Last week, dozens of educators, innovators, and technologists gathered at the Pittsburgh STEM Summit 2012 at the Double Tree Hotel. From Bayer Material Science LLC, to Winchester Thurston, to UPMC, a variety of organizations and companies were in attendance to present their STEM forward projects and accomplishments. The summit ran from morning until late afternoon, although the information presented calls for much more attention and conversation.

The morning began with a presentation from keynote speaker Gerald F. MacCleary, President of Bayer Material Sciences LLC. MacCleary acknowledged the importance of STEM educators and STEM focused studies, credited Pittsburgh’s history and growth in STEM related areas, and called for a strategic plan to advance STEM opportunities in the Greater Pittsburgh Region. He agrees with most STEM supporters that in order to create a well-trained, diverse STEM workforce, it is necessary to begin at the beginning and ignite an interest in STEM fields in today’s students – the leaders of tomorrow. Through inquiry-based learning, well-trained educators, access to STEM professionals and STEM education for all, and acknowledging the job availability all across the nation, MacCleary ensures that we can achieve a more STEM- centric Pittsburgh workforce in the near future. His visions for the region were supported by the community of presenters that followed him in the work that they have already done

The first plenary session consisted of presentations by South Fayette School DistrictKennametal, Carnegie Science Center’s Chevron Center for STEM Education and Career Development, Winchester Thurston and Google Inc, and the Allegheny County Library Association. Highlights included the Chevron Center’s “Panic at the Point” workshop. At this workshop, local teens came together to use STEM reasoning to resolve a massive panic at the Three Rivers Point that stemmed from an imaginative biochemical attack disguised by fireworks. Students put their STEM education skills to the test in this friendly competition. Another highlighted project was presented by Teresa Deflitch of Winchester Thurston. There, students are able to partake in a seven week, after-school course on mobile programming. The course, called the Mobile App Lab allows for teens to experience programming at a level that is relevant to their daily lives, strengthening interest in program development, and exposing students to software engineering through the help of Google’s outreach team. Mobile App Lab and Panic at the Point were just two of the significant projects presented in the first plenary session at the summit.
The second half of the conference included presentations by PPG, Plum Boro School District, UPMC, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Allegheny Intermediate Unit, and Elizabeth Forward School District. The final presentation of the afternoon was facilitated by Assistant Principal Todd Keruskin. Todd shared the story of Elizabeth Forward’s transformation to 21st century learning with the audience. He detailed the school library’s remodel to a YouMedia center, the SMALLab the school acquired, as well as how they are implementing game-based learning through programming courses. Todd acknowledged the importance of creating a fun and exciting environment in which teens can learn. – somewhere they look forward to going. In his quest for transformation, he credits the book “Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out” for much of the theory that supports the changes, sometimes viewed as drastic, that the district has made. With available funding from Pittsburgh foundations, Todd explained the opportunity for any school to shift to 21st century learning. His enthusiasm for new-age education could not be missed, as he rounded out the afternoon with an exciting presentation.

After closing remarks from keynote speaker Paul Curtis, Director of Programs at New Tech Network, the Pittsburgh STEM Summit 2012 came to a close. Leaving the audience with a thought about technological education, Curtis bid farewell and good luck to the innovators, educators, and community leaders that has been present for the conference. This year surpassed the success of last year’s summit, and holds the bar high for the future of the Pittsburgh STEM Summit.
To learn more about the annual Pittsburgh STEM Summit, visit the webpage or contact the Pittsburgh Technology Council.