I was able to collaborate, as part of my work with the Beaver County STEM group, on a middle school student tour of Google’s Pittsburgh offices, the Pitt Engineering Prototype Lab, and the interesting work environment of Inventionland. Students from all around Beaver County, represented cyber schools, home schools, brick and mortars, and several local Christian academies. Franklin Center of Aliquippa provided the vans and we took an unforgettable drive.
We started at Inventionland where we discovered people working in the bowels of the pirate ship, hidden away in a log cabin office, some of them were inside a robot, others were working in a shoe. The video that we watched of the inventions prototypes included footage of two of the engineers biking around the pathways that winded through the fake trees and bridges of the inside of this building. Inventionland epitomized the new 21st century jobs that require innovation, critical thinking, collaboration, emotional intelligence, resilience, leadership, and vision. More than that, each of the companies we stopped at included a sense of play.
Lunch time found us visiting the Pitt engineering prototype lab where a student named Micah Toll gave us a tour. Micah is one of the founders of a company called Pulse Motors, a manufacturer of a new type of motorized bicycle. One of the 5th graders with our group was genuinely excited to meet Micah, calling Micah his hero and reciting details of his youthful engineering prowess. It was a Dean Kamen moment. The founder of the FIRST Robotics wants “To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes.”
The afternoon took us to the Google offices in the old Nabisco factory. Nerf guns populated every desk, a cargo net for you to hang out with your 40 closest co-workers was suspended from the ceiling, and rollercoaster cars from the Thunderbolt marked the stairwell. You could almost forget that it was filled with some of the best minds in software engineering. Dean Jackson and Tessa Eng, our tour guides, got their message across. The kids who wanted to work there needed to study hard, take the higher math classes and look at software engineering. Getting work done at Google requires short term project objectives and is measured by key results. Employees have no set hours but it’s obvious from the various desks and interactions that people truly enjoy working there. Dean commented that he takes pride in making changes to something that affects literally billions of people. Employment in the 21st century, for those prepared, includes more satisfying work, better hope of success, stronger social connectivity, and a chance to be something larger than ourselves. It was an interesting glimpse!
Comments from some of the kids…