Pittsburgh Tech Report

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

A new facility on Pittsburgh's North Side is seeking to help local startups keep their first rounds of manufacturing in the Steel City.

In the past, many startups have gone overseas to have those small batches manufactured, said Bernie Lynch, founder of Factory Unlocked. Lynch said, historically, larger manufacturers in the U.S. haven’t had much interest in early stage companies. Smaller facilities like maker-spaces aren’t really equipped to pump out batches of 100 or 200 at a time.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

People want their electronics to be increasingly small and powerful, but keeping those devices running at high speeds can be a challenge.

Keith Srakocic / AP

For college students, finding the right tutor at the right time isn't always easy.

Using an approach similar to that of companies like Lyft and Uber, two faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh's electrical and computer engineering department are hoping their app can help bridge that gap.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh can be notoriously difficult to navigate. The city's hills and valleys, bridges and tunnels, lack of  street grid, one-way streets and constant construction make getting around a feat, even in a car. 

Rodney Grubbs / NASA

Since 1997, the United States has sent four rovers to Mars, but we haven't sent one to the moon in more than four decades.

Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

Wearable technology like Fitbits and Apple Watches can measure physiological signals and track a user’s location.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Most people associate ultrasound technology with pregnancy and the little heartbeat on the monitor. A researcher at the University of Pittsburgh has a slightly different application in mind.

Nitin Sharma, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Pitt, recently received more than $500,000 from the National Science Foundation to develop algorithms that could measure muscle function in patients with partial paralysis due to spinal cord injuries — just by looking at ultrasound images of affected areas.

Pat Sullivan / AP

A researcher at Duquesne University has developed anti-inflammatory pain medication that could be more effective than current options — while also using far smaller doses.

The "nanomedicine," created by Jelena Janjic, co-director of Duquesne's Chronic Pain Research Consortium and associate professor of pharmaceutics, and colleagues, is able to effectively target specific, affected areas of the body. Common anti-inflammatory drugs are distributed indiscriminately throughout the body via the bloodstream after being ingested.

Ketki Jadhav / Wabbit

A mobile game prototyped by Carnegie Mellon University students recently finished as a finalist in a National Geographic competition. The augmented reality app is designed to help patients in stroke recovery complete physical therapy tasks.

Thomas Altany / University of Pittsburgh

Last week, the University of Pittsburgh celebrated the launch of a new makerspace at its Manufacturing Assistance Center in Homewood with a small ceremony.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

It turns out a knitting machine can work a bit like a 3-D printer.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Multi-layer constructs, the plastic packaging used for some food and beverage items like juice boxes and bags of chips, are composed of multiple layers of different materials. Because the different materials can't be separated, this packaging is not recyclable, and ends up in landfills or the environment.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

It's not unusual for students at Cornell School District to be in two places at once.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

A 2017 report by the Brookings Institution suggested that Pittsburgh as a whole could realize its economic potential more fully by turning Oakland into a central hub for innovation and technology.

Music Everywhere

As a kid, Seth Glickman, like many people, learned to play the piano by taking lessons with a teacher. He was talented, and he went on to become a music instructor himself, but later Glickman questioned whether in-person lessons were the best approach for everyone who wanted to learn.

"What about the people for whom that doesn't work?" said Glickman.

Tony Dejak / AP

Peptidic natural products, or PNPs, are groupings of amino acids that can make for effective antibiotics like penicillin and vancomycin. These chemical compounds are produced by microbes to kill off competing organisms and can exist everywhere, including in soil and in the human body.

VarQuest, an algorithm created by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of California San Diego and Saint Petersburg State University in Russia, has given scientists a way to quickly identify previously undiscovered PNPs.

Keith Srakokic / AP Photo

There's evidence to suggest that cocaine is more addictive for adolescents than adults. Scientists believe that at least part of this has to do with biological mechanisms in the brain, but they're not sure exactly what those mechanisms are.

A special sensor being developed at the University of Pittsburgh could help give them a better understanding.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Health care providers enter into dozens of contracts with outside companies, like medical record disposal or storage entities, that have access to patients’ medical information.

Dan Mulholland, senior partner at the health law firm Horty Springer, said these contracts come and go so frequently that they're not always reviewed by a lawyer because of cost and time constraints. But even tiny errors in the documents can create huge liabilities if patient information is mishandled. 

Founder Institute

Whether it’s an app or a device, the path from start-up idea to full-fledged company often leads through programs called accelerators or hubs that can provide workspaces, guidance and even funding.  In Pittsburgh, there is AlphaLab, AlphaLab Gear and Ascender.

Canon-McMillan School District

Computer programming might sound like an advanced skill, but at the Canon-McMillan School District south of Pittsburgh, students are beginning to learn how to code right when they start elementary school.

Sajad Haghanifar / University of Pittsburgh.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are working to improve the next generation of solar panels.

They’re using something called fused silica glass. Imagine tiny blades of grass, almost 1,000 times thinner than a human hair, tightly packed together.

That’s how the surface of fused silica glass will look under a microscope after Paul Leu, a professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and Sajad Haghanifar, a Ph.D. student in Leu's lab, bombard the glass' surface with charged particles called ions.

Don Ryan / AP Photo

Some homes with solar panel installations also have solar batteries, which store energy for later use. A Pittsburgh start-up has developed artificial intelligence software that could make those batteries more efficient. 

Currently, solar batteries with decision-making abilities can only do so based on real-time information. For example, on a cloudy day when solar panels might not produce enough electricity to power a house, a charged battery would automatically kick in to make up the difference.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Many recipes for holiday treats have been passed down through the generations, in dog-eared cookbooks or on tattered, chocolate-stained scraps of paper. But the Gluten Free Goat Bakery in Garfield is using the power of artificial intelligence, developed by Google, to add a little more spice to a holiday snack. 

Tim Kelly / Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering

A Ph.D. student in Pittsburgh is working to develop a more effective drug delivery method for patients with lung diseases.

Hao Sun / University of Pittsburgh

A University of Pittsburgh researcher's work detecting the "health" of buildings has landed him a spot on Forbes' 30 Under 30 List in science.

Hao Sun, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt, has developed a method that could help detect structural problems in buildings after a damaging event such as an earthquake or a hurricane.

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Supercomputers are pretty much what they sound like: bigger, faster and more sophisticated than any Mac or PC. 

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Since the late 1800s, steamfitters have built, installed and maintained piping systems, everywhere from power plants to residential homes.

Fred Vuich / AP

Concussions and head-related trauma have become a major concern for football players, from the National Football League to pee-wee games.

Lance Davidson and Rafey Feroze / University of Pittsburgh

The potential of tissue engineering is huge -- think replacement cartilage or artificial organs -- but current techniques are inefficient. 

If an engineer were building a house, they'd consider the properties of the materials they were using and the physical forces acting upon them.

If they're building biological tissue, they'll want to do the same.

Robert Pfeil / AP

The influenza virus spreads one person at at time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an infected individual coughs, sneezes or even just talks, and airborne droplets land in the mouths and noses of other people up to 6 feet away.

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