AIU STEAM Showcase

AIU showcase celebrates STEAM learning

As 3-D printers whirred and beeped from the edges of the ballroom and first-graders assembled colorful Plexiglass puzzles at the foot of the stage, Delaney Zilla shared a snapshot of her enviable skills. Greenville Area High School’s Intro to Engineering course, the freshman explained, opened her eyes to the wonders of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, also known as STEAM.

Zilla was among the hundreds of students and teachers from 28 local school districts who attended the third annual STEAM Showcase Open House last week at the IBEW Circuit Center & Ballroom on the South Side. The Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s Center for Creativity hosted the event, intended to demonstrate how innovators, educators and philanthropists use STEAM to transform education.

“Not only do I get to create inventions and projects, but I also get to learn about the science and math behind them,” Zilla said about the magnet design challenge she achieved using 3-D printers that her school district purchased with STEAM grant money.

Moss Side Middle School teacher Jason Kunkle explained that the STEAM grant gives disadvantaged students at Gateway School District a head start in the 21st century. Emerging technology like drones and iMovie software can turn students into meteorologists, graphic designers, business managers and artists who create their own videos and podcasts.


During the event, scientists from the Personal Robotics Lab at Carnegie Mellon University invited visitors to manipulate a robotic arm to pierce marshmallows with a fork, while Schell Games employees demonstrated the new toy-as-teacher invention Happy Atoms, a digital and physical chemistry set. Local innovators from CMU CREATE Lab, BirdBrain Technologies, Maker Faire Pittsburgh, Stem Jobs Magazine, TechShop Pittsburgh, Digital Dream Labs, SLB Radio Productions, The Sprout Fund, Sevenzo, Sen. John Heinz History Center, Green Building Alliance and Common Sense Education also showed off their latest developments contributing to the future of STEAM learning in Pittsburgh.

Grable Foundation Executive Director Gregg Behr received the Champion of Change for Making Award from Mary Esther Van Shura from Allegheny County Executive Rick Fitzgerald’s office. Van Shura named Sept. 27 as Gregg Behr Day in honor of his dedication to innovative learning.

“This affirmation is really an affirmation for all of us,” Behr told the crowd. “You are leading the forefront of innovative learning.”

Pittsburgh is revolutionizing education, with endless opportunities for hands-on learning, including the annual Remake Learning Week every May throughout the city and the upcoming Google Geek Street Fair in Bakery Square.

Each school district represented at the showcase received a $20,000 STEAM grant, made possible by the Chevron Corporation, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the Grable Foundation.