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STEM education is not just for city kids anymore.

A permanent workshop, known as a “Fab Lab,” will be located in Grindstone, Fayette County, while a second, mobile Fab Lab will travel to other rural school districts in area governed by regional education agency Intermediate Unit 1 (IU1). The labs will provide high-tech equipment and teacher resources that are not often available in rural parts of these counties.

“At Chevron, we understand STEM education is important to a successful future for our local communities. We are working with our partners to provide access to state-of-the-art education and technology resources to equip students with the critical skills needed to fill the jobs of tomorrow, particularly for those with limited access to the tools necessary for success in these fields,” said Nigel Hearne, vice president of Chevron Appalachia Michigan Business Unit based in the Pittsburgh area.

The IU1 Community Fab Lab will provide access to resources for the students in the K-12 system, undergraduate students and the community at-large, including skilled staff and volunteers, design and fabrication equipment and access to an international Fab Lab network. It will ultimately touch an estimated 56,000 people. Founded in 2009 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Fab Foundation brings digital fabrication tools and processes to people of all ages, developing educational and offering professional development training programs for teachers.

The hands-on learning that will be available at IU1 Fab Lab aims to spark interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and prepare individuals for the nearly 1 million U.S. jobs that will require basic STEM literacy over the next five years – including more than 2,000 energy and manufacturing jobs southwestern Pennsylvania.

“This Fab Lab is a tremendous resource for teachers and students throughout southwestern Pennsylvania,” said Fayette County Commissioner Al Ambrosini. “It will help get our kids excited about science and give them the technical skills they will need in their careers. I commend Chevron for its commitment to our community and to educating our children.”

The IU1 Community Fab Lab will feature such state-of-the-art design and fabrication equipment as laser cutters, 3D printers, vinyl cutters and milling machines. The Fab Lab will promote innovation and design in the community and will build the local workforce capacity.

This digital fabrication workshop is made possible through a $1.2 million contribution by Chevron. It is part of the company’s $10 million commitment to the Fab Foundation to build Fab Labs in areas where it operates in the United States. This Fab Lab is a component of the Appalachia Partnership Initiative, a collaborative effort formed by Chevron to develop a highly-skilled regional workforce.

“Intermediate Unit 1 is proud to be one of the few organizations selected from around the world to receive both a mobile and a stationary community Fab Lab,” said Charles F. Mahoney, Intermediate Unit 1 executive director.

“We will continue to be an innovative educational keystone transforming education and learning for the countless students, educators and community members we serve.”

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On the heels of Zagat’s proclamation in December that Pittsburgh is America’s No. 1 food city, The New York Times recently weighed in:

“Everybody seems so young. And everybody’s talking about restaurants. If there are scholars who hope to study how a vibrant food culture can help radically transform an American city, the time to do that is right now, in real time, in the place that gave us Heinz ketchup.”

The full essay by Jeff Gordinier, “Pittsburgh’s Youth-Driven Food Boom,” is below and here (along with a photo slide show from Pittsburgh-based photographer Jeff Swensen).

PITTSBURGH — It hits you as soon as you get to town.

There’s the purple-haired free spirit at the Ace Hotel who gives you the lowdown on outlaw poetry gatherings and killer pizza. There are the art kids offering tips at the Andy Warhol Museum, and the tyro entrepreneurs strategizing over cocktails at the Tender Bar & Kitchen in Lawrenceville, the neighborhood along the Allegheny River that is shifting from a desolate zone where your laptop might get stolen to the place where butcher paper in the windows signifies a bumper crop of new restaurants. There’s the 25-year-old Uber driver who shoots you a crucial heads-up: “The best bartender in the world is working tonight.”

Everybody seems so young. And everybody’s talking about restaurants. If there are scholars who hope to study how a vibrant food culture can help radically transform an American city, the time to do that is right now, in real time, in the place that gave us Heinz ketchup.

In December, Zagat named Pittsburgh the No. 1 food city in America. Vogue just went live with a piece that proclaimed, “Pittsburgh is not just a happening place to visit — increasingly, people, especially New Yorkers, are toying with the idea of moving here.”

Kelly Sawdon, an executive with the Ace chain, said the company spent years trying to raise money to convert a torn-and-frayed Y.M.C.A. into a hip hotel because the “energy” of the city suggested a blossoming marketplace. Food, she said, has been the catalyst.

For decades, Pittsburgh was hardly seen as a beacon of innovative cuisine or a magnet for the young. It was the once-glorious metropolis that young people fled from after the shuttering of the steel mills in the early 1980s led to a mass exodus and a stark decline.

“We had to reinvent ourselves,” said Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh’s mayor.

And they have. Over the last decade or so, the city has been the beneficiary of several overlapping booms. Cheap rent and a voracious appetite for culture have attracted artists. Cheap rent and Carnegie Mellon University have attracted companies like Google, Facebook and Uber, seeking to tap local tech talent. And cheap rent alone has inspired chefs to pursue deeply personal projects that might have a hard time surviving in the Darwinian real estate microclimates of New York and San Francisco.

No one can pinpoint whether it was the artists or techies or chefs who got the revitalization rolling. But there’s no denying that restaurants play a starring role in the story Pittsburgh now tells about itself. The allure of inhabiting a Hot New Food Town — be it Nashville or Richmond, Va., or Portland (Oregon or Maine) — helps persuade young people to visit, to move in and to stay.

Recent census data shows that Allegheny County’s millennial population is on the rise. People ages 25 to 29 now make up 7.6 percent of all residents, up from 7 percent about a decade ago; the 30-to-34 age group now comprises 6.5 percent, up from 6 percent.

Years ago, local boosters proposed a tongue-in-cheek advertising campaign starring a mascot called Border Guard Bob, who would dissuade young people from abandoning the city’s Rust Belt remains. “That has changed dramatically,” said Craig Davis, the chief executive of Visit Pittsburgh. He said the median age in Pittsburgh is 32.8, well below the national figure, 37.7.

That’s good news for tourism; 2,800 hotel rooms have been added in Pittsburgh since 2011. “We’re really using the food scene as a driver of that,” Mr. Davis said. “There’s a reason to come to the city.”

It is also good news for business and culture leaders who seek out young employees and customers. When job candidates arrive, the new wave of restaurants is brandished as a selling point.

“The food scene in Pittsburgh is actually responsible for our landing some best-in-the-world types of people,” said Andrew Moore, the dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon and a founder of Google’s first office in the city.

Google’s presence has since expanded considerably — and almost in sync with the restaurant surge. Pittsburgh’s mayor said the food boom had played a pivotal role in restoring neighborhoods, evidence of an “entrepreneurial attitude throughout the city.”

“Ten years ago, you had some visionaries, some young people who had a dream of owning their own restaurants,” Mr. Peduto said. “They took a risk — they really did believe the place had this amazing potential.”

One of those pioneers was Domenic Branduzzi, who opened a spot calledPiccolo Forno in the Lawrenceville area 11 years ago as a way to showcase the specialties that his family had brought to western Pennsylvania from Tuscany.

“I’m an O.G.’’ — an original gangsta — “in the neighborhood,” Mr. Branduzzi said on a recent afternoon as customers filled the cocktail bar atGrapperia, a second Lawrenceville spot of his, which was celebrating its first anniversary. “If I ever want to be transported to my grandmother’s kitchen when I was a kid, I taste one bite of the lasagna.”

In the early days of Piccolo Forno, Mr. Branduzzi was warned that Pittsburghers weren’t likely to take a chance on old-school items like rabbit or wild boar. “People thought it was crazy and that it would never sell,” he said. “And now I can’t take rabbit off the menu.”

Being shielded from crushing rent increases allows Pittsburgh chefs to take risks and cook the way they want to cook without constantly fretting about going under.

“Pittsburgh is the land of opportunity for chefs,” said Justin Severino, another Lawrenceville pioneer whose Cure, which he opened on a dingy stretch of Butler Street in 2010, has won national accolades. He’s got a second baby in Lawrenceville now, too — a brand-new Basque-style pintxos restaurant called Morcilla.

A veteran of the acclaimed Manresa, in Northern California, Mr. Severino, now 38, fled the Bay Area when he realized that he couldn’t even afford a beer and a sandwich with friends, let alone a vacation or a house. In Pittsburgh he saw the capacity for ownership, and change. “While the rest of the country was floundering, Pittsburgh stood on the gas and reinvented itself as a city,” he said.

This is not to say that creating Cure was easy. Lawrenceville still has its fair share of graffiti and abandoned storefronts, but “you should’ve seen that neighborhood five years ago,” Mr. Severino said. “I got to know the prostitutes who worked the corner. I got to know the drug dealers who hated my guts.” He was always calling the police; thieves broke into Cure repeatedly.

Through it all, he stuck to his philosophy: “I’m just going to do what I want to do without regard for what people say they want.”

Early adopters like Mr. Severino, Mr. Branduzzi, Sonja Finn of Dinette,Kate Romane of e2, and Richard DeShantz of Meat & Potatoes proved that chef-driven cuisine could flourish alongside steel-town fixtures likeTessaro’s and Primanti Brothers. The next generation is grabbing that message and running with it.

At Whitfield, the new restaurant inside the Ace Hotel, Brent Young, a native son who had helped build the Meat Hook butcher shop in Brooklyn, lobbied passionately for a job conceiving the whole-animal-fixated menu, and brought in the locally grown chef Bethany Zozula and the pastry chef Casey Shively to run the kitchen. Whitfield opened in December; reaction was quick and unexpected. “On New Year’s Eve, we had a line around the building,” Ms. Zozula said.

In the Strip District, the marketplace zone that Mayor Peduto referred to as “the heart of western Pennsylvania’s food culture,” Ben Mantica and Tyler Benson, two 20-something entrepreneurs who met in the Navy, are bringing the model of a tech incubator to the food world. Their Smallman Galley consists of four kiosks in which different chefs showcase their cooking for 18 months. The chefs pay no rent; the hope is that they’ll build a following and create their own restaurants.

Mr. Mantica and Mr. Benson see Smallman as a way to cater to the tastes of the young employees of Apple, Uber and Google who are starting to occupy new apartments in the area. “We’ve seen this huge demographic shift in Pittsburgh, and now it’s a matter of, ‘What do those people want?’” Mr. Benson said.

To the northeast of Smallman Galley, in Lawrenceville, the chef Csilla Thackray and the restaurateur Joey Hilty, both in their 20s, are trying to carve out their own slice of the marketplace with the Vandal, a casual restaurant that’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Mr. Hilty grew up near Pittsburgh, and said he had plans to leave for New York or Oregon after college, but “I had too much debt. So I slowly figured out what my contribution would be to the city.” He is glad he stayed. Lawrenceville, he said, is “very youthful and it’s full of unbridled enthusiasm for this stuff.”

But there is ambivalence as well. Young restaurateurs know how gentrification works; they’ve witnessed it in Brooklyn and San Francisco. Rents rise. People get squeezed out. “We all see where it’s going to be in five years,” Mr. Hilty said. “The barrier to entry’s going to be so high.”

Ms. Thackray added, “It’s really cool — and then the bubble bursts.”

Like winning the lottery, being crowned a Hot New Food Town can complicate things. Despite his trailblazing, Mr. Severino has noticed how Lawrenceville’s newer inhabitants view him as something of a square. “Most of those hipsters hate me,” he said with a laugh. “They’ll go out of their way to tell me what a yuppie I am.”

Some of the more thoughtful leaders of Pittsburgh’s cultural youthquake find themselves vexed — worrying that the city they wanted to live in could turn, over time, into its glossy and expensive opposite, a place that evicts older residents and prices out younger ones.

“Look, I like good coffee, I like good bread, I like good food,” said Adam Shuck, 29, who writes an e-newsletter called “Eat That, Read This” and is developing The Glassblock, a web magazine about the city. “I’m torn. I love this stuff, and I’m not going to say I don’t. I welcome and applaud this changing Pittsburgh.”

On the other hand, “there’s also a part of Pittsburgh that has been left out of this excitement,” Mr. Shuck said in an email. “Poverty, food deserts and lack of opportunity and access in historically marginalized communities are big problems in Pittsburgh, and all of the praise and celebration can ring a bit hollow when you consider these realities. Nitro coffee and slow bread are not at the top of your list when you can’t even get to a grocery store.”

The present is exciting in Pittsburgh. The future? That depends.

“We just have to stay vigilant in how Pittsburgh’s redevelopment takes place,” Mr. Shuck said, “fostering the conversation and pressuring government and private capital to work together to do it right.”

If You Go …

Ace Hotel 120 South Whitfield Street; 412-361-3300; acehotel.com/pittsburgh.

Cure 5336 Butler Street; 412-252-2595; curepittsburgh.com.

Dinette 5996 Centre Avenue; 412-362-0202; dinette-pgh.com.

e2 5904 Bryant Street; 412-441-1200; e2pgh.com.

Grapperia 3801 Butler Street; 412-904-3907; grapperiapgh.com.

Meat & Potatoes 649 Penn Avenue; 412-325-7007; meatandpotatoespgh.com.

Morcilla 3519 Butler Street; 412-652-9924; morcillapittsburgh.com.

Piccolo Forno 3801 Butler Street; 412-622-0111; piccolo-forno.com.

Primanti Brothers 1832 East Carson Street; 412-325-2455; primantibros.com.

Smallman Galley 54 21st Street; 412-315-5950; smallmangalley.org.COMMENTS

Tender Bar & Kitchen 4300 Butler Street; 412-402-9522; tenderpgh.com.

Tessaro’s 4601 Liberty Avenue; 412-682-6809; tessaros.com.

The Vandal 4306 Butler Street; 412-251-0465; thevandalpgh.com.

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Pittsburgh has jobs: more than 20,000 across 10 counties. Tap into ImaginePittsburgh.com to explore southwestern PA’s trending careers and industries.

Find a job, advance your career, build a life you’ll love: ImaginePittsburgh.com.

 

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“Don’t change the curriculum. Change the culture.”

That’s the approach of Lenore Blum, computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University since 1999. Rather than changing or “dumbing down” the curriculum, CMU established mentorship programs offering support and continuity from faculty.

Read all about it in the article by CNN Tech’s by Sara Ashley O’Brien, excerpted below.

cmu-women-qatar

“So many eligible women.”

That’s how Carnegie Mellon’s Lenore Blum referred to this year’s applicants for CMU’s School of Computer Science. Women make up 48% of incoming freshman this year — a new high for the school.

There were nearly 7,000 applicants for the program this year. It accepted just 166, which is about 30% larger than in past years.

The percent of women in the class far surpasses the national average of 16.5% for undergraduate computer science programs, according to the Computing Research Association’s Taulbee Survey.

Blum, who teachers computer science, said there was no talk of “lowering of the bar” at CMU to do so.

“Every year, we get more and more women. And every year, it seems like all the scores and stats go up. It is competitive to get into our program,” Blum said.

Related: Women coders do better than men in gender-blind study

That stands in contrast to the commonly-cited “pipeline problem,” which some in Silicon Valley use as the reason their companies aren’t diverse — that there simply aren’t enough minority or female STEM graduates.

Blum said blaming the pipeline is a “mistake.”

“You start with the group you have,” she added, noting that this year’s achievement reflects incremental growth over several decades.

While Harvey Mudd College credited a redesigned curriculum, for bringing in and retaining more female students, Blum and CMU have taken a very different approach.

When Blum joined CMU in 1999, she said there was serious talk of changing the curriculum to attract more women. “I said, ‘No way. You change the culture — not the curriculum.’”

Instead, Blum started Women@SCS, a mentorship organization for female computer science students. Unlike many organizations that are student-run, this particular group is led by faculty, which means there’s continuity even when students graduate. “You need the guidance and institutional support and the memory,” Blum said.

“Encouraging women by giving them a support system and a sense of community is a good idea,” Macallan Cruff, an 18-year-old CMU freshman told CNNMoney. “Don’t dumb down the curriculum.”

Cruff said she’s been pleasantly surprised to see a 50/50 split of men and women in her courses, compared to about four women in a class of 25 in her high school computer science class.

Related: Parents, yes! Your princesses can code

Cruff hopes schools will work to foster a sense of community for students at a much younger age. As a junior in high school, Cruff formed a “Coding Club” at a nearby elementary school to start introducing programming to girls in the third grade.

Blum said Carnegie Mellon is also focused on reaching students before they even enter college. It trains high school teachers on the latest programming languages, which encourages them to spread the word about CMU to their students.

She stressed the importance of having the administration put money behind the school’s efforts and not solely rely on grants.

Blum noted that Silicon Valley has been recruiting Carnegie Mellon’s graduates, an obvious move given that most tech companies are looking for talented candidates, especially female ones.

But she said it could compromise the number of women going on to get computer science PhDs. “I have concerns about that,” she said.

What pipeline problem? Carnegie Mellon nears gender parity CNNMoney (New York) / First published September 16, 2016: 10:13 AM ET

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Just a few tickets are left for the Monday, Sept. 26 ATHENA Awards luncheon! Get yours today at Athena-Pittsburgh.com

Eight women – five veteran managers and three emerging leaders – have been selected as finalists for the 2016 ATHENA Awards Program of Greater Pittsburgh. They will be among the many nominees recognized for their professional excellence, contributions to the community and mentorship of other women at the annual ATHENA Awards luncheon on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. The awards are presented by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development at the Westin Convention Center Hotel. One finalist from each category – the traditional ATHENA award, and the ATHENA Young Professional Award – will receive her respective award at the event.

The finalists for the traditional ATHENA award compose a varied and distinguished group. Each woman uses her leadership to create professional excellence and positive regional impact. The finalists are:

  • Audrey Dunning, CEO, Summa Technologies, Inc.
  • Kelly Gray, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, FedEx Ground
  • Diana Reid, Executive Vice President, PNC Real Estate
  • Tracy Vitale, Superintendent of Schools, Seneca Valley School District
  • Yvette Williams, Senior Patient Advocate/Program Manager, Allegheny Health Network/The Open Door, Inc.

The ATHENA Young Professional Award (AYPA) will be presented to a woman 35 years of age or younger who exemplifies the traditional ATHENA qualities, with an emphasis on being a role model. The finalists are:

  • Marteen Garay, Director of Entrepreneurship Programming, Urban Innovation21
  • Caitlin Green, Vice President, PNC Bank, N.A.
  • Katie Kopczynski, Marketing Analyst, Eaton

A complete list of nominees can be found at ATHENA-Pittsburgh.com.

Also at the luncheon, ATHENA officials will announce the recipient of the new Barbara McNees Spirit of ATHENA Scholarship, named for the ATHENA program’s founder and retired president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce (an Allegheny Conference affiliate). The scholarship will be awarded annually to one woman age 35 or younger to attend, tuition-free, the Carnegie Mellon Leadership and Negotiation Academy for Women. The deadline to apply is July 29 for the academy session that begins Sept. 23. Learn more about the scholarship and the academy here.

Last year’s Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Awards luncheon drew nearly 900 attendees. That makes it among the largest stand-alone events of its kind among the 500-plus communities around the globe that present the award each year.

Tickets for the luncheon can be purchased online at ATHENA-Pittsburgh.com. Sponsorships are still available; contact ATHENA@alleghenyconference.org.

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Uber’s driverless vehicles — the first to hit American roadways — have begun picking up passengers in Pittsburgh.

In a race with Google and Tesla to bring autonomous vehicles to market, Uber is poised to leap ahead thanks in part to the talented engineers that emerge from Carnegie Mellon University, Bloomberg News, Forbes and others have reported.

A few of Uber’s modified Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicle began appearing on Pittsburgh streets around Labor Day, with a fleet of 100 to be rolled out by year’s end. Cars in Pittsbugh will have safety drivers and co-pilots.

Uber began operating in Allegheny County in early 2014, and recently expanded service to several adjacent counties. In February 2015, the San Francisco based company partnered with CMU to create the Uber Advanced Technologies Center just off campus, foucsing on developing long-term technologies. The partnership includes collaboration between Uber and the National Robotics Engineering Center in Lawrenceville around mapping, vehicle safety and autonomy technology.

Check out the Bloomberg’s video here, and read the full article here.

 

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Pittsburgh has jobs: more than 20,000 across 10 counties, including at Uber. Tap into ImaginePittsburgh.com to explore southwestern PA’s trending careers and industries.

Find a job, advance your career, build a life you’ll love: ImaginePittsburgh.com.