STEM Career Tours

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

Category: STEM Careers (Page 1 of 2)

Bohler: The People That Make Sustainable Happen

On November 17, The Students of Mrs. Steiniger’s Biology class from Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic arrived at the brand new Pittsburgh office of Bohler Engineering for a STEM Career tour all about sustainability. Bohler has been consulting on land development projects for a few decades now, and while not always demanded, they do consistently attempt to add as many green touches as possible to their projects.

After a look all around at the office space, including some employees very hard at work, the tour guide Micael Takacs took the students into a conference room for a look at some of the projects he personally had worked on. Mr. Takacs has worked on a number of sustainable projects in the area, including the Phipps Conservatory’s Center for Sustainable Landscapes, and the student’s very own Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School. Among the green innovations at both locations are clever systems for rainwater collection and reuse and rain gardens meant to prevent excess rain runoff. The students were very excited to learn that things they see every day have sustainable benefits that they were hitherto unaware of, and now can take on an entirely new meaning.

Mr. Takacs was also able to share knowledge of other sustainable projects of note and interest within the city, including a recently constructed building that can be opened up and cooled passively with natural air currents.

Bohler Engineering proved to be an excellent supplement to the sustainability education being provided by Mrs. Steiniger, and a great foundation upon which to continue building a bright sustainable future.

Greenest Space in the City

On Friday, November 17th Mrs. Steiniger’s Biology class from Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School toured the Center For Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps Conservatory, as part of Sustainability Stem Career Tour. The Center For Sustainable Landscapes is one of the greenest buildings in the world, meeting the requirements of the Living Building Challenge the strictest classification for a green building project.

After a short lecture explaining how the CSL came into being, they were given a tour showing off its plethora of sustainable features. From simple ideas such a shade that prevents the sun from heating rooms too much in the summer preventing excess air conditioner use to a rainwater collection system that is used for irrigation, the CSL is a modern marvel and perfect example of the ways we can minimize our impact on the environment in a large city.

Students were impressed by features like the lagoon, which aids in filtering waste water from the restrooms, to be reused in the toilets, and the rain gardens which help prevent excess rainwater from becoming a flooding issue for the area. These installations proved to be an excellent real-world example of many of the lessons they have been learning in their class. Even more impressive is the fact that this site, prior to being bought by Phipps, was a refueling depot with ground too toxic for anything to grow. Performing an environmental miracle of sorts, Phipps was able to reclaim land lost to careless destructive actions and turn it into something truly breathtaking.


Fresh Fish in a Desert

My name is Tim Roos, I’m a sophomore at North Catholic, and I recently went on the sustainability field trip at North. On the field trip, we stopped at the Oasis Farm Fishery in Homewood. The main topic of the tour as sustainability, and how Oasis has incorporated it into its function. Homewood is what is considered a food desert, which is an area that has no access to fresh fruits or vegetables.

At Oasis Farm Fishery, our tour guide, Casey, led us around the greenhouse. There were several aquaponics and trellis systems, growing different types of vegetables including lettuce turnips and beets. Oasis Farm Fishery is impacting its community in more than one way. It is providing vegetables and tilapia to the community, while also offering educational opportunities and is having a positive influence in its surrounding area, helping a community in need.

Our Bio class discussed sustainable agricultural practices such as aquaponics, but I know so much more now that I went to Oasis Farm Fishery. For instance, I didn’t know that you want the roots of plants to be white, which shows that there is a good amount of oxygen present. Oasis Fishery is using the most with what they’ve got. If the temperature becomes too hot in the greenhouse, they cover the sides with a metal-mesh cover, that reflects 50% of the sunlight and warmth, so the vegetables don’t fry to death. Every so often insects enter the greenhouse and eat away at the crops. Once Casey notices the insect problem, he will introduce a predator to the greenhouse. For example, if aphids are the problem, he would introduce ladybugs.

Since Day 1 our biology teacher, Mrs. Steiniger, has taught us that conservation starts with the community. We must adapt to our Earth’s needs. Organizations like Oasis Farm Fishery are pioneers for the future and set a great example for future generations.

Multidisciplinary Super-team: CMU Sustainability

Fifteen students from Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic got the incredible opportunity to travel around the Pittsburgh area and learn first-hand about sustainability and engineering. We heard from many great minds in the fields of engineering and conservation.  I was one of these students, and the whole day was eye-opening and I learned an incredible amount of important information.  One of our stops involved going to Carnegie Mellon University in North Oakland to learn about what CMU does to be sustainable. Another purpose was to be educated on their engineering major, and how that class involves a lot of environmental engineering and learning about sustainable engineering.

First, we heard from Gwen Dipietro, the instructor of Introduction to Sustainable Engineering at Carnegie Mellon. She talked about her course and what the experiments her students due to preserve biodiversity and remain sustainability. She also talked about her research she completed in Pittsburgh. She researched the tugboats that move coal through the locks and dams of Pittsburgh. Her goal was to see how much coal went through these locks and dams as well as how often these transports occurred. Her teaching assistant, Genna Waldvogel, also spoke about her life as an engineer and how sustainability plays a large part in it. She discussed her research project to get her Masters Degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering.  It involved the chemicals in the rivers of Pittsburgh and their possible toxicity. These instructors are great examples of sustainability in engineering and making a choice to try to be as sustainable as possible.

Next, Ron Ripper spoke to us about the sustainable practices that Carnegie Mellon practices.  Ron Ripper is the Director of the Hauck Laboratories in Civil and Environmental Engineering. He spoke about how CMU composts and recycles, and the benefits to that. Carnegie Mellon has taken many steps to become more sustainable like paper utensils, wood coffee stirrers, and avoiding styrofoam. Although the benefits are easy to see, the cost of paper utensils is much higher and recycling and composting are time-consuming. This shows how dedicated CMU is to helping the environment and preserving our planet.

Andrea Rooney, the director of undergraduate programs in the department then spoke. She talked about a variety of topics, one of which being a project that her classes completed. It was all about exploring where each part of a product came from. She used the example of a water bottle and spoke about how the cap, wrapper and, even the ink all come from different places, increasing the carbon footprint needed to make the bottle. In her study, it was found that about six times the amount of water in a water bottle is needed to produce that water bottle. It was very interesting to hear all the seemingly nonexistent things that go into making a water bottle.

Finally, we watched a video featuring many of the students in the Civil Engineering Program at Carnegie Mellon University. They talked about their education and the hands-on learning that they get to do on a daily basis. It was very cool to see that all of these students genuinely enjoyed what they were doing. Overall, I learned so much about sustainability and conservation from these great engineering minds. They made me appreciate the little things that get overlooked all the time and realize that everyone can make a difference by doing small things.

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.


Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén