90.5 WESA Features and Special Reports

Kim Paynter / WHYY/Newsworks.org

 

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale (D) plans to investigate how local governments are spending the millions of dollars they’ve received from gas drilling impact fees.

Fighting An Airplane's Natural Enemy: Ice

Dec 23, 2015
Jennifer Szweda Jordan / 90.5 WESA

A Canonsburg-based company’s superfast computer simulations are helping airplane designers learn about something that the rest of us might not want to think about: how ice forms on airplane wings and engines.

Once an airplane takes off, it soars into hard-to-predict natural elements. One of the most dangerous of those elements is ice. A technology stalwart in the region called ANSYS is addressing this problem.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

At Kutztown University, a lot of students live near campus.

But not Shannon Peitzer.

She's a senior. And every morning she spends at least half an hour driving to school from her apartment.

Kaufmann's Department Store Records and Photographs / Rauh Jewish Archives / Detre Library and Archives / Senator John Heinz History Center

“There’s Florence and London and Paris and Prague and Brussels.”

Lina Insana, chair of the department of French and Italian at the University of Pittsburgh, points to a spread from the Kaufmann's department store’s in-house magazine, Storagram, which proclaims the 30th anniversary of the “Foreign Office.”  

“They used these foreign offices as proof of the quality of their merchandise—how up to date that merchandise was, how up to the minute the styles were,” Insana said.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

When students Bishal Rai, Arpun Khadka and Gabriel Sahij walk into Concord Elementary School in Carrick, a welcome sign greets them in English, Spanish and Nepali. 

Appalasia

AppalAsia is one of those artistic ventures which, seemingly, could only happen in Pittsburgh. The musical blend of Appalachian and ancient Chinese folk music stems from three artists with very different musical backgrounds. 

Mimi Jong plays the erhu, a two-stringed, bowed instrument that has been a part of Chinese folk music for a millennium.

Lehigh Valley Ponders Welcoming More Syrian Refugees

Dec 17, 2015
Laura Benshoff / WHYY

Farouk leans forward at the interview table, hands clasped. The question, what do you miss in Syria, gets a one word answer.

"Everything," he said.

Farouk -- not his real name -- doesn't want to be identified for fear of retribution back in Syria.

What's Changed In The Refugee Resettlement Hub Of Lancaster

Dec 16, 2015
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Farhan Al Qadri was doing well for himself, running a warehousing business that took him three decades to build. It kept him on the road and away from his wife and children at times. But it also afforded them a 20-room house with a courtyard in the middle, and plenty of land  — including a small farm — just outside the Syrian village of Daraa.

Did he consider himself wealthy?

"It was very excellent," he says, nodding. "But now, I have zero."

CMU's RoboTutor To Teach Where Resources Are Sparse

Dec 15, 2015
Jennifer Szweda Jordan / 90.5 WESA

In many developing countries, teachers and classrooms are scarce.

In the poor rural village of Mugeta in Tanzania, Joash Gambarage grew up surrounded by children without access to education. While he’s moved on to graduate studies at the University of British Columbia, the picture in Mugeta hasn’t changed much. That’s why Gambarage founded a school that now has about 50 students.

“The kids were just staying home with their parents or with their grandparents selling eggs and stuff on the streets,” Gambarage said of his students.

Mike Mozart / Flickr

    

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United is a national organization that advocates on behalf of restaurant workers, and Pittsburgh is home to one of its chapters. In this episode of On The House, Larkin Page-Jacobs talks to organizer Jordan Romanus and server Heather Freeman about the change they hope to see in the industry.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA News

 

North Allegheny High School sophomore Mason Blackburn wanted Alex the Lion to escape the zoo, but it wasn't that simple.

The team hit a few roadblocks along the way, he said. Levers overcomplicated the motions, so they tried a simpler pulley system. It took a lot of trial and error, Blackburn said.

"We certainly learned a lot," he said. "We had several of these swinging hooks and each hook would transfer energy to the next hook. Eventually that was too complicated."

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Walking down Penn Avenue in Garfield, people likely don’t see Jason Forck through the window two stories up as he balances a near-molten glass tumbler at the end of a steel rod.

Larkin Page-Jacobs / WESA

Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood is changing. Once considered by many to be a dangerous and undesirable place to live, the community has seen its popularity grow, and at least one new business is hoping to be inclusive of Pittsburgh residents, both new and long established.

Pennsylvania's Houses Are Old — And That's A Problem For Everyone

Dec 9, 2015
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

Around Pennsylvania, you'll see lots of historic homes: romantic 18th century red brick houses, stately Victorian-era mansions and dense rowhomes built for industrial workers. 

The state's old houses, half of which were built before 1959, can give a neighborhood character. But they can also cause a lot of problems.

Some of the homes are filled with health hazards like lead paint and ancient wiring. Others are simply falling apart with age.

And many residents can't afford the repairs.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Public Schools is turning to more progressive methods of discipline, after finding that cut and dry methods, like Zero Tolerance, led to too many suspensions.

Back in the ‘90s, many schools started using those methods as a way to motivate kids to behave.

They put police officers in schools, along with metal detectors. They issued harsh punishments to prevent bigger offenses. 

It became a way of doing things, but opponents say rather than getting students to behave, it was just pushing them out of school. Now administrators shy away from those methods.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Carnegie Mellon University student Cora Wang waited for a currywurst outside a gray office building just off of Second Avenue in South Oakland.

It was her first time there for class, and she said she was pleasantly surprised to see a mobile food cart on the premises.

“Because there’s nothing here,” she said with a laugh.

Meanwhile, Sandra Friedel cooked up sausages and ground meat patties on the small flat top grill, then topped them with veggies and homemade sauces, while her husband Dustin took orders.

Pittsburgh Public Schools

Moira Kaleida and Lynda Wrenn might both be new to the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Directors, but they’re not new to the district. 

Jennifer Szweda Jordan / For 90.5 WESA

University of Pittsburgh student Chuck Ward pointed at a map inside the Cathedral of Learning. Classroom G8, where his Dustin Hoffman film class planned to meet to watch a movie, eluded him.

“Where’s Bellefield, do you know?” he asked a stranger. Then another. Then one more. 

Students and visitors at Pitt’s iconic Cathedral of Learning have been baffled by its layout since the building first opened more than 80 years ago.

Altoona-based software company Rivendell Technologies is selling a technological solution.

Phil Pavely / Trib Total Media

More than a century ago, the fight between George Westinghouse in Pittsburgh, and Thomas Edison in West Orange New Jersey, over whose power system was better, ended with Westinghouse and alternating current as a clear winner. But research at the University of Pittsburgh has rekindled that fight.

Start Up Finds New Use For Medical Technology With Marine Life

Nov 24, 2015
Mussel Prevention Program / California Division of Boating and Waterways

 

  

Since boating began, sailors have been vexed by barnacles and algae that attach to ship hulls. The sea life puts a drag on movement through water.

Rebecca Devereaux / 90.5 WESA

Steubenville, Ohio made headlines in 2012 when a high school girl was raped by a group of boys after she passed out following a night of partying. The assault was captured on cell phones and shared on social media, forcing the town and the country into a conversation about sexual violence against female students.

That night, what lead up to it and its aftermath are the subject of the play ‘Good Kids’ being performed through Sunday by University of Pittsburgh students at the Stephen Foster Memorial. 

If you’ve ever played the party game ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,’ you’ll get the gist of Carnegie Mellon University’s latest digital humanities project pretty quickly. 

Six Degrees of Francis Bacon is a web tool that maps the complex social network of Britain during the early modern period. It’s based on analysis of biographical records for more than 13,000 contemporaries of the philosopher and statesman Sir Francis Bacon.

Courtesy Brandon Blache-Cohen via the Heinz History Center

Next week marks the anniversary of a major event leading up to the Holocaust: Kristallnacht.

Brandon Blache-Cohen's grandfather, Werner Josef Cohen, lived through it. Blache-Cohen never met his grandfather, who died in 1977, but he became interested in the elder Cohen’s history – and now shares his family’s story with as many people as possible.

Digital Dentistry: Tooth Fixes While You Wait

Nov 3, 2015
Jennifer Szweda Jordan / 90.5 WESA

Dental fixes are getting quicker as schools, private practices and the military add new in-office technology to create replacement teeth and crowns.

On The House: Pairing Music With Your Meal

Oct 28, 2015
Brooke Annibale

At a restaurant or bar, details make up a diner’s experience. Lighting, décor, music -- Brooke Annibale’s embraces each to enhance the experience of eating out.

She’s a Pittsburgh singer and songwriter, and works for the Big Burrito restaurant group as a music programmer. In this episode of On The House, the work of the behind-the-scenes DJ to countless meals at Mad Mex, Casbah, Eleven and Kaya. 

North Side Tech Company Thinks IT Can Fix Your Baseball Swing

Oct 27, 2015
Diamond Kinetics

A batter's swing takes, on average, two-tenths of a second -- less if you’re in the big leagues. So it’s not easy for a human coach’s eye to assess power, speed and control. 

Not far from PNC Park, Diamond Kinetics is working on the fix.

CEO C.J. Handron lifts his slugger and aims. The barely perceptible device strapped to the knobby base of the bat doesn't move, but it's picking up 15 metrics in real time

New Hulton Bridge Opens

Oct 20, 2015
Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA News

  A new Hulton Bridge, which connects Harmar and Oakmont, opened  Tuesday afternoon after a celebratory ribbon cutting.

Construction on the 4-lane bridge began in September 2013.  It cost $65 million and replaces a 2-lane 109 year-old- bridge over the Allegheny River.  

KT King / flickr

A pair of Republican state representatives want to force teachers’ union representatives to also hold positions that put them in contact with students every day. The move is an effort to end what they are calling “ghost teachers.”

State Representative Jim Christiana (R- Beaver) is upset that there are three individuals that are getting all of the benefits of being an active teacher in the Pittsburgh Public School district that report to the union office every day rather than to a school building.

Citizen Internet Comes To Allentown

Oct 20, 2015
Jennifer Szweda Jordan / 90.5 FM WESA

Meta Mesh is making one Pittsburgh neighborhood one of the few places in the country with a free community wireless network--called a mesh network. By putting up what are called nodes--routers along with more substantial antennas--Meta Mesh offers Wi-Fi along Warrington Avenue in the Allentown business district.

Adam Longwill got the idea for Meta Mesh a few years ago when he was using a slow DSL connection. As he considered borrowing his neighbor’s Wi-Fi but instead he came up with a better plan.

 

“It got me thinking about, ‘How would I connect to my neighbors?’” Longwill said. “I would need a bigger antenna, a parabolic antenna. And I started looking at how radio frequencies work, and how I could get better range, better speed. And then I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could have a whole neighborhood doing this?'”

U.S. Department of Education

Researchers believe negative racial identities in black students might be contributing to the racial achievement gap, which in Pennsylvania amounts to more than 20 points in 4th grade and gets worse by 8th grade, according to state test data.

A new early childhood collaborative group between the University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Public Schools will be working this year with parents and teachers to learn how to better foster positive racial identities.

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