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Local students get lesson at Heinz Field

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

On Friday, middle school students from Pittsburgh Milliones, University Prepatory School got a chance to learn in a classroom quite different than the ones they're used to - Heinz Field.

All of the students - who are in grades 6-12 - participated in the NHL/NHLPA Future Goals Hockey Scholar program, an online educational course that uses hockey to explore real-life applications of fundamental STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts.

And today, they took a field trip to the stadium as part of the countdown to the 2017 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series between the Pens and Flyers on Feb. 25 to apply what they have learned to real life.

The kids went to the press conference room, press box and even the locker room - where they posed for a photo with Iceburgh. To conclude the tour, the students went out to the rink itself where Derek King, NHL Senior Manager of Facility Operations, hosted an "Ice Making 101" discussion with the kids.

"It was more of an educational tour to see what actually goes into making this sheet of ice," he said. "It's a little bit of science with the refrigeration and the glycol and the pumps and compressors we're using to build the sheet of ice.

"It's pretty cool," he continued. "Every build we do is amazing, so be able to have the interaction with the kids and see how excited they are, definitely makes it a really fun experience to be here."

The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation actually sponsors local schools to receive the digital programs that allow them to connect STEM around the game of hockey. Alyssa Mahramus is a schools manager for an educational technology company called EverFi that helps create those digital programs for schools at no cost to them, thanks to the Foundation.

"The students that are using the program got to come in today, tour Heinz Field and it's a really nice connection for them," Mahramus said. "To say 'okay, this is what I've learned online and this is how to connect it with the real world,' that really opened their eyes and it was fun to see.

"They knew the jobs behind everything, but I think one student said 50 people help run the entire thing. So to learn the mass amount and how they can even have a part in that once they get older is cool."

However, what's work without a little play? When the tour was over, the NHL surprised the kids with tickets to the game itself - and their reaction was priceless.

"I knew about it the whole time, so to hear the reaction and just to see their faces, to know that we're invested in them, is a good feeling," Mahramus smiled.

"It was great. I just can't wait to come back and see the game," said sixth-grader Alya'Jahkelsa. "I was excited. I am anxious to go."

And what is she most looking forward to?

"For the Penguins to win," she said.

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