Local media provider continues to grow and stimulate young minds and community involvement

WPSU Celebrates More Than 50 Years of Education
WPSU offers locals a chance to see political coverage live.

Some may not recognize the innovative and creative resource found right within Innovation Park. WPSU Penn State, the local PBS and NPR station, is a gathering of some of the area’s best writers, producers, educators, and entertainers, all bringing a wide array of exciting and informative media content over the airwaves of public radio and television through WPSU-TV, WPSU-FM, and the newer WPSU Digital (a made-for-web series).

Though WPSU Penn State’s location at Innovation Park is new, the organization itself is not. WPSU-TV went on the air for the first time in 1965, the initial broadcast being an introductory Spanish class for elementary-age children. At that time, it was known as WPSX-TV, to be rebranded as WPSU Penn State in 2015. During this first year of operation, the station reached hundreds of thousands of students across the state, broadcasting through the school day, Mondays through Fridays. The station soon began producing its own local shows, including one, “Weather World,” that is still produced by meteorology students in Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences today.

Over the years, they expanded to include the various facets of the operation that are seen currently, from documentary productions to on-demand digital platforms.

WPSU moved to Innovation Park in 2005, from the Wagner Building on Penn State’s campus. “The new studios allow the station to respond to current events and produce programming much more quickly,” says Greg Petersen, WPSU’s director of broadcasting. The location is also noted for its greater accessibility to collaboration resources, particularly when partnering for educational purposes.

The quality of the programming that kids interact with plays a critical role in their early development, and WPSU Penn State is dedicated to providing the resources necessary to help unlock children’s potential. 

WPSU started with children’s programming, and the outlet continues to place a large amount of emphasis on children’s education and family-friendly media. While content is made for all demographics, with stories and programs produced that have a largely local aspect, children are still a major component, admits WPSU public relations specialist Matt Caracappa.

WPSU just launched a 24/7 WPSU KIDS channel alongside PBS, premiering January 16. Children can view the station on televisions or stream from digital devices at any time, and the channel is even available through popular media providers such as Amazon Fire, Roku, and Apple TV.

“The new WPSU KIDS programming brings important educational content to children that’s accessible at any time, especially during prime time, and allows families to collaboratively watch and learn together,” says Petersen. “The quality of the programming that kids interact with plays a critical role in their early development, and WPSU Penn State is dedicated to providing the resources necessary to help unlock children’s potential.” 

Beyond WPSU’s media outreach, it also hosts a variety of community and family events. One big hit is the fall Penn State Cosmic Carnival, which takes place in October and features almost two dozen family activities, along with educational opportunities, including science projects and planetarium experiences.

On a more mature scale, WPSU has hosted political events in the past, including a congressional debate last year, between Rep. Glenn Thompson, Republican incumbent representing Pennsylvania’s fifth congressional district, and Kerith Strano Taylor, the Democratic challenger. The event was free to attend.

Beyond just checking out the media programs and coming to one of the many events, however, WPSU engages the community in another way. They’re always looking for volunteers to work within the main office, or to lead behind-the-scenes station tours for school field trips and scout troops. Volunteering can be a great way to network, gain useful skills, and see a different side of the organization. Additionally, businesses can volunteer as a group and receive on-air recognition. 

As for the future of WPSU, there are a few exciting changes on the horizon. The WPSU Digital platform is a new initiative, and there’s an overall bigger push on the educational front toward STEM areas. Examples of these STEM projects include SciTech Now and the Women in Science series. The online Women in Science series includes profiles of local women who are successful in STEM fields. So far, five women have been profiled, including a quality manager at Berkey Creamery, a chemist-turned-forensic-scientist, an engineer at a statistical software company, an ecologist and professor of geography, and a professor of architecture with a passion for computational textiles.