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Pittsburgh weekly roundup: Director of robotics shares career journey; Cal Ripken Jr.’s STEM centers; Local defensetech

Plus, Pittsburgh lost a net 4,000 tech jobs in 2023.

K12 STUDENTS SIMULATE NASA'S MISSION TO MARS USING LEGO ROVERS ON A ROCKY, SPACE-LIKE SURFACE (COURTESY MARS ROBOTICS ASSOCIATION)

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A 10-year tenure from intern to director

Andrew Capodieci started as an intern for off-road robotics company Neya Systems in Allegheny County, and he just never left. That’s not to say he wasn’t tempted. He considered changing paths to on-road autonomous vehicles during the market boom, which has been huge in Pittsburgh. Despite the eye-watering salary offers, though, he stayed put. He liked what he was doing, and saw enough opportunities in off-road AV to stick around.

“What helped there,” said Capodieci, now 33 and living in Greenfield, “was just having the industry experience and being able to talk to other people about their experiences.

➡️ Read my interview with Capodieci, a onetime professional dancer who’s been hooked on engineering since he was a kid 

Cal Ripken Jr.’s STEM centers in schools

The MLB Hall of Famer started the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation as a tribute to his dad. It teaches kids life skills through sports, and for the last few years that’s included STEM. Today, the Ripken Foundation has more than 525 fully operational, turnkey STEM centers in 23 states and 22 district-wide public school systems, impacting over 200,000 kids.

“I was a math kid, so this resonates with me,” Ripken writes. “Now, I look forward to the future and identifying the next need we can address — all in dad’s memory.”

➡️ Check out Ripken’s guest post

News Incubator: What else to know

• Pittsburgh lost a net 4,000 tech jobs in 2023, according to a new report from the Computing Technology Industry Association that says the city’s tech workforce equals 58,646 people. Of course, what counts as a “tech job” is changing too. Our Lightcast dashboard (password: MDTHTED) shows 25% growth in PGH tech firms over the past five years. [Pittsburgh Business Times/Technical.ly]

• Despite being “a most livable city” — at least according to the slogans on trash cans — Pittsburgh didn’t crack the top 30 on this year’s US News rankings of the best places to live. Where are we? No. 36. [US News and World Report]

• Beloved grocery chain Wegmans is allegedly eyeing a Cranberry Township location, which is great news for lovers of their sandwiches, like me. Right now, the closest ones are in Erie and State College. [Patch]

• The Pittsburgh Technology Council is working with the Air Force and Space Force to increase defense-related economic development opportunities. There will be an event in June to discuss more. [NEXTPittsburgh/Technical.ly]

• Troy Demmer, cofounder and chief product officer at Gecko Robotics, testified in front of Congress this week. In the session about using AI for defensetech, he spoke about the need to improve data collection. [House Committee on Homeland Security/Technical.ly]

• Fox Chapel Area High School students won the title of grand champion at the ‘Burgh Bash national invitational robotics tournament sponsored by BotsIQ. [Great Pennsylvania Schools/Technical.ly]

• ICYMI: Pittsburgh will host the 2026 NFL draft. It will take place near Heinz Field, er, Acrisure Stadium and the three-day event is expecting to bring in representatives from all 32 NFL teams. [Steelers]

• The National Science Foundation is funding two Carnegie Mellon University projects aimed at sustainable computing. Funds from the $36 million federal effort will be used to research computational decarbonization and limiting the carbon footprint of efforts like gen AI. [CMU]

🗓️ On the Calendar

• The Pittsburgh B2B Software Meetup Group’s monthly meeting will be on May 27 in the North Side. From developers to entrepreneurs, the event brings together tech and business professionals to network. [Find out more]

• WICT Pittsburgh is hosting its Tech It Out event at the Moonshot Museum. A $30 ticket gets you access to guest speakers, museum exhibits and lunch on May 29. [Register]

• Cryptocurrency enthusiasts are coming together for the BitDevs meetup on May 30. They’ll discuss developments in Bitcoin and the exit of Phoenix from the US. [Details here]

• The Fox Chapel Area School District is hosting STEAM Summer Camps for students entering grades 1-8. It costs $300 and the sessions run from June 10 – 14. [Sign up]

• For teenagers, Pittsburgh AI Camp will run all summer long, from June 17 to August 17. Participants will learn how to build AI apps and have a chance to win cash prizes. No experience required, sign ups cost $200 per person. Plus, there’s a free pizza party hackathon on May 30 to kick off it off. [Learn more]

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