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Kidsburgh: Maker Faire To Showcase Innovation In Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - People from all around the country are looking at Pittsburgh as a center for innovation this week. President Barack Obama will be in town on Thursday for the first-ever White House Frontiers Conference, exploring the future of innovation.

This past Sunday, "60 Minutes" featured the innovative robotics work at Carnegie Mellon University.

Now, coming up this weekend, 250 innovators will be showing off their creations at the Maker Faire on Pittsburgh's North Side. The Maker Faire is described as the biggest "show and tell" on Earth. There are 13 feature faires around the country, including the one in Pittsburgh.

It's a celebration of the "maker movement," which is a shift toward making things rather than just consuming things, and it's happening in the classrooms of schools all around our region.

One of the schools that's embracing the maker movement is Clairton High School. While the school might be known more for its prowess on the football field, its reputation in the robotics field is quickly gaining speed.

The students build their robots from scratch for the BotsIQ competition.

"See how these glide on the ground," Clairton senior Brandon Snowden demonstrates with the robot aptly named "Noisy Boy."  He shows how the robot moves around, even if it gets flipped over, using a remote control. Clairton also has an all-girls robotics team, which named their robot "Little Lady Bug" and is just as fierce.

The students start with drawings, move to computer sketches and then to wooden prototypes made in the wood shop. The final, metal robots are designed to fight others in regional and national competitions at California University and at the Maker Faire this weekend.

The students love the learning process. Clairton High School senior and robotics team member Christopher Johnson says, he loves "learning to work with my hands and being creative and seeing the finished product when we're done with it."

"It just makes me feel really good to know I put all this work into making something pretty awesome," Celina Maselli said.

These students are makers in the maker movement. Clairton High School technology teacher Dennis Beard says this new way of teaching is motivating students to learn.

"We see a big improvement because now we're teaching across the board and not just teaching to a technology area," Beard said regarding the last few years of his 23 years at the school. "I'm getting them to pay attention in English or math."

Often, the students bring problems from the robotics class to their math class to solve, and then they return to implement what they learned in the robot.

When you're in Clairton, the Clairton Works steel factory is omnipresent --the manufacturing base of this community and the whole Pittsburgh region. But, it's also a reminder of where the jobs are going - away from the manual work of steel and toward technology jobs involving computers and robotics.

"Our hope is through the students building these robots, through engineering, math, the science of it all, that they're getting those hard skills that manufacturers are looking for and they transition into a career in manufacturing," Southwestern Pennsylvania Bots IQ  spokeswoman, Katie Delverne, said.

It appears it's happening at Clairton High School. Student Jayla Hanlin is inspired by what she's learned from the BotsIQ competition.

"Whenever I get out of high school I want to be an engineer," she said.

These students at Clairton High School will be among 250 makers at the Maker Faire. Some of the other interesting inventions and creations include hand-made go-carts, rubber-band powered airplanes, digital art, handmade drones, a cupcake launcher and much more.

There will be hundreds of tents filled with inventors and tinkerers, young and old, who are showing that Pittsburgh's history is also its future.

The Maker Faire is happening at the Children's Museum and Buhl Park right outside on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Tickets are $5-15.

For more information on the event, visit their website here.

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