STEM education is not just for city kids anymore.

Thanks to a collaboration by Chevron, the nonprofit Fab Foundation and regional schools, digital fabrication workshops are coming to Fayette, Green and Washington counties.

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.

fabLabOriginalrotatorIP“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.”

ImaginePittsburgh.com

RemakeLearning RallyRemake Learning Week concluded on May 13, with snacks and entertainment at PNC Park. Participants at the free event tried  out virtual reality gear, program robots that make art, designed and created doo-dads on a 3D printer, used circuitry and LEDs to bring jewelry to life, broadcasted their voices on internet radio and more.

Rally attendees also heard a recap of some of #RemakeDays panels, workshops and parties from the week-long Remake Learning Days, which featured more than 150 future-ready, hands-on, relevant and engaging educational experiences for kids and their families, caregivers and educators across the Greater Pittsburgh Region.

*   *   *

Wondering about your career future? Check out ImaginePittsburgh.com to explore southwestern PA’s trending careers, industries and the more than 20,000 jobs open now on our custom-built aggregator, updated nightly.

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

NEXTpittsburgh

Powered by NEXTpittsburgh / Written by Deb Smit

Gwen’s Girls is about female empowerment and bright futures, but sometimes girls just want to have fun.

At the organization’s North Side center, younger girls race around desks in a game of tag, braids flying. Older girls, dodging the game, carry their dinner trays to an adjoining room where they pull seats into a circle for a more serious discussion. Kathi Elliot watches as they settle into their evening routine.

“My mother set me up for this,” she says with a knowing smile. Indeed she did.

Elliot is the daughter of the late Gwen Elliot, a resilient woman who dedicated the later years of her life to lifting up the lives of the young women of color she saw cycling through the court system. Her mother understood all too well the challenges faced by young women growing up in broken, impoverished families.

Born and raised in West Mifflin, Gwen Elliot’s own mother died when she was five. Raised by her maternal grandfather and step-grandmother, she grew into a young woman of indomitable spirit, turning barriers to dust as she rose the ladder to success in a field traditionally held by men.

In the 1960s, Gwen enlisted in the military. From there she joined the Pittsburgh Police Department and was the first African American female police officer in the city. During her 26-year tenure, she rose to Sergeant and later Commander.

She was also a single mother who found the time to instill strong personal values in her daughter while conveying the importance of empowering disadvantaged young women to live healthy, successful lives.

“She was always involved in community work,” explains Elliot. “She saw so many young girls who were falling through the cracks in the court system. She was determined one day to retire and start an organization that addressed the lack of programming for these young women.”

In 2002, Gwen Elliot kept that promise to herself and founded Gwen’s Girls. The program for at-risk women started as an after-school program offering a safe space where young women could build relationships and self-esteem and gain the support of adults. “My mother believed that if young women of color had caring adults to nurture them in their young years, it would change their lives,” says Elliot.

More than 2,500 young women have participated in the program since 2002. The program measures its success in that 100 percent of the women not only improved their academic standing, none ever became pregnant or re-entered the juvenile justice system.

Upon Gwen’s death in 2007, the program continued to thrive but, due to the financial climate for nonprofits over the years, many of the services were decreased or eliminated. In August 2015, Elliot found herself stepping into the role her mother had cultivated.

“My mother saw things in me that I did not see in myself,” says Elliot who admits that she never anticipated one day leading her mother’s organization. Elliot has a doctorate in Nursing Practice from Chatham University and is a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

“Lo and behold, I’ve found that we as children often end up doing exactly what our parents intended for us to do,” she says with a smile.

Today Gwen’s Girls is in the midst of reinvention. Elliot is working to reinvigorate and expand the programming through an educational component that focuses on STEM learning. A STEM-based Makers Club for girls 8-18 years is planned for three sites: the North Hills, Clairton Middle School and Penn Hills. A second club, Pitt Bridge, a health-based science club, allows the girls to explore and research health issues of their own choosing using problem-solving skills.

The overall goal is to expand awareness of STEM-related careers, provide mentorships with local women in technology and science fields and reinforce the STEM concepts that the young women are learning in school.

“It really is their personal club,” says Crystalline Barger, resident social worker, who leads Pitt Bridge for Gwen’s Girls. “This is an opportunity to foster the math and science component and get the girls involved.”

While women continue to remain vastly underrepresented in the STEM workforce despite the fact that they make up nearly half of the college-educated workforce, women of color from at-risk backgrounds suffer from a lack of exposure to these careers. They simply don’t have the same access to resources that women have from more affluent communities, says Elliot. “If we don’t train and teach them, they’re likely to become pregnant or unwed mothers,” she says.

Today Gwen’s Girls is in the midst of reinvention. Elliot is working to reinvigorate and expand the programming through an educational component that focuses on STEM learning. A STEM-based Makers Club for girls 8-18 years is planned for three sites: the North Hills, Clairton Middle School and Penn Hills. A second club, Pitt Bridge, a health-based science club, allows the girls to explore and research health issues of their own choosing using problem-solving skills.

The overall goal is to expand awareness of STEM-related careers, provide mentorships with local women in technology and science fields and reinforce the STEM concepts that the young women are learning in school.

“It really is their personal club,” says Crystalline Barger, resident social worker, who leads Pitt Bridge for Gwen’s Girls. “This is an opportunity to foster the math and science component and get the girls involved.”

While women continue to remain vastly underrepresented in the STEM workforce despite the fact that they make up nearly half of the college-educated workforce, women of color from at-risk backgrounds suffer from a lack of exposure to these careers. They simply don’t have the same access to resources that women have from more affluent communities, says Elliot. “If we don’t train and teach them, they’re likely to become pregnant or unwed mothers,” she says.hat’s why the mentoring component–exposure to professional women in Pittsburgh who are working in STEM fields–is so important. Gwen’s Girls seeks to expand these mentorships in the coming year.

“Career exploration and STEM programs like those found at Gwen’s Girls are critical to helping girls and young women see the possibilities for greatness beyond their circumstances and beyond their dreams,” says Lynn Brusco, executive director of the Disruptive Health Institute at CMU who is an active supporter and mentor. “Changing the way that girls see themselves and the opportunities that are available to them can genuinely make a difference.”

Elliot agrees. “I feel humble and truly blessed to be able to give back to this spirit of womanhood,” she says. “We need to keep fighting for ourselves and what we believe in. We tell our girls that they can live productive lives.”

This article is part of the Remake Learning initiative, a multimedia partnership between NEXTpittsburgh and WQED Multimedia, Pittsburgh Magazine and WESA. Check out all the stories on Learning Innovation in Pittsburgh.

*   *   *

Wondering about your career future? Check out  ImaginePittsburgh.com to explore southwestern PA’s trending careers, industries and the more than 20,000 jobs open now on our custom-built aggregator, updated nightly.

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

Bonnie Pfister

What’s to love about working as an architect, an engineer or a project manager in Pittsburgh? A lot of things, as a few young design professionals say in a video below.

“Makers” from such companies as P.J. Dick on the North Shore, Desmone & Associates architecture firm in Lawrenceville and Nello Construction in Canonsburg were just a few of the participants in the design-build contest sponsored by the Carpenters Union’s at their state-of-the-art training center in Robinson Township.

Teams of architects, engineers and carpenters had two weeks (around their full-time jobs) to come up with a design and engineering plan for a themed miniature golf course hole, gathering to build it in a single day. The competition coincided with an open house at the state-of-the-art center, as students from more than 100 high schools and career/technical training programs gathered to learn about careers during demonstrations and conversations with working carpenters.

Skilled carpenters are in high demand in the Pittsburgh region, particularly as construction season kicks into high gear as the weather warms. Apprentice carpenters earn while they learn during the four-year training programs. Upon completing the training, a journeyman carpenter’s starting salary ranges from $40,000 to $80,000 a year. An experienced carpenter can earn more than $90,000.

To learn more about the carpenters training program, go to the Keystone + Mountain + Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters website, or call Rick Ostraszewski at 412-262-1830, Ext. 7

NEXTpittsburgh

Powered by NEXTpittsburgh

Written by Laura Bailey

After several years of advancing workforce development programs to help veterans, young people aging out of foster care and many others facing difficult transitions, ImaginePittsburgh.com Neighbor Kenya Boswell recently moved into the role of president of BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania. 

A big part of that new is UpPrize, an innovation competition by the foundation and The Forbes Funds that will award $1 million to a Pittsburgh-based entrepreneur or innovator to create solutions that will help nonprofits and the people they serve. The competition is free to enter and the deadline to apply is 5 p.m. this Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Learn more at UpPrize.org

It may seem like a daunting mission, but Boswell is up to the task and excited to see the impact of “purpose-driven innovation” – the ability to apply the technological expertise in our region to the nonprofit sector.

“It sort of ripples down to my other interests with youth workforce development, with women’s issues and things of that nature as well,” she says.

What was the inspiration for UpPrize?

It was a collaborative idea between us and The Forbes Funds. BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern PA and The Forbes Funds were looking for ways to identify some common pain points that we have witnessed though our respective philanthropy programs in the nonprofit sector that could be addressed through the use of technology. Codefest (an app-building contest to improve city living) was just one example. And because of the success of Codefest it was really an opportunity to bring it to scale. It’s what we’re calling catalytic philanthropy.

What do you hope for the future of UpPrize?

Our intention is to launch this pilot and really be able to tweak the model to demonstrate the greatest impact and bring it to scale. Success for us would be having the winning solution adopted and implemented at Pittsburgh nonprofits – that’s number one.

What does innovation mean to you?

Typically I think a lot of people look at innovation as needing a radical new idea or change. We look at it really as an opportunity to pivot some sort of existing product or idea to be able to actually create greater impact, particularly for the people it is intended to reach.

What’s the best thing going on in the city right now—besides UpPrize?

We’re looking at the energy and ability to crowdsource solutions in a community. We’re seeing this in a lot of different ways, whether it’s in a technology start-up or funders coming together to collaborate or it’s nonprofits coming together to collaborate. It’s this joint phenomenon of being able to crowdsource new solutions to some of our problems. It’s become more evident in the last three to five years.

Favorite thing to do in Pittsburgh and favorite restaurant?

My favorite thing is actually exploring our great city with my four-year-old, five-pound Yorkie, Bentley.

What I love about living in the East End: I do not have to travel far for good quality food, great customer service. And I love the environment. I always have the opportunity to meet cool, interesting people.

My all-time favorite is Park Bruges in Highland Park.

Kenya Boswell is an ImaginePittsburgh.com Neighbor — friendly people from around the corner and around the world who choose Pittsburgh as the place to advance their career, live, play and learn. Take our quiz to find out which Neighbors have most in common with you!