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Invasion of The Strange Blue Metal Thingy

You’d think summertime on a university campus would be a quiet, peaceful time. After all, what is a university, really, but a community of students. With commencement last weekend, the last of the remaining students on campus packed up their futons, PlayStations, and shower shoes and rode off into the sunset, so to speak.

For a couple days, things really were quiet around here. The parking lots were empty, the Food Court was closed, and it seemed like I had the entire 230-acre campus to myself.

But here at RMU, there’s always something going on, no matter what time of year it is.

When I came to work on Tuesday, the previously bare parking lots were now packed with vehicles, the majority of them pick-up trucks. There was also some sort of contraption – I call it The Strange Blue Metal Thingy – planted in the parking lot just across the street from the Sewall Center. At lunchtime I went for a walk to do a little investigating and found out that the reason for all these cars (and The Strange Blue Metal Thingy) was the Eastern Gas Compression Roundtable (EGCR). The EGCR, according to its website, “is a non-profit organization whose primary purpose is to provide the Natural Gas Industry with cost effective training programs,” and it was holding its annual conference right here in RMU’s Sewall Center.

Inside the 36,000-square-foot arena, 140 or so exhibitors had set up booths and were sharing information on their services, training programs, and all the latest innovations in the industry. I thought about asking someone about The Strange Blue Metal Thingy, but I didn’t want to reveal my ignorance about the natural gas industry in front of so many experts. So I just let it be.

Apparently, the EGCR conference is just one of the thousands – yes, thousands – of events that RMU hosts each year. Andrea L Plummer, RMU’s senior manager of Conference and Facility Services, said the EGCR conference is just one of over 2,000 events held in the Sewall Center this fiscal year alone. “We have back to back major events until middle of June,” she says, “and then we have to get ready for summer camps. People don’t realize how busy we are around here. The summer, in particular, is very active.”

In the next month alone, RMU will be hosting a baseball card show (May 15–18), the Y108 Country Cares for Cops benefit concert (May 18), a coin show (May 22–24), Basketball Stars of America (May 29–31), Montour High School’s graduation (June 3), Quaker Valley High School’s graduation (June 4), the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam (June 6), and Moon High School’s graduation (June 12). Whew!

The reason so many events come to RMU is because of its scenic grounds and spacious facilities. The Sewall Center, itself, is the second largest exhibit space in Pittsburgh. I’ll let you guess which facility is number one.

I never did find out what The Strange Blue Metal Thingy was. But that’s okay. Sometimes mysteries are more romantic, especially when it comes to natural gas.

– Valentine J. Brkich

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