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General Dynamics Seeks High School Students for STEM Competition

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — General Dynamics Mission Systems is holding its annual High School STEM Competition on April 29.
The company is seeking to create enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering and math education by providing science challenges that feature a mix of systems, mechanical, electrical, and software engineering techniques.
"STEM education is important to help develop the workforce of the future. We have seen that exposure to STEM activities early in life creates lifelong learners that often decide on STEM careers. We are looking to develop our future workforce," said Thomas Lussier, director of engineering.
Mark Marzotto was introduced to engineering and coding through the STEM competition in 2014, his senior year of high school. He now works as a senior systems engineer for the Model Based Systems Engineering Lead for Surface Ships for General Dynamics. 
"The competition was creating a robotic 'car' that could autonomously complete challenges, like navigating a maze," Marzotto said. "The satisfaction I received from completing the project and designing/building something that actually worked led me to embark on a mechanical engineering degree at Union College and eventually a systems engineering masters from Johns Hopkins University"
Mike Coelho also participated in the competition while in high school and now works for General Dynamics as a senior systems engineer working in the Functional Modeling Lead on Strategic Systems. 
"GD helped me grow from both a technical and leadership perspective. It is the community events such as the high school STEM competition that helped encourage me and others to begin a journey toward a career in engineering and it is great GD can do this for Pittsfield and the surrounding area," Coelho said.
The competition creates a chance for students to experience a STEM challenge that they would otherwise not have the opportunity to participate in. 
"Many students do not have the opportunity to participate in interesting and fun science activities," Lussier said. "We believe that this competition allows high schools across the county to experience an exciting STEM challenge and have the opportunity to work in teams or as individuals."
General Dynamics wants students to know that there are career opportunities after college in the Berkshires and that it is currently working on contracts that last until 2080. 
"In the end, we want students to know that they can get a STEM degree in college and work as an engineer at General Dynamics right here in Pittsfield. We are currently working on contracts that last until 2080, so there is long-term career opportunities right here in the Berkshires," Lussier said. 
General Dynamics has already received signups from students at Berlin (N.Y.) High School, Miss Hall's School, and the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center in Bennington. It has purchased enough supplies for 10 teams and hope to get more students to participate in this year's competition. 
Students in Grades 9-12 could sign up as an individual or as a team of up to four team members and get a chance to earn prizes. First-place winners of the competition will receive a $40 prize; second place $20, and third $10 prize.
This year students will design, build and demonstrate a "Moveable Bridge" using real-world engineering disciplines. If interested, contact Hannah Manolis, General Dynamics Mission Systems, (860) 817-8858 or for more information.

Tags: competition,   STEM,   

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Pittsfield Rallies for Reproductive Rights

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff


PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Nearly 200 people gathered at Park Square on Sunday in solidary with reproductive rights and to mourn the Supreme Court's overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

"My wish is that we can take this energy that's here today and all the people that didn't work out to be here today, to really take this energy and to funnel it so that we can take real action," state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier said.

"And the change is not something that's going to happen in a couple of months or even a couple of years but we have to be as strong as the opposition because we know we're that we're the majority, it's just that so far, we're not the majority that votes. So we've got to get to work, we need to do it strategically and persistently."

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday voted to reverse the 1973 decision that legalized abortion across the nation. This ruling means that there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion and it undermines other right to privacy decisions including contraception, marriage and medical issues. 

"It's pretty shattering," Elizabeth Freeman Center Executive Director Janis Broderick said. "It brings us back more than 50 years."

Massachusetts is one of 35 states, including the District of Columbia, where it is still legal to have the procedure after the ruling. Abortions are potentially illegal or soon to be illegal in at least 11 states and illegal in five, according to

On Friday, Republican Gov. Charlier Baker signed an executive order protecting access to reproductive health care services in the commonwealth. The order gives health-care professionals protection from legal liability from professional sanctions issued under the laws of other states.

"I am deeply disappointed in today's decision by the Supreme Court which will have major consequences for women across the country who live in states with limited access to reproductive health care services," Baker said. "The commonwealth has long been a leader in protecting a woman's right to choose and access to reproductive health services, while other states have criminalized or otherwise restricted access."

Numerous officials have weighed in, with District Attorney Andrea Harrington saying the reversal "threatens the health and safety of women nationwide by limiting access to safe reproductive health care and undermining the public's trust in law enforcement."
"Abortion bans disproportionately harm sexual abuse, rape, incest, human trafficking, and domestic violence victims," she said. "This decision will only strip survivors of gender-based violence of their safety, dignity, and autonomy and severely jeopardizes our ability to hold criminals accountable."
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren called it a "five-alarm fire" and with other Democrats called on the president "to mobilize a whole-of-government response to protect abortion rights."
Two Republican candidates for office cheered the decision, with gubernatorial hopeful Geoff Diehl and Leah Allen, endorsed by the party for lieutenant governor, said they supported "the proper interpretation of our Constitution" by placing the question of abortion back to the states. 
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