Carnegie Science Heart volunteer Chuck Vukotich evokes younger individuals to like science — and attain for the celebrities – NEXTpittsburgh

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Chuck Vukotich remembers the day he devoted his life to science: Could 5, 1961.
Whereas dwelling sick from faculty, the then 11-year-old sat in entrance of the tv and watched astronaut Alan Shepard develop into the primary American in area.
Over time Vukotich has seen different adventurers, from John Glenn and Neil Armstrong to Elon Musk and most lately William Shatner, break the surly bonds of Earth. Every launch, he says, is simply as thrilling as the primary.
Vukotich, now 71, is retired from the Allegheny County Well being Division, the place he labored for 3 many years. However he’s not content material to take a seat again and depend stars.
You may often discover him on the Carnegie Science Heart, the place he volunteers as an Advisory Board Member and helps orchestrate the Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Truthful (PRSEF). It’s a “job” and a dedication to mentorship that he’s undertaken since 1992, when the North Shore facility opened.
As one of many largest and oldest science gala’s within the nation, PRSEF evokes and challenges center and highschool college students to analysis, design and current an unique experiment whereas competing for money prizes and scholarships. Vukotich chairs the PRSEF’s Choose Advisory Committee.
“The truthful wouldn’t be what it’s at this time with out his wonderful management and enthusiasm,” says Megan McKenzie, the Heart’s occasions advertising and marketing supervisor. “He’s referred to as the science truthful’s largest cheerleader, and he works with the Science Heart crew year-round to make sure a rewarding expertise for the scholars. He’s additionally closely concerned within the Worldwide Science and Engineering Truthful, and was instrumental in bringing that truthful to Pittsburgh a number of instances previously 10 years.”
Chuck Vukotich presenting the 2019 Carnegie Science Award for Junior Division Pupil to Summer season Hartman for her PRSEF undertaking. Photograph courtesy of Carnegie Science Heart.
The 83rd Annual PRSEF will happen in March. The competitors is open to all college students in grades 6 by means of 12 from the 21 counties inside Western Pennsylvania and likewise Garrett County, Maryland. Annually, roughly 1,000 college students from greater than 100 faculties take part.
Vukotich, who earned levels in chemistry and a grasp’s in public administration from Carnegie Mellon College, and one in chemical engineering from the College of Pittsburgh, says he’s discovered so much from the budding scientists.
His favourite undertaking was by an Eighth-grade woman from Ambridge who used the scientific technique to find out how the hair spray she used each morning was affecting the crops she saved in her lavatory. Via her analysis – the management group of crops was given solely water, the examine group was given water and hairspray – she deduced that the crops that soaked up Aquanet together with common H20 grew bigger.
This experiment didn’t change the course of contemporary science, however Vukotich was glad to see a scholar apply the scientific technique to one thing that them and made an impression on their life.
Over time, different memorable tasks embody a boy who developed a take a look at for detecting pancreatic most cancers. One other scholar constructed a drone that will fly into blazes and ship again real-time data to firefighters.
The passionate younger individuals remind Vukotich of that wide-eyed 11-year-old who dreamed of blasting into orbit like Alan Shepard. Life’s twists and turns saved the Mt. Lebanon resident’s toes on the bottom, however his head was all the time targeted on the dizzying heights achieved by science – and alongside the best way, on encouraging younger individuals who love science as a lot as he does.
He’s additionally conscious that science — and all it teaches us about well being and security — may also help your entire group. Vukotich helped write anti-smoking legal guidelines for each the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Metropolis of Pittsburgh, and was concerned within the seatbelt enforcement motion of the Eighties.
However area stays an ongoing fascination. Vukotich collects stamped envelopes postmarked on the date and place of area launches, together with one from Cape Canaveral dated Could 5, 1961. He even writes an everyday column for Linn’s Stamp Information, a weekly journal for stamp collectors.
House exploration, he believes, is unquestionably one thing to put in writing dwelling about.
“When you provided me a trip into orbit with a 50 % probability that I wouldn’t come again, I’d go,” he says with fun. “That’s what area is all about; being open to being adventuresome.”

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based author. When she’s not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror motion pictures and exploring Pittsburgh’s craft beer scene.