Elizabeth Schutte: Conservation through Penguineering

I believe that communication is one of the most vital, fundamental aspects of society. The world runs on communication, and any progress would be made impossible without it; communication is the key aspect in changing the world. This dedication has led me to major in public relations, which opened an opportunity for me to work as the publicist on Stacy Ashlyn’s research team.

I began working with P.h.D. student Stacy Ashlyn and Dr. Christian Hubicki in the 2020-2021academic year through Florida State’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). Through weekly meetings with the penguin research team (which has been titled the “Penguineering Team”), I have been granted valuable insight into the world of penguin gait data and robotic technology. This has allowed me to deepen my understanding of the precarious situation that penguins are facing environmentally.

Penguins are one of the two most threatened seabird species in the world; arctic animals are suffering, and there is a notable deficit in education on such topics. Therefore, I find it necessary to educate the youth, such that upcoming generations may knowledgeably fight for change. This summer, I intend to communicate the importance of conservation to the children of Tallahassee through an event called “Penguin Palooza,” which will be funded by FSU’s IDEA Grant. In hosting this event, I will address the research question: How do I promote conservation in my local community in a positive way?

The Penguineering Team

Throughout the 2020-2021 school year, I have undertaken a variety of tasks with the
Penguineering Team, including developing branding, applying for funding, and organizing
outreach events. The primary task I have accomplished so far is planning and hosting “Walking in a Robotic Wonderland,” an event through which I ensured that local families had a safe alternative to visiting Santa.

In planning this event, I contacted various members of the engineering community, wrote an event permit proposal, collected supplies, organized volunteers, and changed the design of the event days before it took place to accommodate limitations that exist with battery-operated robot demonstrations. The event was successful, particularly with regards to COVID-19 safety. I designed an online signup form to avoid large crowds, and every slot was filled. The families in attendance gave positive feedback, and the event was later featured in the local newspaper, Tallahassee Democrat.

Planning this smaller-scale event has given me the experience I need to feel confident in moving forward with the large event that Penguin Palooza will be. Penguin Palooza will take place in person, once large-scale events can be held safely (although safety precautions will still be considered a priority). Ideally, this will be August 2021 but can be adjusted to ensure safety. This summer will be spent preparing for the event.

The Penguineering Team recently received a logo design from a professional animator, and I have worked to develop the rest of the branding outline for our team. Using this plan, I will create a website and social media accounts; through these outlets, I will advertise Penguin Palooza.

The online presence that I create will go beyond simply advertising, however. One aspect of the event will be a friendly, optional competition among the children to see who can raise the most money to be donated to the Global Penguin Society. In designing the website, I will include a spot where patrons can easily click to donate.

Children in attendance at Penguin Palooza will learn about conservation in a variety of formats, such as games, songs and dances. To promote the practices that we teach, children will earn environmentally-friendly prizes, such as reusable straws and reusable water bottles. I will spend time writing songs about conservation and designing contests, such as best penguin costume or best penguin drawing.

Family at the “Walking in a Robotic Wonderland” event.

My hope for this event is to inspire a passion for conservation in the upcoming generation of leaders. Through doing this, I hope to establish the Penguineering Team, as an extension of Florida State University, as a relevant source of youth education in the community. I will carry this status of team relevance in the community into future events, as I plan to coordinate further outreach events in the future. This will give me hands-on experience in the industry in which I hope to work after graduating.

Beyond my time at FSU, I plan to pursue a career in the field of public relations. I have been
working professionally in the digital marketing community since June 2019, and in August 2020 I opened my own business as a freelance public relations specialist. Through my business, Elizabeth M. Schutte, LLC., I research and write blogs for clients as well as creating social media posts and scheduling them for publication.

I hope to build a client base during my years in college and expand my business so that it can serve as a full-time career after I graduate. I am excited about the potential that my future holds, and I feel confident that my experience this summer, funded by the IDEA Grant, will serve as a catalyst for me to achieve my dreams.

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