STEM Career Tours

Inspiring the pursuit of science, technology, engineering and math literacy, skills, and careers.

What Adware?

The Internet on Lockdown

The Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic computer science principles class took a visit to RedMorph as part of the STEM Career Tours. RedMorph is an outstanding startup company from Pittsburgh that focuses on protected your devices from cyber threats. Their revolutionary software is not only able to track, but block incoming adware from outside sources other than the website itself. RedMorph is even able to tell you who put the ads up and how you can better protect yourself from cyber attacks. When we were at their office, they told us to open several sites on the computers so we can see how vulnerable the computers were. The employees then opened up what they like to call the “spyderweb” which shows all of the information from those sites and all of the adware that was being displayed. Just one of the websites the students went to had 24 cookies and 3 trackers on them! They explained to the students how computer cookies could help with loading pages faster, but also be dangerous as they hold personal information in them. The students were so intrigued by this incredible software, that most of them had already downloaded it to their smartphones by the time they left! Their main goal is to not only protect but to educate everyone on the dangers there are in the online world.

The CEO and founder of RedMorph is Abhay Edlabadkar, who is also the one who we toured with. He told us the story of when he first came up with the idea of RedMorph, which is when started noticing his own children picking up cell phones and innocently scroll through sites without realizing what information they were giving away about themselves. It was then that RedMorph was conceived as a filter device that allowed not only his children, but all children to be safer on the internet. It was from there that RedMorph grew into the company they are today and are now protecting people all over the world.

 

RedMorph has been an extraordinary friend to Grow a Generation as they are one of our research fellows. We have entry conversations with the team as we try to devise a better curriculum to enable smart internet use in all of our students and teachers. RedMorph is truly an inspiring company, and they really taught an important lesson to all of the students who visited. In the quickly growing internet based culture we live in today, it is up to companies like RedMorph to protect us, and the mission and goal of RedMorph is something that everyone can look up too.

 

Exploring Noveome

As part of the Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic STEM Career Tours, we took a trip to visit Noveome. Noveome is a company that specializes in biotherapeutic products. The people at Noveome were gracious enough to post an article about the trip we took to visit them. Written below is the article and here is a link to the article for sharing

Noveome Shows Its Work to Future Scientists

Noveome Shows Its Work to Future Scientists

When a group of high schools students walked into Noveome Biotherapeutics, Inc.’s offices and labs recently, many of them were wondering whether they might be looking at their own future. “This is a chance to experience things in case we truly want to go into that field,” said Noah, a senior at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School. He was among the 15 students – 3 boys and 12 girls – who visited Noveome as part of an Advanced Placement Biology STEM career tour. A majority of these students said they were interested in pursuing college degrees in the sciences.

Having just learned about cell interaction, they were fascinated by Noveome’s research and product development involving paracrine signaling, the process by which human cells communicate with other nearby cells in order to keep them healthy and functioning properly. Noveome is developing ways to mimic paracrine signaling to re-establish that communication when it is impaired by injury or disease. “We make a product here that goes into human clinical trials,” explained Cathy Trumpower, Noveome’s Associate Director of Manufacturing. She told the students about two FDA-approved Phase 2 clinical trials Noveome is currently conducting for its product, known as ST266. One trial is testing ST266 as a potential treatment for periodontitis, while the other is testing it as a potential treatment for allergic conjunctivitis.

As the students came to understand, Noveome’s pioneering work centers on special cells and what they secrete when handled a particular way. “Here are 65 million cells,” Tyler Okel told a group of the students on the first stop of their tour. He was showing them a one-inch vial he had pulled from a freezer cooled by liquid nitrogen, which maintains the temperature at lower than minus 140o Celsius. Tyler explained how Noveome begins making its product by collecting a certain population of cells from placentas acquired after full-term, scheduled C-section births. These cells are collected at Noveome’s tissue processing facility in Clearwater, Florida, then stored and shipped to Pittsburgh in a cryogenic state. Each vial of cells is one of hundreds in a stack of boxes kept in the freezer. “We thaw about 10 vials at a time to put in our bioreactor,” he said.

Why this population of placenta-derived cells? As the students moved to another lab, Lead Biochemical Scientist Nathan Hazi explained. “Their job in the placenta is to bathe the fetus in all these different molecules to make it healthy and happy, and if there’s injury, to heal it as quickly as possible,” he said. “We’re taking those cells and culturing them under particular conditions to get them to make our product and to use that as a treatment for many different diseases and conditions.” As he spoke, Quality Control Analyst Kate Butler was giving the students a close-up view of cells in a culture flask using her digital microscope. “Do you see the medium on those cells, the liquid?” Nathan asked. “That’s what the cells use to grow. The medium becomes full of the molecules we want to use.” But culture flasks can produce only a limited amount of product, he said, “So, my job is to figure out how to make a lot of it.”

He took the students into the next room to show them a bioreactor. The one he pointed to is small, “baby size” as he described it, although down the road increased manufacturing will involve larger reactors. This one was equipped with ten plates inside to which cells attach themselves and grow as the liquid circulates through. The device was connected by tubes to several nearby tanks and by cables to a desktop computer. “Is that graph normal, with all those lines like that?” asked Kaylen, a 12th grader interested in becoming a Physician’s Assistant. She was looking at the computer screen. Nathan explained how the computer controlled the temperature, amount of oxygen, acidity levels, and other factors needed for optimal cell growth, and that the lines on the screen traced each level over time. “This point where they’re jumbled is where I changed the medium,” he said. “When I drain it out, that’s our product.”

The questions began to flow, not only from Kaylen, but also from fellow senior Rachel and juniors Bella and Bridget, all of who saw themselves working in health care. “How long does the process take?”, “How much product do you make?”, “If you were using that on a patient, how much of it would you need?”

One personal question came a few minutes later when the students had moved on to observe quality control procedures being undertaken by Kaysie Foust. She was using a multi-channel pipette to measure product samples for testing. “Do you ever get bored?” a student asked. No, Kaysie replied, saying the job of making sure the product is safe involves many different tasks. At the moment, she was checking the levels of different proteins in the product. At other times, she said she might look at cells for signs of contamination. Around the corner, co-worker Alberto Suarez was passing around plates he used to test for excessive amounts of bacteria. “Nothing dangerous,” he assured them.

Kaysie gave the students a challenge: use the multi-channel pipette to quickly transfer fluids. What appeared to be easy for a seasoned professional proved to be more cumbersome at first for those with less experience. This wasn’t the students’ first hands-on challenge of the day. Outside the Clean Room, Joe Brooker instructed them on the proper way of donning bio-suits and the delicate task of avoiding contamination – no touching with bare hands and no contact with the floor. “I already failed,” laughed Alex, a senior, as he and fellow students managed to suit up and pose for a round of selfies.

Throughout the tour, many questions concerned what each staff member had chosen as a major in college and the direction his or her career had taken since. The Noveome scientists, all of them young and bright, with a degree or two in various fields of biology or chemistry, encouraged the student scientists to get a good foundation in their studies and let the jobs that follow expand their abilities. “I didn’t go to college to learn how to culture cells. You gain the science and then you come to a job and get the skills you need,” Kaysie told them.

And what did the students learn during their tour that might affect their futures? “Here you get to see exactly what you might do,” said Noah, echoing his anticipation from earlier in the day. To which Kaylen added: “How it applies to real life situations, and how you’ll actually be helping people.”

 

 

Here is a slideshow with pictures from our exciting visit!

Carbon Technology

Pioneering a Better World

 

As part of the STEM Career Tours, the students at Providence Heights Alpha School had the honor of visiting a company that has made it their mission for making the world a better place through carbon technologies. During World War 2, the military asked the Pittsburgh Coke and Chemical to develop a new material to use in gas masks to filter out the contaminants. It was there that the Calgon Carbon Corporation was formed with the goal of revolutionizing carbon technologies. The Calgon Carbon Corporation has made it their mission to protect people and the environment from contaminants in water, air, food and industrial processes. They do this through their various carbon technologies that use activated carbon. What is activated carbon? Activated carbon is a porous material that removes organic compounds from liquids and gases by a process that is known as adsorption. Through this process, the organic molecules contained in a liquid or gas are attracted and bound to the surface of the pores of the activated carbon as the liquid or gas is passed through it. Our students were amazed by what we saw at Calgon Carbon and were truly inspired by what the company is achieving. Most of the students had never heard of these processes before and were very interesting in learning further details by asking questions to our tour guides.

The end goal for Calgon Carbon is to create a cleaner and better world for people to enjoy. Their message to the students was not only inspiring, but also encouraging. The students enjoyed learning about how important the use of carbon technology is in our world, and how much contaminants can be found in everyday products and processes. We thank Calgon Carbon for taking the time out of their day to accommodate us and really appreciate them educating the students on their products and mission.

 

Science in the Lab

Citizen Science Lab

As part of the STEM Career Tours, we took an exciting stop at one of Pittsburgh’s best laboratories for those interested in STEM. The tour was led by Carrianne Floss, who is the program coordinator for the Citizen Science Lab. The lab is used to learn about the life sciences. The student’s got a chance to hear about the wonderful camps and event that the lab offers throughout the year, as well as get a chance to see the facility. We also got to hear about some interesting developments in science such as bio blocks. Perhaps the most exciting part of the day for the students was when they got a chance to see all of the resident pets that the lab and see all of the equipment that can be used by the students in the future. The Citizen Science Lab is open to everyone from middle school to high school students, educators to parents, and undergraduate and graduate students. All are welcome to use and discover new possibilities using the lab. The obvious high point of the day was when the students got to meet the snake they had at the lab. Everyone was super excited to meet him and it definitely put a smile on all of the student’s faces!

Inspiring by Doing

The mission of The Citizen Science Lab is to offer a hands-on laboratory where people from all over can come to explore and learn all about the life sciences. Their message is that through hands-on learning, students of all ages will learn more by doing. When students are hands on with the projects they are working on, it is typically a more inspiring experience for them because they are actually working on something and not just being lectured about it. The Citizen Science Lab also works on doing summer camps, that teach in all aspects of science from zoology, to 3d printing, and even to microbiology. It is clear that the Citizen Science Lab is doing everything they can to inspire the next generation of STEM students and we were truly blessed to be a part of their day and to learn about what they do.

A Trip to Millie’s Ice Cream

Getting a Cone

STEM Career Tours had the pleasure of taking a look at Millie’s Ice Cream with the Providence Heights Alpha School. Going along with the tour was their teacher, Mr. Beeaham, and together we explored the wonderful process of how Millie’s Ice Cream makes their famous ice cream! Not only did we go to the storefront to see how it is distributed, but we also found out how they make their ice cream.

The student’s enjoyed seeing the process of how one of their favorite foods was prepared, and really took a liking to what science applications were being applied to the ice cream making process. The process really inspired the kids and they asked plenty of questions along the way. Millie’s was impressed with how eager the students were to learn about ice cream!

One of the key features that Millie’s prides itself in is their use of fresh and natural ingredients. Millie’s truly believes that other ice cream companies are being “lazy” and try to take shortcuts when making their products. The shortcuts might be more cost efficient, but the quality of the product just won’t compare with a company like Millie’s that does everything correctly. Millie’s makes small batches of their product so they can ensure that every part of the process is done naturally and that there are no preservatives and no cheating done.

The Science of Ice Cream

The basic components in the making of ice cream are ice crystals, fat, sweeteners, and air. Ice crystals are formed when the base of the product starts to freeze and it gives a solid body to the ice cream. The fat adds the richness to the ice cream, and the sweeteners come in the form of either sugar, honey, or syrup.

The process of making it starts with preparing the liquid base of the ice cream. Then, it goes through pasteurization, which heats the liquid to eliminate all of the bacteria in the product. Then comes the homogenization, which is when the fat is broken up and dispersed throughout the liquid. This is done by churning, and this is when the ice cream starts to thicken up. After it ages and matures for a while, it goes into the freezing process and then it eventually hardens into the ice cream we all know and love.

The texture of the ice cream is all dependent on the type of cream that is used in the process. The higher the fat content you have in the cream, the better the texture you will have for the final project. The more fat you have in the product, the richer the ice cream comes out, and the less fat you have, the creamier and lighter the product will be.

There are many STEM principles found in the making of ice cream, the students had a blast learning about ice cream and seeing it made!

ContainerShip: Programming in the Cloud

On Friday, February 17th, 2017, several North Catholic students began their venture into the Computer Science field with a visit to ContainerShip. Found in Oakland Pittsburgh, ContainerShip is a Multi-Cloud Automated Server, in other words ContainerShip gets rid of the hassle and brings anything you could desire onto the Internet and into the public’s hands.

Being a computer programmer no longer means sitting in a dark room typing endless series of code. ContainerShip has a very modern and comfortable environment for its employees. Between the pleasant gleeful environment and the Ping-Pong and Foosball tables one can quickly see how enjoyable and rewarding a job in the computer science field is. Once we were there and had a quick peek around, ContainerShip’s CEO, Phil Dougherty, took us into their meeting room and began breaking down what their operation exactly is. He gave the students some background of himself and the company and how they monitor and aid in traffic conditions for other websites and Internet applications.

Phil Dougherty explained how there is traffic when it comes to the Internet, sometimes a website may undergo millions of visits from different users in a sort of rush hour sense while on the contrary the same website may experience times when there is no one on their website. ContainerShip aids in traffic control by opening up more servers and connections like roads for the traffic to go through so the website or app can maintain peak performance.

From beginning as a hobby to becoming a company collaborating with some biggest leaders of industry, Phil Dougherty and his team showed us how rewarding and beneficial to society someone in the computer science field is.

Ascender: The Startup for Startups

Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic’s AP Computer Science Principles class recently toured the offices of Ascender in Pittsburgh. Ascender is the next step in evolution of venture capitalism growing out the work the company did under the name Thrill Mill. Instead of merely providing funds for companies to begin work on making a viable product, Ascender takes this much farther. In addition to capital, they provide everything from mentoring and leadership to office space and team building resources. Moreover, they are continuing to find ways to do so much more.

Leading the tour was Jennifer Sharpe, Program Manager for Ascender, who also gave an informative and stimulating presentation on everything that Ascender does to help make STEM based industry in the city of Pittsburgh grow. As a part of the presentation, she had the students participate in an exercise mirroring the process by which companies are selected for Ascender’s incubation chamber. The students were given three pitches by various potential companies, including team members, and the product idea. After careful consideration, the determination had to be made as to which idea was most viable to make a profit.

Jennifer also included information on “Thrival,” Ascender’s yearly music festival and innovation conference. Part of the mission of Ascender is to help usher in a new wave of modern industry. By converting an old Steel Mill into a place where people can come together with new ideas, Ascender is poised to help bring Pittsburgh into the here and now of STEM industry.
After the presentation, the students were able to walk around and see first hand the office space and workstations the ascender has to offer, as well as a few of the companies currently utilizing Ascender’s services to make their dreams a reality.

CADD Connections: Cadnetics

One of the most gratifying moments for a teacher is to see students engaged in purposeful wonder.  I saw this in my students’ interaction with James Mauler and Travis Johnson, the president and vice president of Cadnetics respectively. Facilitated by STEM Career Tours, students enrolled in the Introduction to Computer-Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) course at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School were able to see how their newly acquired skills are put to work in Greater Pittsburgh.  This blog will highlight student experiences on the final stop of the STEM tour, Cadnetics.

The use and application of technology captured students’ attention during our visit with James and Travis.  They witnessed a laser scanner render a three-dimensional model of the room they were in.  The model was created and could then be manipulated using similar CADD software to what we use in the classroom.  Of course, I had to deflect questions like, “why don’t we have a laser scanner at school,” and “why can’t we make models like this!”  But, these questions reflect a level of interest and engagement I had not seen in the classroom.

The curriculum at CWNCHS emphasizes the capability of computers to increase, Precision, Efficiency, and Communication in the design process.  Of these three, Communication in design was demonstrated at Cadnetics.  We learned that the company provides services to multiple disciplines across many industries.  The common thread was communication through visualization of a project.  Whether through technical drawings or illustrative renderings, Cadnetics can put a computer two work with purpose.  Students were struck by the fact that this local company is having a national and even global impact through their knowledge of CAD.

The most important lesson students gleaned during our trip was that the company covets students with short term, 1-2 year, technical degrees.  Cadnetics values employees with very specified skill sets.  James commented that jack-of-all-trade graduates with 4-year degrees often lack the ability to produce results efficiently.  This was a refreshing perspective from an employer who is constantly looking for talent to grow his business. Students need to see that a 4-year degree is not the only path that can lead to success.  Perhaps one of my CAD students will work for Cadnetics one day.

CADD Connections: Robert Morris University’s Department of Engineering

One of the most rewarding challenges for a classroom teacher is to use curriculum as a means to connect students to their desired end, to stimulate their thinking and illuminate possible career paths. Facilitated by STEM Career Tours, students enrolled in the Introduction to Computer-Aided Design and Drafting course at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School were able to see how their newly acquired skills are put to work in Greater Pittsburgh. This blog will highlight student experiences on the second stop of the STEM tour, Robert Morris University’s Department of Engineering.

Students immediately contrasted the scale of RMU’s STEM efforts to our own at CWNC. They were blown away by the amount of computer aided machinery available to the engineering students. As a teacher, it was encouraging to hear phrases like “I might just apply here,” and “wait, you mean students can use all of this?”

In our CADD class, students have been using software to create digital models. At RMU, students got to see how these models can be fabricated through the manufacturing process. Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) was on full display in the department of engineering, and it peaked students’ curiosity and creativity. They wondered how a 2D drawing could be used to guide the arm of a robotic router and etch a precise name into a plastic block. They also mused about the countless other applications of this technology. Seeing this inspired me to push the curriculum further in future iterations of this course. It is my goal to provide opportunities for students to fabricate their own drawings and complete the CADD-CAM loop.

Our trip to RMU gave students a taste of what it would be like to continue to develop their CADD skills at the university level, they also got a literal taste of college when we stopped for lunch at a campus dining hall. Over lunch, I had the opportunity to chat with some students about their experience. Flashy highlights included the laser scanner that can generate a 3D CADD model from live readings in real-time and the massive machine responsible for pressing out plastic molds, but the most impactful comments involved a deeper realization. Students recognized that the seemingly simple skills they are developing in class are being honed at universities across the nation and deployed to solve some of our generations most pressing challenges. For example, we learned CADD-CAM is assisting concussion research and the development of prosthetics for amputees.

I like to change the narrative on the classic question “what do you want to do when you grow up?” Instead, I ask students what problem they are interested in solving with their life’s work. On this stop of our STEM Careers Tour, students saw that RMU is asking the same question of its engineering students.

CADD Connections: Michael Baker International

One of the most exciting aspects of a classroom teacher’s job is to connect their curriculum to real-world applications.  Facilitated by Grow a Generation’s STEM Career Tours, students enrolled in the Introduction to Computer-Aided Design and Drafting course at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School were able to see how their newly acquired skills are put to work in Greater Pittsburgh.  This blog will highlight student experiences on the first stop of the STEM tour, Michael Baker International.

Our experience at Michael Baker immediately validated the CADD curriculum at CWNCHS.  Students had the opportunity to see the actual models used in the construction and renovation of our roadways.  The models were generated using the same computer software we use in the classroom.  In fact, the models looked strikingly similar to the types of projects students had been completing throughout the first semester.  Although the projects were more robust, drafters had to use the same skills to develop them.

 

Tiahjure Harp, Zachary Diethorn, Ryan Baranowski, Nicholas Habrle, and Teacher David Yackuboskey from Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic visiting Michael Baker on a STEM Career Tour

Students work with the bridge inspector, training software.  Yet another example of computers facilitating the field of transportation engineering.

 

 

 

 

One of the critiques of the course from one student’s perspective, Landon Pringle – a junior at CWNC, is that the content can be “tedious, and kind of boring.”  That same student couldn’t imagine the amount of detail oriented effort if would take to create such a model.  When asked for his thoughts, Landon replied, “I don’t think I could be a transportation engineer.  I mean it’s cool, but painstaking.”  From a teacher’s perspective, it means a lot to see that the skills used in the classroom are necessary in the work place.  Being able to reveal that to a student is what teaching is all about, even if they realize this particular career field doesn’t fit their skill set.

The CADD curriculum at CWNCHS emphasizes the capability of computers to increase, Precision, Efficiency, and Communication in the design process.  Of these three, Efficiency in the field of transportation engineering, was on full display at Michael Baker International.  Representatives showcased Michael Baker’s very own software that automates computer generated renderings of bridge cross-sections.  By simply inputting a few dimensions that are specific to the project, a drafter can efficiently compile a set of drawings to be quality checked by an engineer.  A second tool Michael Baker highlighted was bridge inspection, training software.  Students used the same software bridge inspectors are trained with to examine a virtual bridge; they navigated an environment, selected tools and analyzed structural concerns.  While this not a drafting application it is a prime example of using computers to increase efficiency in the field of transportation engineering.  

All in all, the time spent with Michael Baker International enriched the classroom experience.  CWNCHS is grateful for the opportunity to team up with STEM Career Tours and provide this trip for our students.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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