sometimes when we look back on an event in history, we trust that what we read and hear is the truth about what happened; however, this is not always the case. On Sept. 6, 1869 a fire erupted at the Avondale Coal Mine at Plymouth, PA which claimed 108 lives. The inquest jury reached a verdict that the fire started from the fire in the furnace. After the coroner's inquest, doubt still remains as to the cause of the fire and questions remain as to why the jury overlooked direct witness evidence which supported other theories on the cause of the fire.

I am conducting this research to prove that the jury decision at the inquest was hastily reached and that evidence was not seriously considered from credible witnesses who presented other theories for the cause of the fire in the mine. I believe that by exposing testimony and information from time period newspaper articles and other secondary sources, the reader will agree that the cause of the fire is inconclusive and that the cause of the fire may have been from other sources besides the furnace. My paper also exposes how the inquest deliberately left out some witness testimony from its report which the newspapers revealed in their coverage of the events. I want to enlighten others about this event which was referred to as the "worst coal mine in Pennsylvania" at the time. This accident changed mining legislation and mining safety rules which are still in place today.

Brook Kovalcik photo

Brook Kovalcik photoBrook Kovalcik ('22), Political Science, History

Project Title: "They Plowed, They Reaped, Rifle in Hand": The Militia’s Defense of Revolutionary Era Westmoreland

Project Goal: This project researches the factors that that influenced the frontier defense of Westmoreland County from 1777 to 1781 during the American Revolution. What factors such as supplies, manpower, leadership and strategy impacted how Westmoreland County was able to defend itself from attacks by British allied Native Americans? The research will use secondary sources but most will be primary sources of military commanders talking about various military events that occurred in Westmoreland County. Three geographic locations and periods will be case studies. This includes the Ligonier Valley settlement from 1777-1778, the Derry settlement 1777-1778, Lochry's 1781 expedition to the state of Indiana, and the 1782 burning of Hannastown. These four events showcased the ability of the militia during the American Revolution. The intended impact of this work to show a nuanced analysis of local history and how actions in Westmoreland County were influenced by outside factors. These events will be more important to study as the 250th anniversary of the aforementioned events will be coming up. To date, no substantive and impactful scholarly analysis of the Westmoreland County militia has been done by historians for decades. There is also much mythology surrounding militia during the American Revolution that is not founded in facts and this work will seek to showcase the reality of how frontier militia served in a way that goes against the mythology. It will also be beneficial for local Westmoreland county residents to have a better understanding of this local history. I believe works on local history are often under represented in academic work in favor of larger national events.

Jacob Ross photo

Jacob Ross photoJacob Ross ('24), Information Technology

Project Title: IT Club Sculpture

Project Goal: Are you interested in the skilled trades? Building and working with my hands has always been something that I have been interested in. Over winter break this year, I decided to build a sculpture that will serve as a logo for our school IT club. I employed my skills in woodworking and welding to make a sign that displays the PITT logo with an emphasis on the IT in the middle. Using metal square tubing I welded together the letters to form the PITT portion of the project, I then constructed a backing from recycled pallet wood that I was able to salvage. From that point, I spray painted the letters the PITT colors and stained the wooden back a dark walnut coloring. I was commission by Dr. Mike Pry to make this sculpture to serve as an advertisement for Pitt-Greensburg's new IT club. The goal of the club is to bring together students majoring in MIS, Information Technology, or minoring in Computer Science into an environment where we can freely discuss our aspirations for future careers and work on projects together that will help us succeed as future technology professionals. I wanted to create a piece that would draw attention to potential opportunity's that students may be able to take advantage of as they attend school here. I also wanted it to serve as an advertisement for anyone interested in joining IT club. The sculpture is currently on display in the library directly to the left upon entering for anyone interested.

 

Lara Bromyard
History
Marcus Hale
History
Brook Kovalcik
Political Science, History
Jacob Ross
Information Technology