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

Author: 21stskill

A Visit to Google and TechShop

grow-a-generation-ms-hs-stem-careers-tour-2016-google-5 grow-a-generation-ms-hs-stem-careers-tour-2016-techshop-24 grow-a-generation-ms-hs-stem-careers-tour-2016-techshop-29This past weekend, a group of middle school and high school students participated in a STEM Careers Tour of Google and TechShop Pittsburgh. What a exciting day!

Our first stop was Google located in the old Nabisco factory in Pittsburgh’s East End. Google is celebrating its tenth anniversary in Pittsburgh and now employs nearly 500 people!

For the first part of our tour we participated in a hand’s on programming activity. We worked in teams programming in the language of our choice (JavaScript or Python) in the browser game CodeCombat. It was fun to see how many levels we could accomplish in our group. Our programming guide mentioned that computer scientists just can’t ‘google’ an answer when they get stuck with their programming code, so there is a lot of discovery that is required in their work. He also mentioned that it is okay for them to fail, but they need to look at their failures and understand why they occurred.

After our entertaining introduction to computer programming, we attended a question and answer session with several Google employees that included software engineers and product technology managers, all with a degree in computer science. We learned so much about Google! When asked where they see Google in 10 years, the panel said that they look to us to determine that. They could not have predicted where Google would be today ten years ago…smartphones have changed everything. The work environment at Google is team based with a lot of collaboration. Everyone has access to everyone else’s code. When asked about the Google Doodle, we learned that there is a specific team dedicated to determining what, where, and when the Google Doodle will be shown, and they have complete autonomy to choose. The computer programmers also mentioned that they have no fear of artificial intelligence taking over the world. They said that there are so many limitations that exist. When looking for employees, along with being super smart, Google also values people who are helpful, respectful, trustworthy, and passionate. They look for people who will fit into their culture, but not people who are identical to everyone else. They value diversity.

For the last part of our visit we toured of the amazing offices at Google. There are no closed offices at the site, and each floor of the building has a specific Pittsburgh theme: from the Nabisco factory to Kennywood to a floor paying tribute to Pittsburgh’s bridges. The conference room names and hallway decor are filled with design elements that reflect their floor’s theme. Walking from the 6th to the 7th floor feels like you walking up the ramp to ride the Jack Rabbit! Food is also a major part of the Google work environment. To ensure that discomforts don’t become distractions, Google has mini-kitchens stocked with food near all work spaces. Healthy food options are left in plain view for employees to take, while the not-so-healthy options are present, but a bit harder to find. Google also provides breakfast, lunch and dinner to the employees at no cost! Each Google office has one unique design feature and the Pittsburgh office is no different. A large cargo net is suspended from the ceiling to provide a very different meeting space, resting place, or whatever space. Believe it or not, but Google Pittsburgh also keeps their own chickens housed on the roof and their own bees for fresh honey. What an amazing work environment!

The next stop on our STEM Careers Tour was Techshop Pittsburgh located across the street from Google. TechShop Pittsburgh is a do-it-yourself makerspace, where you can create anything that you can imagine. There is equipment for woodworking, laser cutters, 3D printers, a metal shop, sewing machines, a waterjet cutter, an injection molding machine, and a plastic extruder. For a membership fee you have access to training and use of all this equipment, but you can also pay-as-you-go for workshops, classes and camps. Entrepreneurs, artisans and inventors are all welcome to create their masterpieces. You bring your idea, and TechShop provides the access, knowledge and speed. There are currently ~500 members at the Pittsburgh site and membership starts $150 per month. With someone to teach you how to use the tools you can get from idea to creation in very little time!

What an awesome day! If you are feeling inspired to continue learning computer programming, check out Google CS First at and start your own computer science club. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be hanging out in a cargo net writing code.

Cybergenetics part of the 2015 STEM Careers Tour


part of the

2015 STEM Careers Tour!

<style=”text-align: left;”>Cybergenetics is the world leader in computer automated STR data analysis (they can analyze DNA for that part (the short tandem repeat polymorphism) that helps them discover who the particular individual is). They work with forensic crime scene investigations and the identification of mass disaster victims.

The two principals at Cybergenetics are Mark W. Perlin, MD, PhD, PhD and Ria David, PhD.  Dr. Perlin is the CEO, Chief Science Officer, and creator TrueAllele®technology. He holds 7 patents in fields ranging from DNA mixtures to genome mapping. Before moving to Cybergenetics He was a senior research faculty member for ten years in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.  Dr. David  earned her PhD from Carnegie Mellon University from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Her research has been augmented by having lived on three continents, in four countries and has a working knowledge of five languages. She has been involved in business in all the countries she has lived in. Her specialty is integration and cultural change in the business environment. Dr. David has an Executive MBA from the Katz School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh.
I encourage you to browse some of the recent press clippings from their newsroom to learn more about this amazing Pittsburgh company.

    • 20-Mar-2015 – DNA technology crucial in murder conviction of John Wakefield
    • 12-Sep-2014 – Serial rapist found guilty in first New York trial using TrueAllele
    • 6-Sep-2014 – California newspaper features how Cybergenetics TrueAllele DNA analysis helps gain convictions

Valspar part of the 2015 STEM Careers Tour


part of the

STEM Careers Tour

Valspar is a global leader in consumer paints and industrial coatings. For more than 200 years, their leadership in technology and innovation has enhanced the beauty of homes, improved the durability of industrial products and protected what we eat and drink.

While Valspar hires and needs people from a variety of corporate, leadership, and human resource backgrounds, our tour will focus on the research, development, and product testing that chemists and applications engineers are focused on. For example, one advertised opening at the firm today is a Polymer Application Technology Manager (imagine getting to play with all the new plastics that are being synthesized and testing how they interact with people and the environment!). To apply for this position, a student would need a Master’s Degree (or PhD) in chemistry, polymer/materials science or related technical discipline. In particular, Valspar needs someone with experience with polymer synthesis or thermoset table chemistries.

This is a great opportunity for students to see the relevance of the basic chemistry concepts they are struggling with in high school and begin to imagine what fun can be had once they are mastered.


GRADES 9-12     *     JULY 6-10      *     8:30 – 4:30

Travel by bus to 10 companies and 5 college campuses
in and around Pittsburgh
for tours, discussions, activities, and explorations.




FedEx: Inspiring the Next Generation of STEM Athletes

FedEx opened their doors to five Baden Academy research fellows who journeyed to Neville Island to learn more about the technology behind the accurate and safe delivery of packages. The fascinating and thought provoking tour was part of 5th grade Owen R-K’s fellows project to research and test a new identification system for students to ride the buses from the thirteen different school districts.Our tour, conducted by the mentors on the project (Director of IT Robert Minford and senior project and process analysts Jeffrey Walter and Mark Bracken) included a peek into the software the tracks each package with a complex database and series of barcodes. Owen was joined by fellow programmers who will be helping later in the project. Jacob and Julia serve on the robotics fellows project working with Mindstorms. Rylee and Glorian are on the App Inventors project working with the MIT App Inventor software for android.

The mentors and tour are part of a larger commitment of corporations to get involved in supporting rigorous STEM education. The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE:DOW) announced last week a $1 million commitment with FIRST®(For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) to promote STEM education. Their STEMtheGAP™ initiative aims to build the workforce by supporting teachers, motivating student acievement, developing careers, and collaborating with communities to transform STEM education into a driver for innovation, manufacturing, and economic prosperity.

Andrew N. Liveris, Dow’s chairman and chief executive officer, said of the commitment, “Dow has survived and thrived for more than a century because of the strength of our innovation engine, built on a foundation of STEM talent. Investing in the education of our youth means investing in our shared future and the future of our Company. There is no better way to inspire children to pursue careers in STEM than through the hands-on project based learning experiences thatFIRST provides.”

Corporate sponsors of STEM Education have organized into a national organization, Change the Equation. The organization works at the intersection of business and education to ensure that all students are STEM literate by collaborating with schools, communities, and states to adopt and implement excellent STEM policies and programs. More than 100 U.S. CEOs launched the non-profit, non-partisan coalition in 2010.

CTEq’s first Board of Directors was composed of:

  • Craig Barrett, retired Chairman and CEO, Intel Corporation;
  • Glenn Britt, Chairman and CEO, Time Warner Cable;
  • Ursula Burns, Chairman and CEO, Xerox;
  • Antonio Perez, Chairman and CEO, Eastman Kodak Company;
  • Sally Ride, President and CEO, Sally Ride Science; and
  • Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO, ExxonMobil.

They’ve achieve a lot in only 4 years, including the regularly updated Vital Signs reports on the condition of STEM learning in every state, launched the STEMworks database of effective STEM programs and iON Future an online suite of games targeted to middle-high school aged youth enabling STEM career exploration based on individual interests. They have also partnered with Roadtrip Nation to create inspiring interviews of STEM professionals from our coalition of member companies.

Are you a corporation seeking to support STEM Education?  Refer to the CTEq’s Design Principles and Rubrics and partner with Grow a Generation to inspire interest and engagement in STEM and offer hands-on exposure to STEM content.  We are looking for local corporations who can participate in the 2015 STEM Careers Tour.  We will bring 30 students to your campus for a one to two hour visit during the week of July 6-10. Don’t have room for 30 students? We can be split the group into two smaller groups with one group placed in a conference room (or in the parking lot/bus/front lobby) and another on a tour with (possibly) a short hands on activity. The group in the conference room can be led by one of our GrowaGen staff in a review of your corporate history if you only have one staff member to dedicate to the tour.  After 30-45 minutes, switch the groups out for the second tour and we will be on our way. Are you interested in finding out more?  Contact Leah Kennelly at leah.kennelly”at”

Are you interested in mentoring a research fellow? Their projects include engineering identification tags, creating mobile apps, competing in robotics competitions, writing books about a myriad of topics, marketing art and music creations, creating videos for non-profits such as the Humane Society, and becoming IT support within a school. Contact Ellen Cavanaugh at drellen”at” to suggest upcoming projects or volunteer for current ones.

CTEq was founded from a frustration that five different consecutive presidents have called for blue ribbon panels on science and technology education and the consistent recommendations have been largely unheeded.  It was determined that corporate sponsorship of rigorous STEM learning is needed to keep America competitive. How will you take part?

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