Penn College kicks off Centennial Colloquia Series

It will be a year-long party for The Pennsylvania College of Technology, which marks a century of providing adult education in Williamsport in this year.

As part of the celebration, the college is presenting “Technology and Society: The Centennial Colloquia Series,” a discussion of the impact of new and emerging technologies on various aspects of society, featuring nationally-known authors and speakers as well as Penn College faculty.

The series will kick off Thursday evening with a presentation on sustainable and affordable home building from associate professors of architectural technology Dorothy Gerring and Rob Wozniak.

It’s a topic that has become increasingly relevant in recent years, not only because of the potential financial savings, but also because of the implications for the environment.

Gerring and Wozniak will explain how energy efficiency and affordability are crucial areas to consider, whether a building is new or existing, because buildings use many varied resources in their construction and even small changes can make a significant impact.

Gerring said that while the thought of overhauling an entire home to be more energy efficient is daunting, the best thing to do is have an energy audit performed on the home.

“It gives you an overall picture of the home and what kind of energy use it has,” she said. “Then you can prioritize areas that you want to improve.”

Homes that use electrical resistance heat – a less efficient method found in many older structures – are eligible for financial help from power companies in paying for energy audits, she added.

Identifying areas of improvement in energy efficiency will be only part of the colloquia’s first installment.

The presentation ties in with the first U.S. Department of Energy Challenge Home Student Design Competition, an international contest that invites teams of college students to design, plan and analyze the construction of homes that meet a lengthy list of efficiency requirements – everything from indoor air quality to efficient hot water systems to the ease of future solar installations.

Penn College had two teams registered in the competition – Team Blue and Team Gray, in a nod to the school’s colors – made up of students from the Building Science and Sustainable Design and Construction Management majors.

The two teams worked with more than 100 students in 12 different classes and across five different majors to create their respective plans, Gerring said.

Seven of those students will be part of Thursday’s presentation, showcasing the homes they worked on and the criteria they used to design them.

The submissions are broken down into various areas across the country, Gerring added. Team Blue is one of five finalists chosen for the Denver, Colo. area, with the winning team being announced in April.

The colloquia series will continue through November.

As of now, the calendar of events features the following presentations, courtesy of the college’s centennial events website:

Feb. 27 – Sustainable and Affordable Home Building

Presented by Dorothy J. Gerring and Rob A. Wozniak, associate professors of architectural technology, and students participating in the U.S. Department of Energy Challenge Home Student Design Competition.

March 17 – People and Computers: Who’s on Top?

Presented by Jaron Lanier, one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2010. As founder of VPL Research, the first company to sell virtual-reality products, he coined the phrase “virtual reality.” His talk will address two common views of technology: Either it serves humanity, or it is coming alive on its own.

April 22 – Google Meets Aldo Leopold: Information, Technology and 21st Century Environmental Ethics

Presented by Rob Cooley, assistant professor of anthropology/environmental science, and Mark D. Noe, professor of English composition.

Sept. 16 – Biometrics in Today’s Society: Protecting Identity in the 21st Century

Presented by Lisa R. Bock, assistant professor of computer information technology.

Oct. 28 – Alan Lightman

Presented by Alan Lightman, a theoretical physicist and author of the international bestseller “Einstein’s Dreams,” one of the most widely read books on university campuses. His most recent book, “The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew,” is a collection of essays on modern physics and philosophy. His discussion will examine the significance, potential and limitations of major scientific and technological discoveries.

Nov. 18 -Technology, Power and Responsibility

Presented by Craig A. Miller, assistant professor of history/political science.

All presentations begin at 7 p.m. in the Klump Academic Center Auditorium and are open to the public.

For more information on the colloquia series and other centennial celebration events, visit