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Technology & STEM

Abandoned steel mill to become hub for robots, AI: 5 things to know about education

Natasha Lindstrom
| Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, 3:48 p.m.
Gaurav Singh and his CMU Robotics team prepare to fly a drone in Oakland Tuesday, June 24, 2013. They were working on flying the quadracopter around trees in a crablike motion during the test flights.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Gaurav Singh and his CMU Robotics team prepare to fly a drone in Oakland Tuesday, June 24, 2013. They were working on flying the quadracopter around trees in a crablike motion during the test flights.
Carnegie Mellon University robotics engineers Jordan Brindza, David Stager and Chris Dellin look over the data from testing  CHIMP, 400-pound humanoid robot, in the National Robotics Engineering Center in Lawrenceville. CHIMP stands for CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Carnegie Mellon University robotics engineers Jordan Brindza, David Stager and Chris Dellin look over the data from testing CHIMP, 400-pound humanoid robot, in the National Robotics Engineering Center in Lawrenceville. CHIMP stands for CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform.
Lou Alfieri, a judge with the CMU Robotics Academy, goes over scores with members of Team Spirit, based out of the South Hills, on Saturday, January 9, 2016. They were some of more than 750 kids competing at La Roche College in McCandless as part of the FIRST LEGO robotics championships for the region.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Lou Alfieri, a judge with the CMU Robotics Academy, goes over scores with members of Team Spirit, based out of the South Hills, on Saturday, January 9, 2016. They were some of more than 750 kids competing at La Roche College in McCandless as part of the FIRST LEGO robotics championships for the region.

An abandoned Pittsburgh steel mill soon will become a hub for advanced robotics and artificial intelligence.

Carnegie Mellon University has signed a 10-year lease to use two-thirds of the iconic Mill 19 building in the Hazelwood Green development for the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute and the Manufacturing Futures Initiative, the Trib's Aaron Aupperlee reports.

I may be a transplant and still somewhat new to Pittsburgh — going on my fourth year in this beautiful city of rivers and bridges — but I can't help but think of the steel-mill-turned-robot-hub announcement as a poignant metaphor for the region's transformation in recent decades.

Once anchored by an economy dominated by mills and steel barons, Pittsburgh now relies on a far more diversified mix of job creators, including "eds and meds" and the burgeoning tech sector.

And though manufacturing jobs still are in high demand — with demand only expected to grow as baby-boomers retire in droves — such positions increasingly require advanced training, certifications or degrees.

On to your weekly dose of education-related news. (Don't miss item No. 3 to learn about how Western Pennsylvania's K-12 students are preparing for those robotics jobs.)

Here are five things to know about education this week:

1. HIGHER ED FUNDING NO LONGER IN LIMBO: I received an email around 11 p.m. Wednesday alerting me that Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai has called on Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh and other state-related colleges to freeze tuition for in-state students next year. The schools had warned of inevitable tuition hikes if the state House continued to hold up an appropriations bill of about $600 million. The bill finally moved out of the House last night, prompting Turzai to ask university leaders to ensure the money gets spent on tuition relief.

RELATED: After four months of gridlock, lawmakers say there's finally an end in sight to the broader budget stalemate, WITF's Katie Meyer reports . A $32 million budget became law in July without Gov. Tom Wolf's signature or about $2 billion needed to fully pay for it. The latest plan is expected to generate additional revenue by legalizing online gambling and expanding gambling to airports and truck stops (Stay tuned to TribLive.com for a story digging into the gambling package by reporter Wes Venteicher ).

Wolf, who's still fighting for a fracking tax, has yet to say whether he supports it. He issued a statement Thursday urging the Legislature to pass a severance tax on natural gas production.

2. VIOLENCE AGAINST TEACHERS: Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet plans to meet with faculty and staff at King PreK-8 school to learn about safety concerns and what the district can do to provide more support.

"I want to hear directly from faculty and staff some of the things that they might need," Hamlet told the Trib on Wednesday.

Tensions are high at the elementary school in Pittsburgh's North Side following two violent assaults against teachers in the past week.

On Oct. 18, a student's mother allegedly threw a brick through the open car window of teacher Janice Watkins while she was sitting in traffic near the West End Bridge, striking her in the face and knocking out a tooth.

On Tuesday, another teacher reportedly sought medical attention after an incident involving a student at the school.

3. PROBLEM-SOLVING THROUGH SCIENCE, THE ARTS: Students from schools across Allegheny, Westmoreland and Western Pa. gathered in Pittsburgh on Tuesday to show off projects made possible by STEAM grants — that's STEM plus an A for the arts — administered by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. TribLIVE Reporter Jamie Martines spent some time talking with students from the Bethel Park and Franklin Regional School Districts about what they've learned in STEAM classes.

A student from the North Allegheny School District won big at a national STEM competition. Check out the robot she built and designed and how she hopes it can help the residents of Pittsburgh keep tabs on the quality of drinking water.

4. WHEN STUDENTS GET ADDICTED TO OPIOIDS: The Hempfield Area School District and the Westmoreland County Drug Overdose Task Force hosted a community drug forum Wednesday to educate students and the community about treatment and recovery options, Martines reports . The event featured a question and answer panel with local experts, law enforcement, nonprofit representatives and people in recovery, along with a screening of the film "The Anonymous People."

RELATED: Drug overdose deaths are spiking across Allegheny County communities that historically have not been considered high-crime or impoverished areas, the Trib's Renatta Signorini reports . Dr. Karen Hacker, the director of the Allegheny County Healh Department, told the Trib that the opioid epidemic seems to be disproportionately impacting white males. Allegheny County saw 650 drug overdose deaths in 2016, up from 424 in 2015, records show.

5. TAXPAYER NEWS: In Allegheny County, Quaker Valley school board members green-lighted a $10 million bond resolution to purchase land for a new high school. They have until just after Christmas, Dec. 27, to decide if they want to buy a 128-acre site that spans Edgeworth, Leet and Leetsdale, the Trib's Bobby Cherry reports .

In Westmoreland County, Norwin School District board members decided to refinance $20.7 million in existing bond debt to save an estimated $408,600 over 15 years, the. The district is expected to pay $23.9 million on the existing debt, including $8.1 million in interest.

EXTRA CREDIT: The TribLIVE Education Team is starting a video series called Inside the Classroom. We're going to show readers what students are learning and how they're learning it, highlighting innovative programs and teaching methods along the way.

Is there an exciting program happening in a classroom near you? An outstanding teacher doing something extraordinary to help students learn? Changes to curriculum or teaching that parents might want to see in action?

Let us know when we can visit. Reach us at schooltips@tribweb.com or 724-850-2867.

Follow the TribLIVE Education Team on Twitter:

• Emily Balser @emilybalser (Valley News Dispatch)

• Debra Erdley @deberdley_Trib (Greensburg)

• Jamie Martines @Jamie_Martines (Greensburg)

• Natasha Lindstrom @NewsNatasha (Pittsburgh)

Jamie Martines contributed. Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, nlindstrom@tribweb.com or on Twitter @NewsNatasha.

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