Penn State STEM Exploration Camp Visits RJ Lee Group


RJ Lee Group was happy to welcome the Penn State STEM Exploration Camp to our facilities with a recent tour. Hosting students from grades 1-12, the camp focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). The STEM camp attendees are introduced to various professions that make use of these critical skill sets, such as those in the medical, research, bioengineering, energy, sustainable resources, and manufacturing fields. Stressing real-world experiences, activities include working in teams to complete practical projects and daily trips to local corporations to learn more about how STEM shapes our everyday experiences.

Erin Repine with Students

Erin Repine leads the tour through the Chemistry laboratories.*

Debbie Novak, STEM/Youth Programs Coordinator for Penn State University New Kensington, contacted Allison Laneve and Kristy Anderson of RJ Lee Group, believing that the students would be interested in the wide variety of industries and companies we work with each day. Twenty campers and their chaperones were given a 90-minute tour of our laboratory and facilities, including the Criminal Forensics Laboratory, Concrete Services Department, Chemistry and Industrial Hygiene Laboratories, Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) Optical Laboratories, and Information Technology department.

Representatives of each group discussed what they do for their clients and the company at large, and how our work impacts the community. The students also invited to take part in some hands-on experiences to give them a better understanding of how STEM is used in our daily tasks.

Patty Kyslinger with Students

Patty Kyslinger talks to students about concrete analysis.

RJ Lee Group performs many projects that determine why concrete from bridges and roads has failed. Patty Kyslinger of the Concrete Services department demonstrated how the group analyzes concrete samples for air bubbles, using black coloring and white powder to reveal the material’s density. She also showed them how concrete is polished, then coated with epoxy dyed with fluorescent coloring to show glowing inclusions under ultraviolet light.

“I really enjoyed the day and our trip to RJ Lee Group, and loved learning all the interesting things about asbestos and concrete,” Anna Novak, a 7th grader in Burrell School District, said after the tour.

Student looks through microscope at RJ Lee Group.

Student looks through microscope at RJ Lee Group.

The manager of the Criminal Forensics and Biopharma groups, Ms. Laneve was enthusiastic about the tour. “They were so inquisitive and interested. They asked a lot of questions, and I definitely think we’re going to see some great things out of that group in the years to come.”

STEM occupations are growing at about 17%, while other fields are growing an average of 9.8%, according to the US Labor Department. Advances in technology and globalization make these careers more important than ever in terms of potential income on a personal level, and competitive position and global leadership on a national level.

“We are very thankful to the Westmoreland-Fayette Women in Business (WIB) for awarding us a grant that allowed Penn State the opportunity to provide information and professional experiences for our community’s youth,” said Patricia Hollinger, Director of Continuing Education. “Our hope is that this program and our excellent visit to RJ Lee Group will make a difference and have positive impact when these students are selecting future careers.

Justin Davison explains the role of Information Technology in laboratories.

Justin Davison explains the role of Information Technology in laboratories.

We would like to thank our other staff members who helped with the tour, including Monica McGrath (TEM Optical), Mike Callaghan (Client Relationship Manager), Erin Repine (Chemistry & IH), and Justin Davison (IT Operations Manager).

For more than thirty years, RJ Lee Group has supported and contributed to STEM education through outreach programs and internships, even partnering with Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Washington to open a location on campus that provides students with working experience in the laboratory. Everyone at RJ Lee Group wishes the students of the Penn State STEM Exploration Camp good luck in their future endeavors, and perhaps we’ll see you working on one of our labs one day!

*All photos provided by Penn State STEM Exploration Camp.