Encouraging STEM Education

Since its founding, PITA has fostered interest in science and technology among youths in Pennsylvania. The alliance stands at the forefront of education and research, and develops programs that introduce engineering to youths of varying ages. The goal is to encourage interest in STEM throughout the community.

One program that PITA has supported is Moving 4th Into Engineering. Approximately 35 fourth-graders from across Pittsburgh come to Carnegie Mellon University’s campus each Spring to participate in activities that introduce them to the world of engineering. Students collaborate with CMU faculty in a variety of activities, including crafting with polymers, building and launching rockets, and designing their own solutions in response to real-life problems. Through interactive experiences and with the help of the staff, students learn how engineering shapes many of the things they experience every day. This early exposure to engineering aims to excite young students about science and math and encourage them to pursue technical courses throughout their education. This program introduces fundamental concepts to youths and fosters interests in such educational opportunities.

Another PITA-funded outreach program is the Summer Engineering Experience for Girls (SEE), a two-week program that began in 2007 for middle school girls. SEE aims to develop the girls’ problem-solving skills, encourage teamwork, and allow the girls to apply their thinking to real-world problems. Participants form groups and explore a topic of their own interest, such as using biomass to power devices and zero-energy homes. The students then gather research via hands-on activities before presenting their findings. They work alongside peers with guidance from multidisciplinary female scientists. SEE also connects the girls with engineering faculty and industrial engineers.

“The overarching goal of this program is to help young girls realize their interest in science and technology,” says India Price, a CMU mechanical and biomedical engineering major and previous SEE mentor. “A lot of the girls really like math or physics or chemistry, but they don’t really know what opportunities are out there. This program is designed to expose them to all kinds of engineering and help them start thinking about the possible careers they might want to pursue.”