STEM Career Tours

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

Tag: Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic

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.

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!

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: 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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