PennTAP connects Blair County paper mill to Penn State student engineering talent

It was a pleasure working with all of the staff and faculty involved in the PennTAP program. They made the entire process easy and routinely followed up with me during the semester. You can tell that they care about both the students and sponsors involved in the program!

Jonathan Rice, Quality Supervisor, American Eagle Paper Mills

The Need

American Eagle Paper Mills (AEPM) is located in Tyrone, PA and produces approximately 300 tons of recycled paper products daily. AEPM’s Quality Supervisor Jonathan Rice connected with PennTAP to gain access to Penn State student talent to help find a long-term solution for the plastic outthrow that is a result of the company’s papermaking process. 

PennTAP Advisor Amy Jorden connected AEPM with the Penn State College of Engineering Bernard M. Gordon Learning Factory, which provides engineering students with practical hands-on experience through industry-sponsored and client-based capstone design projects.

The Project

Two Learning Factory student teams received the opportunity to work with AEPM to research and develop processes to help solve two different problems AEPM was facing. 

In spring 2021, the first student team worked to provide a long-term solution for the plastic outthrow that is a result of AEPM’s papermaking process. The team investigated quality control methods, purification techniques, as well as possible leads for companies to purchase and use the polyethylene outthrow. 

The FirstEnergy Foundation grant covered 50% of the first team of students working with AEPM. 

The recycled papermaking process AEPM uses also creates a byproduct referred to as reclaimed fiber product, or RFP. In fall of 2021, a second Learning Factory student team worked to research and develop novel applications or disposal methods of RFP to aid AEPM in removing the waste material from the mill, including a cost analysis of the method. 

“I enjoyed sponsoring a project and working with groups of students to help them learn and experience work life outside Penn State,” Rice said. “Overall, it was a good experience for everyone involved! As a Penn State alumnus, I thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to give back to the University and help the students become emerging leaders!” 

Jorden guided Rice through the project submission process and connected the company to funding to help offset the sponsor fee. 

Outcomes and Benefits

The second student group and AEPM won Best Project – First Place for Material Science and Engineering at the Fall 2021 Learning Factory Capstone Project Showcase. 

AEPM will continue to work with PennTAP in the future to find ways to engage with Penn State students and faculty. 


PennTAP is committed to helping achieve nine of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Of those nine goals, this project aligned with: 

#12: Responsible Consumption and Production

About the Client

American Eagle Paper Mills
Tyrone, PA 16686
Phone: (814) 684-1610
County: Blair
Industry: Recycled paper manufacturing