STEM Career Tours

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

Tag: Science and technology

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.

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.

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