STEM students explore engineering in everyday life

Now its fifth year, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program at Penn State Greater Allegheny came to a close Tuesday as five incoming freshman presented their engineering design work from the past three weeks. The students have been honing their academic skills before officially starting their college courses. 

Students were admitted to the program by submitting essays about their academic and career goals and describing how participation in the program will benefit them. During the four-week session, they stayed on campus to experience firsthand the academic and social aspects of a Penn State Greater Allegheny education.

The students took classes in English, math, engineering design and general science.  In engineering design, students were given an assignment to make a Clue game featuring STEM skills. The game’s goal is to teach STEM skills to kids. The group would like to eventually get a game in each fourth- through eighth-grade classroom at McKeesport Area School District. The Greater Allegheny students would talk to the younger ones about STEM careers, as well as give them hands-on experience building the board and playing the game. “It would give the kids a chance to do things that engineers actually do, and also how the STEM fields apply to items in their everyday life,” said Bob Walters, professor emeritus of engineering, who worked with the students in the engineering design portion of the STEM program. 

The Clue game board developed by the students includes rooms that are named after computer components, instead of being named after rooms in a mansion. The board is solar-powered. The weapons are also STEM-related items such as a power cord instead of the traditional rope. The game pieces are named after famous computer pioneers, such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

The students enjoyed field trips to Human Research Engineering Laboratories in Pittsburgh, Kennametal in Irwin, Blueroof Technologies in McKeesport and Inventionland in O'Hara Township, all in Pennsylvania.  Students toured the sites, explored technologies, and discussed educational paths needed to pursue a career at these types of companies. They also toured Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania to learn the science behind the rides, as well as the Energy Innovation site with Deno DeCiantis, director of the Penn State center -- Pittsburgh.

“I have been really impressed with this group. These students are truly unique in that they gave up their last month of being free to get an early start on their college education,” said Walters. “Hopefully, these students will become mentors to seventh and eighth graders, and encourage them towards careers in the STEM fields.”

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Last Updated August 20, 2014