STEM Career Tours

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

Researching Women’s Health

Discovering more about reproduction patterns. That’s what the students of the STEM Career Tour learned when they visited the Magee Women’s Research Institute. There, we were met by Dr. Judith Yanowitz who gave us a presentation on meiosis, and how our chromosomes are bonded during reproduction. Part of what Dr. Yanowitz studies is the reproduction and meiosis in microscopic worms, which so happen to have a very similar reproduction cycle that happens in humans. During our time there, Dr. Yanowitz took us to a lab and gave the students the opportunity to look under the microscopes and see the worms that she works with. Dr. Yanowitz also put some of the worms under an Ultraviolet light, which when exposed to the light, the worms move around quickly and you can see them moving under the microscope.

The research that is being done at the Magee Women’s Institute is incredibly beneficial for the future of medical practices. They focus on the research of women’s health. They are constantly researching new biology in the reproductive cycle and will continue their efforts to deliver babies in the safest way possible. The reproduction cycle in women is still being studied with new things being found every day, and it’s with research and data collecting from these labs that help women live longer and healthier lives. We thank Magee Women’s Research Institute and Dr. Yanowitz for giving us the opportunity to take a closer look into the reproduction cycle and learn more about the wonderful research that is done at the Institute.

Power Forever

Creating green everlasting power to sustain our future. That is the main goal of EverPower in their quest to create safer and cleaner energy through wind power. The STEM Career Tour recently took a visit to the Pittsburgh office of Everpower to see how wind energy works and how it can be used as alternative energy. The students were amazed to see how much information was presented on the 6 screens that were constantly gaining data from active wind turbines all throughout the country. There was also an active weather report on one screen that is used to see where winds will be heading and see where lightning is currently striking. Lightning is very important to the workers of EverPower because they need to notify their field crews when lightning is within in the area so they can evacuate working on their turbines and find a safe place to wait until the storm has passed.

EverPower also went into details of how a wind turbine is made and how they work when they are running. It takes about 7 mph of wind to get a turbine started and the turbines will typically turn in the direction where there is most wind. The blades can also rotate to match the wind patterns and get more energy produced. The workers of EverPower also explained how even though it seems like they focus on a specific field of engineering, they also use principles and concepts from other types of engineering. They explained how there really is no field of engineering in the modern day that doesn’t need all types of engineering to make them work. This was particularly intriguing to the students, as it is beneficial to them as they are searching for a potential career and college major. We thank EverPower for taking time out of their days to welcome the STEM Career Tour and show us how alternative energy is being revolutionized through wind power.

A Trip to Google

Google It

Okay Google, give me a tour of your facility. That’s exactly what students in the STEM Career Tour were saying as they got the chance to tour one of the biggest companies in the world, Google! STEM Career tours recently gave 12 students the chance to go and see the Google Pittsburgh office located in Bakery Square. There, they were greeted by representatives of Google who showed them around their entire facility. It was inspiring to see so many bright young minds light up as they walked through the offices of the people who make their favorite search engine a reality. The biggest eye catcher for the students was seeing all of the code that was being written by all of the software engineers. Seeing the amount of work and coding that goes into the Google search engine really caught the attention of the students. The students were also amazed at seeing the sheer amount of resources that are made available to every google employee that works at the office, and really enjoyed learning about the camps that Google run to help students get on a path towards a career in STEM and hopefully a job or internship with Google!

Later in the tour, the students got the chance to sit down and play through a game called “Code Combat” which is a game that teaches the beginning levels of coding as they play. This was a wonderful opportunity to give the students a chance to get familiar with what coding is like and what the software engineers at Google work with all day. We also had the pleasure of getting a Q&A with 4 of the members of the Google team. They all shared their stories of what it’s like working at Google and about their experiences working in a STEM field.

They also explained how they changed their career paths many times and they did a lot of trial and error to get to the point that they are in today. The process of trial and error is very similar to the coding process, as most of the time the code won’t work on their first try, and they must do trial and error to fix all of the bugs. This was particularly interesting to hear about and the students all were inspired by everything they saw and heard about. By the end of the tour, they all wanted to become software engineers! The students had a wonderful time and we thank Google for finding time in their days to welcome the STEM Career Tour!

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.

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