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Facial Recognition and The Faces Project

Did you know that you may be helping train artificially intelligent ‪facial recognition algorithms? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? That is one of the questions being asked by The Faces Project, a group of rising 5th graders at Baden Academy.

Facial recognition has been in the news a lot lately (well, maybe the news that comes to my inbox!)…

Taylor Hatmaker at Techcrunch reported an open letter from AI researchers condemning police software that uses facial recognition to predict crime. The letter, signed by researchers at Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, opposes the #TechToPrisonPipeline and points out the use of statistics gleaned from our criminal justice past cannot be untangled from biases and injustice. They claim that data generated by the criminal justice system cannot be used to “identify criminals” or predict criminal behavior. Ever.

Jon Porter at The Verge reported the formal complaint filed by the ACLU against Detroit police over what it says is the “first known example of a wrongful arrest caused by faulty facial recognition technology.” Facial recognition falsely accused and arrested an African American man after a facial recognition system falsely matched his photo with security footage of a shoplifter. Using software to predict criminality or match facial profiles of criminals (particularly African Americans) has been repeatedly debunked and labeled socially harmful.

But not every use of facial recognition by law enforcement is wrong. The software is being used to save lives. Our Faces Project recently stumbled on the local Pittsburgh company, Marinus Project. Check out their video!

The Faces Project is Rooting for the Marinus Analytics!

The Faces Project is exploring how the human face communicates emotions like anger, fear, happiness, and worry in drawings, animations, robotics, and anatomy. We are trying to understand how the human face communicates emotion, why it’s universally recognizable, and the efforts to capture it in film and images, animation, and animatronics.

You can check out their website at include their videos that look at the videos on recognized fear, happiness, disgust, as well as robotics and graphic design.

One of their primary goals is to help you, to help all their classmates, grow more aware of how you are directly and indirectly interacting with faces on the screen. Have you been helping artificial intelligence algorithms grow in their abilities to recognize faces by tagging photos? Recognizing a face is integral to being human. Computer technology is attempting to learn this skill and, simultaneously, using what it has learned to affect our interaction with it.

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Looking for Beta Testers!

Our Endangered Game Fellowship team needs your help. Can you beta test their game and add your comments to improve it? The game requires a printer, scissors, and about an hour in a fun, engaged race to save the endangered animals of Pennsylvania. Download it today to play with kids or grandkids.

Press the Download Beta Test Button and Print out the Game Elements, Cut them apart, play the game, then leave your comments and ideas at

Thank you!!!

Game Design is a $138 billion dollar industry. Does your child have a game design idea and want to work with mentors and a team to bring it to reality? Visit our STEM Leadership Center for ways to get started.

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Finding Hope in Rare Earth Fellows

Arion Heaggans trying to cook Scandium in his new Rare Earth video

When Baden Academy went online, our eighty-five fellows at the school needed to find a way to collaborate online and continue to work on their 30 plus projects. While I cannot ignore the digital divide, overwhelmed parents, massive injustices, and anxiety blossoms, I am energized and excited by the kids and families who were able to rise above and focus on what creating some amazing things.

Check out Arion’s video on Scandium. He is one of the Rare Earth Elements Fellowship team.

The Rare Earth Elements team researches rare earth elements, interviews experts, and make videos about these mineral resources.  They want to raise awareness about these seventeen elements on the periodic table, several of which are critical to industries in the United States. These elements remain in the news of global trade agreements, green technology, environmental justice, workers’ rights, and material science. Check out their first video.

In the midst of a worldwide pandemic and protests for racial justice, parents are making space in their homes for children to continue down their paths of scientific inquiry and we have the treat of learning about Scandium. For me, for my staff, we have seen these times to include extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen.  Thank you Rare Earth Team.

If your child is excited to learn about Rare Earth Elements, here is a list of some summertime activities they can do.

  • Create a film where you are a detective searching for rare earth elements in the various tech in your home and community.

If your child wants to pursue a meaningful project in science, technology, or engineering, you are welcome to contact us about fellowships.

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Being Heard: An Online Communications Workshop

Into Words Being Heard 101 is a virtual event that will meet Monday, July 6, 2020, at 9:00 am and continues until 12:00 pm. The day showcases an interactive session with Patty Paggna from the Into Words Communications Fellowship at the STEM Leadership Center.

Please fill out as much information as you can to help us make this an amazing experience for you!

Saturday, July 6, 2020
9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Grades: 6th to 9th grade
International Students Welcome
Limited to 10 students.

The registration cost is $30. Register by going to

Our Website:

Into Words is an Odyssey Fellowship at the STEM Leadership Center. Mentors from the Center will be on hand for the workshop to assist participants and Patty as needed. Our website and contact information are Dr. Ellen Cavanaugh 724-266-1498 drellen “at”

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Unlocking the Secrets of EOE Book Launch

Even without a Facebook Account, you can login to help support these amazing kids and researchers on the front line of Eosinophilic research.

A Virtual Book Launch will be held:
Thursday, May 21, 5:00 PM – 5:45 PM EST

Join in to meet the authors, win prizes that include Amazon gift cards, a 3D printed Eosinophil Warrior, and a free copy of their book. Special guest, Dr. Marc Rothenberg, will also be on hand to answer your questions!

Unlocking the Secrets of Eosinophilic Esophagitis is a new children’s book authored by student and faculty fellows at PA Distance Learning charter school.

John lives with EOE (Eosinophilic Esophagitis). He has burning pain in his throat for an hour or two after he eats specific foods. It hurts very badly, and John finds a new food every day that causes his throat problems. John and his friends went on a quest to find out what current researchers have discovered and wrote a book about their adventure.

John, Kaitlyn and Andrew joined together with classmates and experts like Dr. Marc Rothenberg to craft this brave adventure and bring to light the real-world scientific progress that is being made. Join the team on their quest to unlock the secrets of EoE. Purchase your copy at . All proceeds go toward Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the continuing efforts of Dr. Rothenberg to seek a cure for EOE.

To purchase the book, please visit

Watch the trailer to get excited, then join us Thursday, May 21, for the launch!!

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Space, Incredulity, and 2 Kids’ Passion

Space is now a 360 billion dollar industry worldwide.  Three-quarters of that 360 billion is spent by private industry.  And that industry, particularly in America, has a hiring problem. Students that are ‘interested’ in the space industry are ready to pursue limited and coveted positions at NASA, but unaware of a massive commercial industry that exists and is in need of new hires. Inspiring a future generation to dream of and work in space exploration is a challenge worth undertaking

I work with young students and I grow more discouraged every year with how few are actually ‘interested’ in space.  Two of my space enthusiasts just finish a two-year project writing a book about the Huygen’s mission.  It’s a great little children’s book, one that takes you on the eight-year journey Huygens took aboard the Cassini spacecraft to get to Saturn and some of the amazing discoveries it made when it landed on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan.  Some of the classmates (and a few adults) thought the book was fiction. It’s not.  We really do have a robotic outpost on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.  

“If we had landed a robot on the surface of Titan, it should have been in the news!” 

spoken by an incredulous area education leader

There appears to be no remembered coverage of this historic event from local papers, no adults who watch the evening network news with a memory, and still a handful of people in our Western Pennsylvania county who believe even the moon landing was a hoax. 

In the sixty years since we first went to space, we’ve developed satellite phones, tv, and radio, we have GPS in our pockets and our autonomous cars, weather satellites that save missions with real-time data on weather and war.  We’ve been living in space aboard the ISS for 20 years.  Since we walked on the moon, 135 spacecraft have traveled to barely scratch the surface of what exists in our solar system.  

And now we have our eyes set on traveling back to the moon; developing it into a refueling station for spacecraft to Mars and beyond, a source for rare earth metals,  a manufacturing site that takes advantage of one-sixth gravity and minimal atmosphere, and the possibility to build subterranean habitats.  Thanks to many at NASA, Congress, the White House, and industry, we are returning to the moon. References to the Artemis mission and the Orion spacecraft fill my news feed.  But I like space and love space exploration. I get news of space and space exploration.  References to the Artemis Mission and Orion spacecraft are unheard of by many of my fellow educators and parents.  We live nowhere near rocket launches.

A local Pittsburgh company, Astrobotic, is part of our mission to return to the moon. They have recently been awarded 79.5 million dollars to deliver 14 payloads to the Moon on its Peregrine lunar lander in July 2021.  If you check out their website, you’ll see at least ten job openings.  

Let’s fuel the future.  Inspire a kid you know to fall in love with space.  Get them a copy of Huygens: Earth’s Farthest Robotic Outpost. Visit #NASAatHome for ideas during the quarantine including free e-books, citizen science projects, podcasts, videos, and virtual tours. When we’re freed from social distancing. book a trip to watch a rocket launch or schedule a week for a child at Space Camp.

Grab a bowl of popcorn and watch the two kids read aloud their book. 

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Conservation Fellowships Amid Social Distancing

A number of the fellowships we work with are focused on the environment.

Our Baden Academy Fun Guys are dedicated to educating others about the benefits of composting, whether at home or school, and digging deep into composting research include mycelium (fungi) and worms. Our Baden Academy Plastic Pollution Police want to stop plastic pollution by tackling small victories locally and speaking up for big changes in the world. ​Our Pa Distance Life on a Wall Fellowship is dedicated to exploring the science, engineering, and artistic integration of natural environments into modern solutions to today’s problems. Each of the groups has made the transition to working online and in new independent ways to not only continue their fellowships but make them thrive.

The Fun Guys were prepared to lead their 3rd grade classmates on the waste inventory to begin a post-consumer compost program at the school when the doors shut. That hasn’t stopped them. They work collaboratively online to complete the video they began (hoping to pick up next year). They also began to make some amazing short films about how to compost at home. They inspired me to try composting and it is quite a science experiment as my husband and I choose the best techniques which will work at our home.

The Plastic Pollution Police have decided to focus on single-use plastic water bottles. Once again, I have found working with these amazing kids makes me revisit how I do things at home and become more conscious of my habits.

The Pa Distance Life on a Wall fellows also experienced some pivots and challenges even though they were already a cyber school group. Schedules changed in their homes, with their teachers, and with the mentors, they were working with. The tour to Phipps Conservatory they were planning to host was canceled. Creativity and problem solving persevered and they were able to complete their interviews with Dr. Jeffrey Skouson about the use of plants to remove the contaminants of acid mine drainage from the soil, with Officer Shuster with the PA Game Commission about his fascinating work in our local environments, and even produce a virtual tour of Phipps.

Click to read the whole article

If you know a student passionate about the environment seeking to go deeper with mentors and projects, consider applying for a fellowship at the STEM Leadership Center or as a student at Baden Academy or PA Distance Learning.

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How to Keep a Virus Diary for Kids

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

Anne Frank
The Coronavirus image is layered beneath the letters for Diary. The background is an image of
the blooms of phytoplankton on the Chukchi Sea acquired on June 18, 2018,
by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite

These resources on journaling are free for you to use with students, with kids, or even for yourself. I created them at the beginning of our stay at home orders, but hear from my students that more and more are beginning their journals now. Like me, they are realizing some of the realities that are changing with stay-at-home orders and social distancing will continue far beyond the end of the school year. If you have not already started a journal, join in this campaign to document history for the future.

This tutorial includes examples of journals, as well as a list of suggestions of what to include in your journal (daily events, wins, words of wisdom, quotes from books you are reading, funny things loved ones say, dreams for the future, pictures from outside, the art you are creating).

These journaling tutorials were made for the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th graders at Baden Academy who are in the Research Fellows program. Several had each expressed a desire for a tutorial the first week we shuttered the school doors and opened the online windows. I did a survey and found most of them wanted an electronic journal. One mentioned she kept starting pen and paper journals but would lose them, or not have them with her when she wanted to write, or she couldn’t print out the screenshots and pictures friends sent to include. These particular kids use Google Suite (Docs, Slides, etc.) in their classrooms and in the media lab. I created tutorials to help them work with the free tools they had. I hope you find them helpful.

Tools to Use to Keep a Journal

This tutorial includes how to use the voice to text tools to narrate your journal and how to copy and past images, screenshots, and your own art into a Google Doc. It also includes a reference to several Learn to Type programs.

More Resources

If your kids are older, I would suggest that now is a great time in their lives to pursue Find Your Passion. At one point in the Find Your Passion Journey, we mention several classics of self-discovery and ask students to look deeper. Now is a great time to read one.

If you or your kids need help coping with the emotional and psychological toll of this global reality, please visit

“People who keep journals have life twice.”

Jessamyn West

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Mourning a Cancelled Science Fair

Part of our shared reality during this pandemic lockdown is the grief of canceled events and plans. Students from the STEM Leadership Center and Baden Academy had worked months to prepare for the Pittsburgh Science and Engineering Fair and came to realize just weeks away from that it would be canceled. Two of the teams choose to memorialize their work with video journals of the projects.

Find out more about 4 Step Robotics at
Find out more on their website

Let us know if you are mourning the loss of opportunities in showcasing your STEM milestones and achievements, and we’ll see what we can do to help celebrate your hard work! If you would like to work alongside these amazing fellows, we are meeting online for the remainder of this stay-at-home order. Sign up today at

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Free Resources – Learn to Model in 3D

This is a brief introduction to some of the 3D modeling environments that we have used at Grow a Generation with our students. Now is a good time to begin to learn how to use them to create your models and prototypes. This is video one in a series on free tutorials available for you to use at home to learn this incredibly useful skill!
Introducing Tinkercad, a 3D modeling environment that we have used at Grow a Generation with our younger students. Now is a good time to begin to learn how to use them to create your models and prototypes. This is video two in a series on free tutorials available for you to use at home to learn this incredibly useful skill!
This video is for students ready to start learning 3D Design in Autodesk or ANSYS software. These are ideas generated through our students at the various Grow a Generation through the years. This is video three in a series on free tutorials available for you to use at home to learn this skill!

Please let us know if we can help you on your journey to learn more about 3D Design. Apply today to be a Fellow at our STEM Leadership Center.

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