Week two of Summer Discovery explores new technologies and pathways

What does peanut butter and jelly have to do with artificial intelligence? Learners at the Readiness Institute Summer Discovery made the unexpected connection during their workshop on AI this week (more on that below!). Cohorts in Pittsburgh and Central PA returned for week two, eager to delve into new pathways and skills, supported by strong foundations, newfound friendships, and positive momentum from week one.

This week’s community readiness skill was inclusive technologies and the career pathway was science and tech.

Keystone Collective Impact

Four students have a discussion about information on a poster board in a classroomThis week, learners started their collaborative group project that they’ll work on for the rest of the summer in between speakers, field trips, and workshops. The group project will follow Penn State Outreach’s Keystone Collective Impact model, encouraging students to collaborate across disciplines and innovate solutions.

To kick off the project, learners got into groups to research the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and selected one that they believe is the most significant to address in their region. They then reported out to the rest of the group about what that goal means, why they were motivated to choose it, and why it is important for their community. Some of the responses:

  • Zero Hunger — because 1/5 of Pittsburghers are hungry (per 412 Food Rescue)
  • Quality Education — because it can lead to better jobs and living
  • Good Health and Well-Being — because everything else is in pursuit of this goal
  • Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions — because we deserve communities that are safe and thriving

On-Site Speakers and Workshops

This week in the classroom, learners explored technology and how it impacts their everyday lives — personally and professionally.

In Pittsburgh, learners welcomed Mike Zula (Education Program Manager at PART). He talked about ethics in technology and how Pittsburgh is becoming a major hub for tech jobs. His major advice for students, especially during their career exploration? Find a mentor! In Central PA, Mike Hruska (President and CEO at Problem Solutions) joined cohorts for a discussion on future technologies, highlighting emerging trends and the importance of adaptive learning.

Two students working on computers.In the afternoon, learners dug deeper into technology and welcomed some familiar faces for a workshop on AI. In Pittsburgh, the session was led by Readiness Institute Executive Director Dr. Justin Aglio, and in Central PA, Summer Discovery instructor Matt Karabinos took the lead.

In his workshop, Dr. Aglio introduced the PB&J activity, directing learners to write down their instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and then find someone else in the room with the exact same steps (spoiler: no one had the same!). The lesson? Just as their experience and bias influence the way they make a sandwich, an engineer’s knowledge and background influence how they program machines and data in AI differently. Learners also had an opportunity to explore different AI experiments and projects with Google Labs.

“The best way to learn AI is through play and discovery.” — Dr. Justin Aglio

Karabinos had a similar lesson with learners in Central PA about AI during his workshop, titled “The good, the bad, and the uncensored.” He introduced the basics of what AI is and what it isn’t and the concerns and misconceptions about AI for the future. The group also got to explore how large language models (LLMs) work and use AI as a “Super Smart Librarian.” They spent some time playing around with different AI models, including ChatGPT, Claude, SchoolAI, and more, and discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each.

“Today I learned how useful Al can be in assisting in education. As a student wanting to become a doctor, it can make the learning process much more manageable because of its ability to create things such as study plans, quizzes, and conversation with its user.” — Aubrey, Central PA learner

Off-Site Trips

This week, learners took field trips to sites that highlighted careers and pathways in science and technology.  

Students talking in microphones in the SLB Radio studioIn Pittsburgh, learners visited:

  • SLB Radio — to learn about careers in the media industry and how to use audio recording equipment. They even got to make their own podcasts in the studio!
  • Carnegie Science Center — to check out the new Pixar exhibit.

“I learned how complicated it is to make Disney and Pixar movies. There is a lot of math involved in making the characters appearance and expressions. I also discovered how Pixar uses lighting to create the mood in movies.” — Anush, Pittsburgh learner

“They [SLB Radio] have some awesome opportunities to create and learn in their studios. I just learned so much about the technical side of podcasting and that there is so much more to learn. I also learned that if I wanted to go in for an open session, I could have one of their staff teach me even more about the process.” — Ivy, Pittsburgh learner

In Blair/Bedford, learners visited:

  • Stuckey Auto — for a tour of the building, including the detail shop, commercial truck repair, and offices. They got an inside look at careers from customer service, administration, mechanics, and more.
  • Blair Image Elements — for a look inside how the company creates signage and branding.

“The company [Blair Image Elements] was wonderful, all of the workers were on task and seemed to enjoy what they were doing. The warehouse was exciting and full of color. I was amazed at how optimally they were able to make the signs from start to finish.” — Jayden, Central PA learner

The Cambria/Somerset group poses for a picture at Thomas AutomotiveIn Cambria/Somerset, learners visited:

  • Thomas Auto — for a tour of the facility, including the detail and body shops. They also got to see the new, all-electric GMC Hummer EV.
  • JWF Industries — to check out the company’s manufacturing equipment and services, including welding, machining, and assembly.

“There was a lot that I learned about the automotive business, and Thomas Automotive in particular. I did not have much knowledge about the business, so this really opened my eyes to what goes on there. I learned that there are many more jobs than I would have thought there and that they have many opportunities for people to intern and work, to name a few things I’ve learned.” — Florence, Central PA learner

Next week, the team and activities will continue to build on the great energy. Learners will explore career pathways in nonprofits and social entrepreneurship and the community readiness skill civic and community engagement. They’ll also spend a day working together on a community service project. See you in week three!

Photo Galleries


Summer Discovery 2024 - Week Two in Pittsburgh

Central PA

Summer Discovery 2024 - Week Two in Central PA