STEM Career Tours

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

Category: Mechanical Engineering

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.









Army Corps of Engineers – Emsworth Locks and Dams

Grow a Generation 2016 STEM Careers Tour Emsworth Locks and Dams 24The last day of the 2016 STEM Careers Tour began with a visit to the Emsworth Locks and Dams which is operated by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. It is one of six major river facilities on the Ohio River in the Pittsburgh Engineering District located near the towns of Emsworth, Avalon and Ben Avon, Pennsylvania, 6.2 miles below Pittsburgh. It was built in 1919 at a cost of $5.8 million and has undergone several renovations. Today it averages about 470 commercial lockages every month and about 375 additional lockages of pleasure crafts during the summer months.

The Pittsburgh District of the US Army Corp of Engineers is responsible for providing the engineering expertise that is needed for the design and upgrades of the Emsworth Locks and Dams. Located in the William S. Moorhead Federal Building in downtown Pittsburgh they are responsible for water infrastructure, environmental management and restoration, response to natural and manmade disasters, and engineering services.

Grow a Generation 2016 STEM Careers Tour Emsworth Locks and Dams 11When we arrived for our tour, we were outfitted with life jackets, and began the walk over to the lock system. We were fortunate to see a commercial barge in the lock chamber waiting for the water to rise, so it could continue its journey upstream. As the vessel waited in the chamber, valves gradually let water into the chamber from the upper pool behind the dam through culverts in the lock wall. It usually takes about an hour for the water level to reach the desired height. A boat usually waits about an hour for the water levels to reach equilibrium. No pumping is necessary since the water moves by gravity. Once the water reached the same level on both sides of the gates, one set of gates was opened to let out the boat. Our guide let the students operate the controls and open the lock gates. So cool!

We next toured the gated dams located at the Emsworth site. The gates dams are used to increase the control of the water levels in the river to help aid in river transportation. They have no effect, neither positive nor negative, on the flood heights. There are large concrete piers that house the equipment that raises and lowers the dams. The amount of water passing under the gates is increased when the river flow is high and it is decreased when river flow is low in order to maintain the river at a constant level. Due to the high piers the dam is easily seen from downriver, however boaters still need to remain caution for they can be caught in the strong currents that exist on either side of the dam. The view from on top of the dam was breathtaking, but the tour is not recommended for those with a fear of heights.

Grow a Generation 2016 STEM Careers Tour Emsworth Locks and Dams 19Touring the Emsworth Locks and Dams was definitely a highlight of the 2016 STEM Careers Tour. We were so fortunate to have a beautiful to tour and arrive during a lockage!

Pathways for Students





Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén