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Youth Resource Roundup: 10 programs to help Pittsburgh students break into STEM

These resources aim to expose local grade and high schoolers to some of Pittsburgh's tech prowess in robotics, computer science and more.

Youth STEM program.

(Photo by Flickr user Treefort Music Fest, used via a Creative Commons license)

Pittsburgh is increasingly becoming known as a tech hub. How can the city’s next generation contribute to that rise?

This September, Technical.ly is focusing extra reporting on Youth Building the Future, including the programs and student initiatives that can answer that question. Over the next few weeks, we’ll also be looking to profile the work that Pittsburgh youth are doing right now when it comes to tech. (Check out our recent coverage of the Startable summer program for a sample of that.)

Below is a list of resources available for those looking to get an early start in STEM, at both the grade school and high school levels. Know of any we missed? Let us know at pittsburgh@technical.ly.

Girls of Steel Robotics

This 11-year-old, Carnegie Mellon University-sponsored robotics program helps local students build robots for competition. With both high school and middle school programs, the organization makes robotics accessible to girls at a wide variety of age levels and experiences. Aiming to increase the number of girls pursuing careers in technology, Girls of Steel — which uses the FIRST robotics platform — also encourages students to engage with the community and take on leadership roles as they advance in the program to help mentor younger students. Applications for the high school and upper middle school programs are due Sept. 10.

Startable Pittsburgh

This Innovation Works-run program is a free, eight-week summer program for high school students in the Pittsburgh area who want to learn about product design, entrepreneurship and business planning. With development tracks for both younger and older teenagers, students in Startable have access to mentorship, networking, business-building tools and even money for those who do well in the final competition. Be sure to check Startable’s social media for more updates in the meantime. Applications typically open in January.

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Investing Now

This college preparatory program, run by the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, offers activities both during the school year and over the summer. The recruitment process begins in eighth grade, and participants are meant to stay in the program throughout all of high school, with the intention that they develop STEM skills that will lead them to a degree and career in the field. School year activities include academic advising and mentorship as well as hands-on science and engineering experience, while the more immersive summer activities comprise non-credit classes at the university in math, science, writing and engineering projects. Applications were paused during this summer’s recruitment period, but updates on when they will reopen can be found on the program website.

The Citizen Science Lab

This nonprofit community science laboratory has two locations in the Pittsburgh region (the Hill District and the South Hills) and offers a wide range of summer and after-school programs for students, teachers and adults interested in subjects from biotech to drone-flying to aquatic robotics. With both in-person and remote activities, the lab’s programs are a great way to engage in science outside of the classroom.

University of Pittsburgh Technology Leadership Initiative

With a mission to expose underserved and underrepresented middle and high school students to opportunities in the tech industry, Pitt’s Technology Leadership Initiative operates two programs: Tech Divaz for middle school girls and the High School Academy for older students. Each program is a free, weeklong summer session introducing students to computer science languages and applications, as well as the career options that a computer science degree affords. More information on future sessions and the application process can be found on the program website.

TechNights

This free, Monday night program hosted by CMU’s School of Computer Science brings middle school girls together for the purpose of increasing engagement with computer animations, web design, programming, robotics and other tech applications. While the program’s website currently says the workshops will return this fall, whether the sessions will be in person or online remains unclear. Be sure to continually check the site for updates.

Youth Services & STEM Education at YWCA

With two programs, STEM Impact and STEM Stars, the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh provides after-school experiences for local girls to learn more about science and technology through hands-on experiences and lessons. The STEM Impact program in particular supplies after-school educators with a template for STEM-related activities for students in grades K-8, while the STEM Stars program is a collaboration with the Carnegie Science Center focused on providing middle school girls with hands-on activities, STEM skill development and career exploration. The YWCA also operates TechGYRLS, which is another after-school program operated across the national YWCA organization that gives middle school girls a chance to learn about robotics, science, engineering and other topics.

Assemble Afterschool

This free, after-school program is taking place online during the fall, with evening sessions each day of the week for different age groups. With a focus on STEAM, students in the program receive material kits each month for hands-on activities, creations and inventions. The two-hour sessions also involve guest appearances from local artists and technologists that help students understand potential career paths or skill applications in their fields.

Specialty Camps at the Jewish Community Center

Though most of the JCC’s specialty camps are offered during the summer, the center also does some programming during the school year. But even if you can’t find any STEM-related activities available in the near future, the summer camps are worth waiting for. There’s a wide range of options for grade school students looking for projects in space travel-inspired robotics, DIY drone flying and game design, to name a few. More information on available camps can be found on the website.

Mad Science of Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh location of this STEM enrichment and youth education company offers labs and hands-on activities in science curated for a younger audience. Though the sessions aren’t free to attend, they happen on a regular basis at a variety of locations in the Pittsburgh area. The short events are the perfect amount of exposure for a student who is new to science.


Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-
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