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Power of invention energizes kids at Pittsburgh STEAM Showcase

STEAM Showcase
Ryan Rydzewski
October27/ 2017

Above: Kids from Big Beaver Falls Area broadcast from the STEAM Showcase.

Mia Conte stepped toward the audience with her microphone.

“How many of you have pitched a $20,000 project at the age of 13?” asked Mia, a student in the Hampton Township School District.

No hands went up.

“Well, I have,” said Mia, laughing.

She and her classmates went on explain how they engineered and built a specialized cart designed to carry STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) tools for Hampton’s elementary schools.

Their talk was one of dozens of presentations, projects, and prototypes on display at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit fourth annual STEAM Showcase, held at Nova Place on the city’s North Side. And if the hundreds in attendance — including students, teachers, and administrators from 26 school districts — were any indication, the Pittsburgh region will soon hear a lot more stories like Mia’s.

“It’s such an exciting time for education in our region,” says Linda Hippert, Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s executive director. The STEAM Showcase “is an opportunity to see firsthand the great work being done by students and teachers.”

STEAM Showcase
Students from the McGuffey School District with their STEAM project.

Students in the McGuffey School District, for example, recently completed their first collaborative STEAM project. Seventh graders, after learning about sound waves and amplitude, taught lessons to the district’s third graders. The third graders used the knowledge to design musical instruments, which the district’s high schoolers then constructed. With programming help from sixth graders, the district’s students produced 30 musical art pieces, which were installed in public places throughout Washington County.

The students “are so proud,” says Teresa Engler, a former STEAM teacher at McGuffey, who recently became the district’s Google tech coach — one of just 50 throughout the country. “They worked so hard on this for so long. A year and a half ago, the other teachers and I couldn’t have imagined this.”

That theme — imagination coming to life — resonated throughout the event, as various schools and organizations showcased their work. Kids in the Hopewell Area School District demonstrated remotely operated underwater vehicles. Students from Big Beaver Falls Area broadcast live. And representatives from Remake Learning explored futuristic learning spaces.

STEAM Showcase
Steven Kovacik of ZeroFossil demonstrates clean energy.

From Argo AI to ZeroFossil, the region’s tech firms were on hand, too. The convening of students, makers, manufacturers, and technologists was especially timely given that Pittsburgh submitted its proposal to host Amazon’s second headquarters just days before. But regardless of whether HQ2 comes to Western Pennsylvania, one thing was clear: The region’s technology scene will continue to grow and thrive.

“Makers make Pittsburgh a special, special place,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald told student attendees. “It’s about all of us working together. When you develop that next great product, stay here!”

Ryan Rydzewski

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