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Teaching STEM skills with robots

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Two Pitt State professors take their show on the road.

Over the past 10 years professors, Norman Philipps and Randy Winzer have taught a two-week summer camp on robotics.

Today was the first time they got the opportunity to teach the class outside of Pitt State.

The class was open to grades 4th through 9th, and cost $10 per student.

Their objective was to promote STEM education.

“This is our first foray into taking our adventures in robotics summer camp into a roadshow workshop that we’re able to take out to areas beyond the Pittsburg State University campus. So we’re working for ways that we can help encourage and develop STEM activities for younger students to help encourage them towards looking for that as a possible future or towards a possible college career,” said Norman Philipps, Pitt State Professor.

“I’ve been having a lot of fun making a robot with them and we’ve already made a lot of progress so far,” said Landon Reed.

The summer camp starts on July 10.

For more information on the camp, visit the Pittsburg State University website, here.

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PSU College of Tech hosts open house for Four State area HS students

PITTSBURG, Kans. — Area high school students get a look at possible career paths. More than 700 students made it to Pittsburg State University’s Technology and Career Expo Friday. Juniors and seniors heard from college students about the different career options — like metal working, construction simulations, and machine operations.

“I think it’s important to come here before going to college so that you know, what you’re getting into and see what it’s like before you actually go. So you know,” said Camree Showalter, Erie HS Student.

“I think it’s really cool because, you know not many people get this opportunity to come here and you know if I were to go to college it’d probably be this one because you know, it’s close to home and I’ve heard there’s a lot of opportunities here,” said Donny Graziose, Pittsburg HS Student.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us because we have a lot to show off here and the College of Technology has a lot of different excellent programs. A lot of students graduate from Pitt State University College of Technology with a job which is a good thing in today’s day and age and this is our way of kind of getting the show off all the real good things that we’re doing and training students to do here at Pitt State University College of Technology,” said Matt Brown, Professor at Pitt State.

The participating high school students represent nearly 50 schools from the Four States.

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PSU students are making a difference in their communities

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Most people have happy memories from school, but that wasn’t always the case for Irvin Augur.

So he did something about that recently to prevent the same thing from happening at a Pittsburg Elementary School.

Augur called his fundraiser “Clothes for Kids.”

“And there were certain times when I couldn’t go out to recess because I didn’t have winter attire, and because of this I felt like, embarrassed to go to school, so we had a self-defense seminar this past Saturday for the children and charged them $20 for the entry fee, and all the money is going to purchase children’s clothing at Meadowlark Elementary School,” said Irvin Augur, PSU Social Work Senior.

Augur is one of a group of seniors in the PSU social work program that selected a cause near to their heart, and is making it happen.

His classmate Haylee Miller, a native of Lamar, is also fundraising for a good cause.

“I’m raising money for a domestic violence shelter called “Moss House” and I’m selling T-shirts and sweatshirts that I designed, and 100% of the proceeds go directly to Moss House, Moss House serves a huge community and they don’t have a ton of resources so I wanted to help raise money so they can better provide my community as also their community in Nevada,” said Haylee Miller, PSU Social Work Senior.

Dr. Kristen Humphrey says the social work department program is a great way to get experience in serving the community, something they’ll be doing for a living after graduation.

“It’s one thing to sit in a classroom and talk about doing community advocacy, and it’s an entirely something different to get out there and actually do it, so the students have the opportunity to see a project from beginning to end, from the spark of an idea to planning it out,” said Dr. Kristen Humphrey, PSU Professor of Social Work.

By the end of the semester, students will have collected fundraising dollars, dispersed them to the organization they’re helping, and presented their project for faculty, staff, and other students to look at.

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The "Midwest Trumpet Festival" is back, and better than ever

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Trumpet enthusiasts from all over the Midwest are likely to be heard playing in Pittsburg.

Sunday and Monday, the annual “Midwest Trumpet Festival” is being held at “Pittsburg State University”. The event is all put together by music professor Todd Hastings, who started the program in 2009.

The two days are full of recitals, master classes and presentations for students and educators coming from all over the region.

The festival hasn’t happened in two years due to COVID-19, so this year was even more of an excitement for those participating.

“So, being able to make the drive down to Pittsburg, and just spend a couple days like totally immersed in incredible teaching and incredible playing, it’s something that I know my students don’t get to do very often, but it’s been great to be able to bring them to this so that they can experience that,” said Eric Dickson, Trumpet Professor, Truman State University.

If you didn’t make today’s concert, that’s okay. Monday offers more concerts, workshops and presentations from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

It’s all happening at the “Bicknell Center for the Arts” in Pittsburg.

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Annual Diwali Night celebration at PSU

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Over 100 came out tonight to share and learn about Indian culture.

The “Indian Students Association” of Pittsburg State University held their annual “Diwali Night” tonight.

It was an evening of traditional dancing, art, music, clothing and much more.

Traditionally, Diwali is known as the annual festival of lights.

It’s also when the Indian culture celebrates the new year.

Tonight was all about enjoying and having fun.

“We would, we would be very happy to, teach everyone about our culture and traditions, as well as share as much as we could,” said Srikar Reddy Nagirebdypally, President, Indian Students Association.

“We want everyone to come and enjoy, have fun, you know, get to know other Indian cultures, wear traditional dress because everyone, if you look around, they are colorful today,” said Raj Thakor, Member, Indian Students Association.

The night ended later with fireworks and even more dancing.

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PSU students conduct research to gauge fentanyl knowledge among families

PITTSBURG, Kans. — Students at an area university are trying to stop the damage done to families from the use of a deadly drug. Fentanyl overdoses now account for the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 45.

So five graduate students from the P.S.U. Communications Department are asking for area parents with children between the ages of 13 and 21 to fill out a questionnaire regarding that drug. Tre Meyers is one of those grad students and says the goal is to find out how much parents know about the drug and effectively communicate its danger to their kids.

“Fentanyl has been one of the biggest growing problems in the United States. Products will get embedded or disguised as other drugs, it’s really affecting the adolescents in the community and the United States as a whole, just last year in 2021 about 77% of adolescents has had some sort of affiliation to the overdose of Fentanyl,” said Meyers.

Parents are often targeted by ads to talk with their kids about dangerous drugs like fentanyl but aren’t given the background and information on the medication to have an educated conversation with them. Trying to find out how much they know about fentanyl and how kids can get their hands on it is among the purposes of the questionnaire.

“So we’re looking at the different types of family communication patterns, family dynamics to see how many people are known about using fentanyl or how many people discuss the use of drugs like Fentanyl at the dinner table,” Meyers said.

The study consists of two parts, the first of which is an online questionnaire, followed by a fifteen-minute zoom interview. All the information is kept confidential and participants can remain anonymous if they’d like.

For more information about the study, or to participate, you can email commlab@pittstate.edu.

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Homecoming Week at PSU includes "Banana Extravaganza"

PITTSBURG, Kans. — “Homecoming Week” this week at Pittsburg State University, and something new has been added to the lineup.

The “Banana Extravaganza” turns classrooms and the oval into a campus-wide scavenger hunt.

Students get clues on social media to hunt down bananas hidden in different spots. Student organizers say it’s a fun way to incorporate the campus footprint into celebratory mix of things.

“We have three large prizes for social media, so if they find the three big bananas then they get the three big prizes. Then our spirit chair Morgan Castellan is in charge of that so she’s on social media. But also we have about 30 little bananas that are just kind of hidden around campus that students can find and take to the CAC office,” said Hope Rainey, PSU Homecoming Committee President.

There are smaller prizes like gift cards and also a food truck and raft races tonight.

Saturday’s parade is at 9 a.m. on Broadway Street. The game between the 5th-ranked Gorillas and Missouri Western is on Saturday at 2 p.m.

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Showing off Gorilla Pride at PSU's Rumble in the Jungle

PITTSBURG, Kans. — Pittsburg State had the chance to show off its Gorilla Pride to potential students and their families.

Campus held the annual “Rumble in the Jungle” today. More than 1,400 people were expected to attend.

Activities got started early this morning where potential students could tour campus and look at programs the university offers.

Then it was time for all-campus meal and yard games, all leading up to today’s big game against Northwest Missouri State.

“We are very, very lucky to have the game day atmosphere that we have. And honestly, that’s because of the amazing community, Pittsburg, that we live in. It’s because of our alumni who are coming back from Kansas City, and Wichita and even further away for these game days,” said Jon Bartlow, Director of Alumni Relations.

Pitt State administrators also handed out five $1,000 scholarships as part of Rumble in the Jungle.

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1st-gen college grad now heading PSU program & helping women through new boutique

PITTSBURG, Kans. — Years of dreaming and goal setting are paying off big time for a Pitt State grad. Her journey started years ago in Mexico with a father who wanted more, leading to a daughter who’s a first-generation college graduate.

“We are at my new storefront Three Degrees limited here in Pittsburg,” said Sandra Cobos Schroeder, Pittsburg.

Sandra Cobos Schroeder is still easing into her new boutique, which is not just any shop.

“It’s not. I wanted to open it to be able to give back to the students that I work with, and to women who I saw needed some help. So that’s really the meaning behind it,” she said.

Sandra is tapping into her love of business casual clothing. Three Degrees is open part-time, just three days a week.

“We donate part of our profits back to the community and specifically women and children in need,” said Sandra.

Challenges she can relate to. Sandra immigrated from Mexico at the age of nine, with her father wanting something more for his family. That included a college education, which for Sandra meant Pitt State.

“I looked at a lot of colleges. And when I came to Pitt State something just felt right. To this day, I can’t tell you what it is but I remember walking around campus and feeling like this is it,” she said.

She got a bachelors in psychology and Spanish, then a masters and an EDS, and had her daughter Luna along the way.

“She really was the motivation to keep pursuing higher degrees. Once she was born, she was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and just being aware of the developmental delays that could be a result of her condition. I decided that I wanted to be the best advocate, I could be for her,” Sandra said.

Luna has made tremendous progress.

“She’s just so incredibly smart. I’m very proud of how far she’s come.”

And her professional life is hitting a new milestone. After working at K-12 schools, Sandra is now the director of the PSU school psychology program.

“And I look forward to training other school psychs and sharing with them the passion about the field,” she said.

Which leaves her with a full-time job and a part-time boutique, not to mention 24/7 responsibilities as a mom.

“It’s been hard, but it’s been very fulfilling. And I recognize the opportunities I’ve had along the way, though. I didn’t do it alone. And that’s my purpose. I want to empower other women to know that they can do it too,” she said.

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Pittsburg, Kan. hometown girl enjoys her first National #1 single

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — I met Jennifer Schott about five years ago. She “came home” to Pittsburg, Kan., to perform in a fundraiser concert for Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Four States. It was a songwriters showcase concert at the new Bicknell Family Center for the Arts. It was an acoustic setting with Nashville songwriters performing their songs that other artists had made famous.

There were 4 songwriters that evening including Jennifer, and Barry Dean, who grew up in Pittsburg.

I lived in Nashville and worked in the music industry for many years. I can tell you firsthand the life of a songwriter — a storyteller — is different from being an artist. They collaborate a lot. Have songwriting appointments where they come up with new ideas and share melodie’s and lyrics with others, hoping to create that special song an artist will put “on hold” for an upcoming recording.

Jennifer has written many hit singles over her 20+ years as a writer. While performing here in 2017 she shared about growing up in Pittsburg and the people she remembered dearly. Shared about her late father, who was the Woodwinds Professor at PSU. She shared her heart and memories through her songs, including her hit single “This Town Still Talks About You”, made popular by Natalie Hemby.

This past summer Jennifer had a surprise breakthrough #1 song that is redefining her place as a songwriter. She co-wrote the single, “7500 O.B.O.” in 2018, at an appointment with songwriter friend, Nathan Spicer.

Jennifer was kind enough to let us catch up with her as she is still enjoying her hit single that is now Tim McGraw’s 45th #1 single of his career.

Q: Tell me about 7500 OBO, what part did you have in the writing?

JENN: I co-wrote the song with Matt McGinn and Nathan Spicer, two guys that I really respect and love working with. It was October 1, 2018, and it was a really fun day in the writing room. I feel like all 3 of us got caught up in what was happening. I’d say mostly I was helping lyrically that day. Nathan had a song idea called “F-150” and had made a track that had a good groove to it. We didn’t really know where we were going directionally, but Matt started listing things like you hear in our first verse and we just went with it. I feel like I really jumped in starting at the back half of the 1st verse. When we got to the chorus, we kind of just wrote into the actual title, which Matt came up with, but then we all debated what the actual cost should be. $7500, $8500? We settled on $7500 because of the way it sounded and fit into the lyric.

Q: Where did you draw your part (lyrically) from?

JENN: I remember my first car, and there are a lot of memories that were made in it – from driving up and down Broadway to getting it stuck in the mud with some of my high school girlfriends. There’s something sentimental about a car or truck and those memories, and I think that’s where all three of us were coming from when were were writing the song. Then of course thinking of an old love, and the times shared driving around together and how those memories remain right there in the vehicle…we knew what we needed to say.

I feel like I especially connected with where we went in the 2nd verse. I remember being a teenager and accidentally backing into a concrete parking barrier over in a parking lot at Pitt State. That’s was the jumping off point for our lyric…” back bumper’s got a dent from her backing into a mail box first time she drove it”

Q: I know when you were here in 2017 you shared your song — THIS TOWN STILL TALKS ABOUT YOU… and talked about your father and the legacy of music in your family. What would your dad say today about your current success?

JENN: I’ve thought about my dad so much in the past few weeks and I know he would be so thrilled and proud for me getting to celebrate the song hitting #1. I’m so grateful that I was brought up in a home full of music, and for all the time I got to spend in the music department at Pitt State where he taught for so many years. I have so many great memories of going to his student’s recitals, and music camps, and even studying the flute with him. He and my mom were so supportive of me when I was first getting my start in Nashville. I remember calling them when I was 24 and telling them I was leaving my full-time job to pursue songwriting, and they were nothing but encouraging. I’m incredibly grateful for that.

Q: What are two favorite memories of SEK/PITT or maybe a trip to Joplin from years past?

JENN: There are too many to count! A few things that come to mind are my childhood summers spent performing in musicals through Pittsburg Community Theater and Pitt State. My mom and dad were always in the orchestra…such wonderful memories. Also my time as a cheerleader at PHS and those football Friday nights at Hutchison Field. I will slip in a third, and that is my time spent working at KKOW radio on my summers home from college. My time there was really pivotal in me falling in love with country music. I don’t think I’d be in Nashville without my time at the radio station. As for Joplin, lots of great memories too. Specifically, I remember going to Joplin for dinner before senior prom. And lots of trips to the Northpark Mall as a teenager!

Q: Nashville has been your home so long… is it now your “hometown”? Or Will SEK always be “home”?

JENN: SEK will always be home. I’m so thankful for where I grew up, for my teachers, my dear friends and family, and for all the good people in the community. Pittsburg is what shaped me and no amount of time or distance will ever change that.

Q: What’s next for Jenn Schott right now? Writing with anyone? Great plans in the immediate horizon?

JENN: I’ve got a really busy fall coming up that includes lots of writing! I’m grateful to work with an amazing music publisher, Red Creative, and we’re always focusing on booking my calendar with writing combinations that are inspiring and intentional. I write with a lot of artists which is always a lot of fun, and will just keep trying to write the best songs possible and hope that they continued to get cut. I’m also just really trying to take in the present moment and celebrate the success of 7500 OBO. I’ve been writing full time for 22 years and this is my first #1. The long journey makes this moment all the sweeter, so I’m really trying to soak it all in. The song has been voted as one of the Nashville Songwriter’s Association’s “Ten Songs I Wish I’d Written” and my co-writers and I will get to perform the song on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium at the awards ceremony in September. Lots to celebrate and be thankful for!

For more on Jennifer Schott and to keep up with her exciting career, click here for her website.

Here are her socials where you can follow her: