Community Engagement

Coding robots, flying drones: Pittsburgh students build new STEM skills

Coding robots, flying drones: Pittsburgh students build new STEM skills

Education, PPG Foundation

Pittsburgh students attending STEM Coding Lab’s new summer camp, CS Explorers, launched in partnership with the Pittsburgh Technology Council and the City of Pittsburgh’s Rec2Tech initiative, had an exciting and fully interactive agenda during this year’s camp. In order to help build digital skills, students learned from tech experts throughout the region and participated in hands-on, experiential activities, including instruction on how to code their own robot, fly their own drone, animate their own story or game, and much more, preparing them to start off the school year with a new understanding of potential career paths.

Through a PPG grant to the STEM Coding Lab for its CS Explorers summer camp, the six-week program provided middle school students with a fully contextualized understanding of the varied pathways they could take to enter into a computer science career.

A few students from the program elaborated on their experiences and shared the importance of being a CS Explorer. For example, they unanimously stated that without the program they would not have been able to access the resources and professional experiences provided. From gaming to robotics, these students relied on this program to begin to develop their future career paths.

PPG’s own Paul Suchko, application developer, volunteered his time to cover all things Advanced Manufacturing. As an employee in our Aerospace Chemical Management Services platform, Paul created an interactive experience that connected his work projects with what the students were learning in the classroom. Students were able to use a mobile app, a platform where PPG uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) scanning to manage customer inventory, to play a unique sensatory game of hide and go seek. Another exercise the students collaborated on included the use of a paint-mixing robot for software estimating.

Nate, a CS Explorer participating in this year’s camp stated, “This camp teaches you where you can go in life, from the people you meet to the experiences you have, it allows you to see all of the different opportunities available.”

A CS Explorers camp member hard at work coding a Finch 2.0 robot. 

“Taking the time to share some of my passion to this next generation of eager learners was truly a humbling experience,” said Suchko.  “When I was younger I found a niche for computers, but still thought that I was going to become a pilot. The older I became the more interested I became in programming and computer science. I encouraged the students to take advantage of opportunities inside and outside the classroom to foster their interest in computer science or IT.”

PPG joined fourteen other companies and institutions of higher education to provide students with well-rounded, hands-on opportunities to learn about different careers rooted in computer science. From Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Cybersecurity, Animation & Gaming, Data Analytics, and Advanced Manufacturing, each week focused on a different career venture, where an expert in the field shared their knowledge with the group of students.

 “Our job is to prepare Pittsburgh kids for Pittsburgh opportunities, as well as excite them along the way about what their future might entail,” said Casey Mindlin, Executive Director of STEM Coding Lab.

“The goal for this program was not to equip kids with the skills necessary to be an expert overnight, but rather to fully contextualize the varied pathways available to them to enter into a career rooted in computer science later in life. I'm proud to say we accomplished that, and more, given that our support for these kids doesn't stop here.”

Click here to learn more about ways PPG supports the next generation of diverse and innovative STEM leaders.

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