90.5 WESA Features and Special Reports

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

If your primary care physician says you need a test or procedure, and he suggests a location to get it done, what do you do?

“There is data that shows that patients do what their doctor says,” said Mark Roberts, chair of the department of Health Policy and Management at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “When your doctor tells you, ‘I want you to see a cardiologist and I want you to see this cardiologist,’ that’s who you go see.”

Weekend Edit-A-Thon Puts Women In Wikipedia

Mar 8, 2016
Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

A group of local women are taking on Wikipedia.

“The gender gap on Wikipedia really just boils down to most of the people who write on Wikipedia are men,” said Kelly Doyle, a librarian at West Virginia University and scholar on gender equality. "We're trying to ... get more women to write on Wikipedia and, as a result, have more articles and content about women."

Doyle drove to Pittsburgh on Saturday to join more than 100 participants in a day-long Wikipedia “edit-a-thon.”

Rebekah Zook / 90.5 WESA

Joe Divack attributes volunteer John Erickson’s “all-star” status to his attitude.

“It’s his sense of humor," Divack said. "And he really likes doing it. He might not always admit it."

Joe and John have teamed up together for Allegheny Cleanways’ Dump Busters program for four years, with no signs of stopping any time soon.

4Moms

Pittsburgh-based 4Moms, which works to create innovative parent-friendly products for children, unveiled a new product to streamline the clunky process of installing a car seat.

For sale later this year, the self-installing car seat joins a battery of other user friendly products that harness technology to sterilize, self-fold and mimic a parent's touch.   

Mara McFaddon, director of product management, said it’ll be the safest one yet on the market.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

  Last May, Governor Tom Wolf held a news conference in front of the Camp Hill state prison in Cumberland County.

He was joined by Corrections Secretary John Wetzel and a handful of district attorneys, all pushing for a $120 million funding increase — not for prisons — but for preschool.

“These are the first steps to what I have as a four-year goal to fully fund early childhood education,” Wolf said.

Irina Zhorov / Keystone Crossroads

In Vogt True Value Hardware on Pittsburgh's South Side, the stock of plumbing pipes includes copper and plastic. The owner of the neighborhood store, Shawn Vogt, shook his head no when asked if he carries any lead lines. 

“It’s no longer legal,” he said. “That’s like an old fashioned thing.”

The store hasn’t carried any lead pipes in decades, he said. 

Larkin Page-Jacobs / WESA

In the Monongahela Valley, communities that saw their economies boom with the steel and manufacturing industry in the last century continue to feel the bust from those industries’ decline. But as Pittsburgh’s economic position strengthens, many Mon Valley towns are looking for ways to spark their own revitalization, and zoning plays a key role in that endeavor.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

Faith Denson’s son was sentenced to prison in 2009. That moment changed her life.

She decided to launch an all-volunteer ministry to help keep inmates in contact with their children. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Imagine if companies knew the probability of turning someone into a customer – and keeping that customer.

That’s exactly what Green Tree-based Othot thinks it can do. The start up’s current focus is higher education student recruitment, and Chief Technology Officer John Abbatico said there’s plenty of data to mine.

For Police Departments In PA, Collecting Data On Gun Violence Remains Inconsistent

Feb 22, 2016
Rachel McDevitt / Keystone Crossroads

 

Although data can be a powerful tool in the argument over policies to address gun violence, approaches to collecting and using data across local police departments are inconsistent.

A call to the Erie Police Department comes back with the number of guns taken off the streets in the last few years. The Philadelphia Police Department releases annual reports on its website that show the number of shooting victims and homicide by firearm. In Reading, they're focusing on the locations of verified shots fired in the city.

Rebekah Zook / 90.5 WESA

Michael David Battle spends his time doing many things: he’s the author of two biographies (and is in the process of writing another), he delivers sermons at community events, he orchestrates town hall meetings, digital story-telling projects and yearly retreats for Pittsburgh-area leaders to share their ideas. He even travels to the White House on occasion.

But his true brainchild is the Garden of Peace Project, an initiative that is rapidly bringing together, and aiming to improve the lives of, members of Pittsburgh’s LGBT community.

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

The makers of a new “smart plug” claim it can save companies and organizations millions of dollars each year on electric bills.

Boss Controls is a Pittsburgh-based company that produces the plugs. They’re designed to go directly into a wall outlet. But unlike traditional plugs, these gadgets are programmed to turn themselves on and off.

CEO Greg Puschnigg said they’re designed to reduce energy usage during times when devices, such as vending machines, copiers, coffee pots and computers, are not being used.

The Ellis School

In the year 2113, a city in the Katmandu Valley of Nepal will be surrounded by an earthquake mitigation system and crisscrossed by underground pneumatic tubes that will zip solid waste right out of your house. 

At least that is what a group of seventh and eighth graders at The Ellis School in Pittsburgh will be presenting next week at the national Future City competition.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

About 80 percent of the work done at Pittsburgh’s senior center on the South Side is done by volunteers. And lately, much of it has been done by one man: Charlie Mathews.

“To have Charlie here as a person that is just willing to help and is really good with people is very crucial to what we do,” said Sarah Johnston, director of the South Side Market House.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A soldier in the field with little or no technical training could fix a piece of high-tech weaponry, seniors might use a complex health monitoring device and a newlywed couple can be coached through complicated IKEA instructions, all without the help of another human. 

Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science are using wearable technologies like Google Glass to place an "angel" on a user's shoulder to do those types of tasks.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

There are about 150,000 men and women serving in the U.S. military overseas, according to the Defense Manpower Data Center. 

Some of them regularly receive care packages from people they have never met, through programs like Soldiers’ Angels and Chaplains Wings.

Mary Jo Magoc has been sending care packages and cards through those programs since 2009.  She began with individual soldiers through Soldiers’ Angels, where she “adopted” four members of the military deployed overseas. She keeps in touch with three of them, even though they have returned home. Among them is Chris Samuel. 

Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

A University of Pittsburgh student will make her debut tonight on Jeopardy's  college edition.

90.5 WESA's Sarah Kovash talked to senior chemisty and computer science major Sarah Dubnik, a life-long Jeopardy fan, about her experience being on the show.

WESA: So what was it like getting to meet Alex Trebek for the first time?

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

A Pittsburgh-based company is aiming to make the fracking process safer for the environment with an innovative approach to water purification, by reducing the need to transport contaminated water and byproducts from drill sites.

In parts of Washington and Greene counties, residents in rural areas often hear the rumble of trucks traveling to and from fracking sites. Many of the trucks are used to haul water, which is an important element in the process.

Gordon Craig, of Epiphany Water Solutions, recently took WESA on a tour of an active well pad about 1 mile off of Interstate 79. The well is owned by Rice Energy, one of the companies now using Epiphany's new water purification systems.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Every other Monday night, the basement of the Jefferson Avenue Methodist Church in Washington, Pa. is turned into a soup kitchen and a doctor's office. It’s called the “WeCare Street Outreach,” and it's run by Dr. Monica Speicher.

University of Essex / Flickr

About three years ago, Laura Offutt was between medical consulting projects and looking for something new to try. Around the same time, she noticed that her teenage children and their friends were not happy with the way health information was being presented in school. 

Additionally, Offutt said the teens seemed to have picked up bad information while attempting to fill in the gaps in knowledge from their school presentations. That’s how she started a teen health blog, now a website, called Real Talk with Dr. Offutt.

Ryan Loew / PublicSource

    

The street where Carol Speaks grew up is only blocks from where her grandson Antwann died.

At 19 years old, he was shot 17 times, according to Carol, in front of witnesses just down the street from Homewood’s Westinghouse Academy.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

It’s not much bigger than a laptop and a set of ski goggles, but workers at Neuro Kinetics, located in O’Hara Township’s RIDC Park, said they’ve created technology that will help diagnose concussions.

It's called the I-Portal, and it's awaiting FDA approval. 

“This is not quite what Star Trek envisioned, because that is a little bit more smaller, easier, portable, but on the right sort of path,” said Howison Schroeder, president and CEO of Neuro Kinetics.

Ryan Loew / PublicSource

  Monica Hawkins can still laugh at her son Donté’s sense of humor as she replays it nearly four years later on YouTube. And she can smile at the uncanny resemblance her grandson Jaiden has to his dad. The same smile. The same mischievous energy.

But fresh tears come when she recounts the night Donté died at age 20, the helplessness she felt at the scene, and the hole his loss leaves in their family.

App Connects Homeless Youth With Services

Jan 13, 2016
r.nial bradshaw / flickr

 

A new app, in development, could connect homeless youth with services ranging from mental health care to a meal.

 

The Homeless Children’s Education Fund worked with Bob Firth, founder of Informing Design, to create the Big Burgh Homeless Services app. Pulling out his iPhone, Firth shows how a prototype works.

 

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Some people dream of buying an island, finally paying off their student loans or getting a fancy car. If James Helterbran of Sheraden wins the Powerball, he's taking care of mom.

Harrisburg Pulls Police From NRA Show Security Detail

Jan 10, 2016
Emily Previti / Keystone Crossroads

 

The Great American Outdoor Show's brought tens of millions of tourism dollars to the Capitol region for 25 years.

It's also sponsored by the NRA.

This February, Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse says police won't provide security inside the Farm Show Complex, as is customary.

Papenfuse says his decision is tied to the NRA's support of the state law that made it easier to sue Pennsylvania cities over their firearms ordinances. 

Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The murals in the United States Post Office and Courthouse on Grant Street are pretty hard to get to. There’s security, now, unlike when the Department of Treasury’s Section of Painting and Sculpture commissioned the three works in 1934.

Two of the octogenerian paintings survive on the 8th floor; one disappeared. That’s the thing about murals, said Sylvia Rhor, associate professor of art history at Carlow University. They’re large, but they’re not immune to time’s vagaries. They can go missing, be discarded or painted over.

Eleanor Klibanoff / WPSU

 

From the back of Barry Grossman's house, you get a panoramic view of Lake Erie: miles and miles of uninterrupted lake, anchored on one side by the popular Presque Isle State Park. And in the distance, a large ship making its way slowly across the lake. 

"Last two days, I've seen four major lake liners go by," said Grossman, the former Erie County executive. "Usually you don't see them this time of year."

Grossman hopes that means industry is starting to pick up around the lake again. But he worries Erie's workforce won't be ready for a big turnaround.

Chancelor Humphrey

The rapper Mars Jackson grew up in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. He’s been performing for about six years and said he wants people to know about the dynamic artists who make up Pittsburgh’s rap and hip hop scene.

Jackson says many wrongly believe that Pittsburgh’s pool of talent begins and ends with superstars Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller. Jackson stopped by the station to talk to Larkin Page-Jacobs about the music he creates to address real life issues.

 

'Scrubba' Designed To Clean Large Buildings, Like Giant Roomba

Jan 5, 2016
Jennifer Szweda Jordan / 90.5 WESA

Small, autonomous, robotic vacuums like Roomba, Botvac and others revolutionized tidying for the average at-home cleaner. Four inventors in Oakland want to do the same with an industrial-scale robotic janitor built to sweep and mop big spaces like malls and airports.

On a recent evening, Discovery Robotics’ inventors gave the boxy, blue, metal prototype a trial run as engineer Naman Kumar looked on. In his hand was a remote garage door opener programmed to start or stop "Scrubba" and its 300-pound heft.

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