May 10, 2016
STEAM Design Lab offers students authentic experience
Students from Upper St. Clair and South Fayette high schools will team up to present real world solutions to engineers and executives from EAFab Corporation beginning at 9 a.m. on Friday, May 13, 2016, at California University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Innovation at Southpointe.
Upper St. Clair students enrolled in the STEAM Design Lab course have been working alongside their peers from South Fayette’s Innovation Studio course to solve real world problems using Human Centered Design methods.
The final phases of the course have students working with industry partners to solve real problems that need to be addressed within those companies. Students have been working with EAFab, a Pittsburgh-based company that designs and fabricates equipment and parts for steel mills throughout North America, since March.
“This class gives the students an opportunity not only to apply newly learned problem solving methods, but also their own unique strengths to solve real world challenges,” Fred Peskorski, Upper St. Clair High School technology education teacher, said. “These are problems that are varied in scope and often require students to explore new subject areas that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn about.”
The student-consulting teams have been asked to develop algorithms for predicting labor costs, to build fluid-dynamic simulators, to streamline labor-intensive processes, to program an app for potential customers to use, and to solve a geometric issue with a critical piece of machinery.
“Each team is responsible for developing implementable solutions and then presenting their proposals to their ‘client,’” Mr. Peskorski said. “They get real time feedback from industry executives, engineers and entrepreneurs.”
In addition, students were faced with the challenge of working remotely with students from another school district.
“This brings to them different perspectives and experience in navigating often challenging group dynamics when solving problems as a team,” Mr. Peskorski added.
Prior to their work with EAFab, students spent time solving issues within their respective schools and communities. At Upper St. Clair, students tackled school projects including improving Wi-Fi access for students, expanding recycling efforts, improving traffic flow on campus and re-imagining the library to make better use of its resources. In addition, students studied issues within the greater community including exploring LED lighting, educating the community about the options and benefits of recycling as well as developing an exercise system for rescued wild animals and building a “Little Library” for the Animal Rescue League.
The Upper St. Clair High School team is comprised of seniors Andrew Berlin, Amanda Bradley, Maura Flaherty, Steven Fontanella, Alison Geisler, Riley Kelly, Turner Queen, Michael Smith, Ashley Venturini and Barrett Wyland; juniors AJ Carroll and Pramod Narayanan; and sophomore Andrew Bowman.
The STEAM Design Course, which launched in 2014, is a partnership between Upper St. Clair and South Fayette high schools, Luma Institute, EAFab, and All Clad Metalcrafters, a locally-based cookware manufacturer.
At Upper St. Clair, the course is housed within the school’s Innovation Hub, which provides specialized equipment and software that students use to engage in project-based learning and hands-on fabrication, bridging between the concepts taught in traditional classrooms and the real-world applications. The Innovation Hub is the cornerstone of two initiatives: an MIT-certified FAB Lab and SHOP@USC, a student-run business that combines STEAM opportunities, business skills and life skills. The Innovation Hub@USCHS was made possible through generous donations from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, The Grable Foundation, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the PTSO and several individual donors.