Stories from... 2013
Martha Gillette's Favorite Dish? Interdisciplinary Research
February 5, 2013
Martha Gillette has always been a maverick. For years, she has been a pioneer in interdisciplinary research—comfortably rubbing shoulders with chemists and engineers and, for a biologist, thinking outside the box.
Gillette calls herself a neuroscientist and biologist; in many of the collaborative projects in which she's been involved, such as the NSF-funded EBICS (Emergent Behavior of Integrated Cellular Systems) project, she's the "token biologist." However, based on her current research—emerging technologies for studying neurons—which uses engineering approaches to study neuro-development, she appears to be veering over into neuroengineering...
MechSE Gives Back to the Community
February 19, 2013
When Next Generation School science teacher Bryant Fritz needed a little help with a Project Lead the Way design and modeling unit involving computer-aided drafting (CAD) and printing 3D models, he knew just whom to call. He contacted the school's big brother to the north—the Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE) Department on the Engineering campus of the University of Illinois.
Local Teacher Uses Project Lead the Way to Prepare Next Generation of Engineers
February 20, 2013
"Mr. Fritz, I'm going to be an engineer!"
This is what science teacher Bryant Fritz's middle school students are telling him when they greet him in the hallway these days. For a couple of years now, Next Generation School in Champaign has been incorporating Project Lead the Way STEM curriculum as part of its science curriculum for the 6th–8th grades, and it seems to be leaving an impression.
Next Generation School Fair: Tomorrow's Scientists & Engineers Meet Today's
March 8, 2013
When Next Generation School needed some people knowledgeable about science and engineering to serve as judges for its 2013 Science and Engineering Fair, it didn't have far to look. Lucky enough to be in the same community as a world-class university, the school found plenty of folks willing to donate some time and energy to help shape some of tomorrow's scientists and engineers.
BTW Kindergarteners Have a Ball Learning About Polymers, Manufacturing
March 11, 2013
Amidst lots of glitter and armed with rubber gloves and goggles, Booker T. Washington STEM Academy (BTW) kindergarten students recently had the opportunity to make superballs—and were exposed to one type of manufacturing process while doing so. Assisting Nano-CEMM Education Coordinator Joe Muskin, who used his knowledge of nanotechnology and his teaching expertise to guide the youngsters through the process, were about six University pre-service teachers and a team of Next Generation middle school students who sacrificed their day off of school to help mentor the kindergarteners.
Betabrain Makes Learning Engineering and Science Fun
March 13, 2013
Instead of sleeping in on Saturday morning, around 400 McClean County middle school and high school kids showed up at Normal High School in Bloomington on March 8 to participate in Betabrain, a science competition involving hands-on, problem-solving challenges. In its second year, the competition changed its emphasis from solely IT/engineering to include biology, chemistry, and physics.
Naturally Illinois Expo Uses Hands-on Activities to Interest Students...in Science, Naturally
March 15, 2013
Pet Cecil, a real live tarantula. Dig for million-year-old fossils. Hold a gargantuan grasshopper. Experience the circus atmosphere of an exhibit showcasing Illinois river otters and pet the vivacious ringmaster's stuffed otter.
These are some of the fun things a grandfather and his three grandkids found to see and do at the Naturally Illinois Expo the weekend of March 8–9. In addition to these four visitors, the Expo attracted 1900+ more, including around 1100 students, teachers, and chaperones from 12 schools and 40 classrooms.
Illinois Geometry Lab: Changing the Shape of Math Research...and Outreach
April 10, 2013
Armed with handfuls of brightly colored geometric shapes, three ambassadors from the Illinois Geometry Lab (IGL) have been dropping by Centennial High School's Tap-In after-school program on Thursdays to share their love of mathematics—specifically geometry—with the students.
Wang, Microsoft Promote Computer Science in Schools Via TEALS Program
April 12, 2013
Kevin Wang of Microsoft is on a mission. He'd like to see every high school student in America have the chance to take a computer science course. But that requires that every high school in America offer a computer course. So he's been tackling the problem…one school at a time. Now his Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program is in 35 schools and seven states. However, according to the last national study he saw, out of the 45000 high schools in America, around 38,000 don't offer computer science at all.
During Wang's April 9, 2013 campus visit, sponsored by the iRISE program, he stressed that TEALS specifically targets computer science (CS), which he says has been left out of the recent push for STEM education that has swept across America...
Marie Murphy School: A Day in the Life of an Illinois Science Olympiad Team
April 20, 2013
This reporter's foray into the behind-the-scenes world of the Illinois Science Olympiad State Tournament held on campus this past weekend happened by chance. After photographing one of the first events of the day, I stumbled onto Marie Murphy School's homeroom in Noyes Lab, where the team's coaches, 30 contestants (fifteen kids on the Varsity team, fifteen on the JV team, which does trial events), plus parents/chaperones were preparing to compete, planning out their strategy for the day, glued to computers (cramming?), or playing games to kill time.
Noyce: Training Math Teachers Who Foster Equity in the K-12 Classroom
May 2, 2013
This is Rochelle Gutiérrez' hope for her Noyce scholars when they finally become K-12 math teachers: that when they look at themselves in the mirror every day, they will be able to say, "I'm doing what I wanted to do when I went into education."
Champaign's Central, Centennial High Schools compete at ICTM Math Contest
May 6, 2013
High school students from across the state—more than 3,000 of them—flooded the Quad on Saturday morning. These students, representing more than 200 schools, came to Illinois for the annual state finals of the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM) High School Math Contest. Each team practiced their math skills throughout the year and qualified at one of 22 regional contests in order to make it to the state-wide contest.
4-H Exposes Youth to STEM Via Informal Education
May 7, 2013
Fifty years ago, 4-H used to be synonymous with youngsters competing to see who could raise the largest pig or bake the tastiest pie for the county fair. No longer your father's 4-H (or your mother's), some of the youth-development organization's clubs today are devoted entirely to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and have 20th Century topics, such as geospacial technology, video film-making, computer science, wind power, and even robotics.
4-H Robotics: Working to Make a STEM Career Down the Line Automatic
May 13, 2013
"My whole goal in this is to get more kids in STEM," 4-H Educator Bob Smith unashamedly acknowledges. In charge of 4-H Robotics for the state of Illinois, Smith provides training, expertise, and curricula for county-level 4-H club leaders and also oversees 4-H's state-wide robotics competition.
Noyce Scholars: Taking Student-Centered Math to High-Needs Schools
May 14, 2013
"Noyce is probably the best decision I've made professionally, and as far as my college career goes." Liz Denz
Liz Denz has wanted to teach math ever since her freshman year in high school. And Illinois' NSF-funded Noyce program, which provides scholarships for talented mathematics majors who want to become K-12 math teachers, is helping to make her and other Noyce scholars' dreams come true.
Education Justice Project: Motivating Prison Scholars for Change
May 24, 2013
Every Friday evening, four or five educators car pool from campus over to the Danville Correctional Center to teach at the medium- to high-security prison for men. Part of the Education Justice Project (EJP), between 60–70 professors, graduate students, and others from a variety of disciplines volunteer their time to teach workshops on topics ranging from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) to Shakespeare.
Campus Experts to Develop a Digital Forensics Undergraduate Curriculum
May 31, 2013
Want to become a digital detective? There's a new course on campus this fall: CS 498, Special Topics. Despite the course's nondescript rubric, it invites students from a number of disciplines, including computer science, criminal justice, and even law, to investigate the exciting, up-and-coming field of Digital Forensics.
GEMS: Steering Middle School Girls Toward Careers in Computer Science
June 19, 2013
Briana Chapman is a prime example of how exposing youngsters to STEM (science, technology, engineering, & math) at an early age can lead to a life-long interest—and possibly culminate in a career in STEM. Chapman, who attended GEMS (Girls Engaged in Math and Science) camp as a youngster, is not only helping coordinate this summer's edition of the computer-science-focused camp for middle school girls. Her career plans are "to somehow change the world"...via computer science.
iRISE Course Prepares Engineers for Community Outreach
July 2, 2013
Illinois graduate students who are interested in sharing their love of engineering with youngsters now have a new course at their disposal—ECE 598 EO: Community Outreach for Engineering Researchers—through which they can learn the ins and outs of outreach. Developed by iRISE (Illinois Researchers in Partnership with K–12 Science Educators), the course trains graduate students how to develop design projects then teach them to local middle school students, with the goal of creating classroom-ready teacher materials.
I-STEM Program Gives Local High Schoolers Research Experience at Illinois
July 11, 2013
Instead of tanning in the sun and playing video games all day, a group of high school students chose to devote part of their summer vacation to research in Illinois labs.
This summer 24 students from University Laboratory High School participated in the third annual I-STEM High School Research Experience...
Summer Camp Helps Students Discover Architecture
July 22, 2013
Is architecture art? Or is it engineering? Or computer-aided design? Or math or geometry?
While the 68 young people who came to Discover Architecture camp for the two, two-week sessions this summer might not be able to answer these long-debated questions, they will definitely have a better idea of what studying architecture at Illinois is like. And some will end up coming back one of these falls to try to solve the mystery themselves.
Pollen Power: Exposing Girls to Pollen—and Possibly STEM Careers
July 24, 2013
The 27 middle school girls who participated in Pollen Power camp July 8–12 not only learned about the importance of pollen. They were exposed to the technology researchers use to study it, and to female researchers and graduate students, who both taught them and served as role models. In using mostly women, Pollen Power organizers sowed this seed that they hope comes to fruition in these girls' lives: they too can follow in these women's footsteps.
G.A.M.E.S. Camp Seeks to Navigate Girls into Aerospace Engineering
August 7, 2013
The temperature wasn't the only thing going up on July 19th, the final afternoon of the 2013 G.A.M.E.S. Aerospace Engineering camp. On one of the hottest afternoons of the summer, nothing could keep the 20 girls who attended the camp; Brian Woodard, the camp director; and his enthusiastic Aerospace Engineering team from braving the heat to launch the rockets and gliders the girls had built, most of which soared high into the clouds above Dodds' Park.
2013 G.A.M.E.S. Camp Gives Girls a Taste of Engineering—and College Life
August 8, 2013
For the 167 high school girls who attended G.A.M.E.S. camp the week of July 15–19, College of Engineering folk ranging from professors, to students, to even alumni, pulled out all the stops to showcase their disciplines and to communicate this truth: Engineering isn't just for boys anymore..
From Go-Carts to Bird Banding—Science Camp Takes Hands-On to Another Level
August 16, 2013
Ever put the pedal to the metal driving a go-cart that runs on biofuel? Or hold a wild female cardinal (who has a stick tightly clenched in her beak, so she won't peck you)? Or learn how archaeologists analyze centuries-old bones? These are just a few of the exciting things twelve high school students got the opportunity to experience while participating in the inaugural run of the Prairie Research Institute Science Camp the week of July 15–19.
Environmental Engineering G.A.M.E.S. Camp Encourages Girls to Think Green
August 12, 2013
For high school girls whose dream is to save the planet, the 2013 Environmental Engineering and Sustainability G.A.M.E.S. Camp was a perfect fit. The one-week camp addressed many aspects of environmental engineering, including water quality, air quality, waste, renewable energy, and sustainability. For the final project, the girls dreamed up a concept for a sustainable campus, then incorporated engineering aspects to create a 0-emissions dorm.
GLAM Seeks to Capture Girls' Imagination About Materials
August 21, 2013
In its third year, the GLAM (Girls Learning About Materials) G.A.M.E.S. camp exposed 18 high school girls to a wide variety of materials, beginning with the perennial favorite of females of any age—chocolate.
G-BAM Sends Campers This Message:
Girls Make Awesome Engineers
August 22, 2013
"I've talked to some of our undergraduates, and you hear them say, 'Engineering's not like what I really thought it was. I somehow wound up here, and actually it's really cool now that I'm here.' I always think, 'Oh, if only we could have told them beforehand that it's going to be this fun.'" Matt West
During the first-ever G-BAM (Girls Building Awesome Machines) G.A.M.E.S. camp this summer, Associate Professor Matt West got his wish. He and Assistant Professor Elif Ertekin, who co-directed the camp...got to tell 16 high school girls beforehand how much fun mechanical engineering is.
EBICS REU Students Experience Research on Biological Machines
August 29, 2013
Not too long ago, the five undergrad students who spent the summer in Illinois labs could only have encountered biological machines in one place—straight out of Sci-Fi. But as part of EBICS' (Emergent Behavior of Integrated Cellular Systems) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, these students got to conduct research in ground-breaking new areas like biological machines and biomedical engineering.
Chemistry REU Increases Likelihood That Students Choose STEM/Research Careers
August 30, 2013
Fourteen young researchers from all over the U.S. were on campus this summer participating in a 10-week Chemistry REU program (Research Experience for Undergraduates) funded by the National Science Foundation. These undergrads experienced firsthand what research in chemistry is like at a world-class university— and what being a grad student might be like.
GLEE Campers Learn How Electrical Engineering Impacts Their Everyday Lives
September 19, 2013
During the GLEE (Girls Learning Electrical Engineering) G.A.M.E.S. camp this summer, July 15–19, fourteen high school girls learned a bit about electrical and computer engineering and got to practice what they learned during some hands-on projects working with circuits. The goal was to take something near and dear to the hearts of teenage girls—their cell phones—and help them understand some of the principles that make them work.>
G.A.M.E.S. Campers Experience Bioengineering—and Have Fun
September 24, 2013
The 30 high school girls who attended the 2013 version of the Bioengineering G.A.M.E.S. camp this past summer (July 15–19) were exposed to some cutting-edge research, such as how bioengineering is addressing the delivery of drugs in cancer patients, or microfluidics—how fluids can be constrained to nano-scale devices to study them. However, the main intent of camp co-directors Jenny Amos and Olivia Cangellaris wasn't to recruit the girls into their field. They simply wanted to expose campers to some fun engineering.
Mats Selen—Changing the Way Physics is Taught
October 8, 2013
"Well I have to confess, I was always in the closet about teaching. I did all my research, but I secretly always loved teaching as much as I did research, probably more…so suddenly, if they could be the same things, what could be better?" – Mats Selen, Physics Professor
Mats Selen loves teaching physics, and he's not ashamed to admit it. After 20 years doing particle physics research, which he found to be both exciting and rewarding, when a successful experiment of his ended, he figured, "This might not be a bad time to switch what I am doing. So I thought to turn over a new leaf and come out of the closet and be a real-life teacher all the way around."
Vet Med Open House Appeals to Young and Old Alike
October 9, 2013
It appears that McDonald's no longer has a monopoly on the marketing strategy that has made the fast-food chain practically a household word. The Vet Med Open House seems to have stumbled upon their secret: "Get 'em when they're young." Like most campus open houses, it's designed to acquaint the public with what their unit does and to recruit students to Illinois…with one notable exception. Instead of targeting mostly high school students and adults, the outreach also appeals to youngsters...of all ages.
Physics Van: A Whole Lot of Fun… Plus, You Get to Blow Stuff Up
October 16, 2013
Kids who attend a Physics Van show will come away with more than just a good time. Though kids can only learn so much science in an hour-long show, they will never forget the physics principles introduced during the Van's entertaining hybrid of slap-stick comedy and scientific wizardry. Something else they'll come away with? Physics can be fun.
SIIP: Reforming Undergraduate Engineering to Engage Students
October 29, 2013
The goal of SIIP (the Strategic Instructional Initiatives Program) is to reform Engineering's core undergraduate courses to engage students and improve learning. How? By changing the way the courses are taught, then checking with students to see if it's been effective. Is it working? Based on feedback from educators at SIIP's recent Poster Showcase on Friday October 18, it appears to be.
REACT: Reaching and Educating Tomorrow's Chemists Today
October 31, 2013
Dressed in their brand-new Halloween costumes, dozens of pint-sized (and not-so-small) witches, goblins, princesses, and the like made their way to the Trick or Treat event at the Orpheum Children's Museum on Saturday, October 26th. Inside the dimly lit auditorium, they experienced all the expected Halloween ambience: the suspenseful, eerie soundtrack of SPEED looping in the background; a faux graveyard with a giant spider web; the ubiquitous Halloween candy; and something they might not have expected. As they participated in hands-on science activities led by Illinois REACT students, they discovered one more thing: learning chemistry can be fun.
IGB's Genome Day Exposes Visitors to Genomic Research
November 13, 2013
From watching themselves dance with plants on a video screen, to using a ProScope to examine coral and fossils, to measuring the temperature of a "Yellowstone National Park hot spring," around 500 area youngsters (and their parents) who attended Genome Day on Saturday, November 2, 2013, got to learn a whole lot about genomics.
Next Generation School Pilots Project Lead the Way Elementary Curriculum
November 20, 2013
When the Big Bad Wolf shows up at the Three Little Pigs' houses to huff, puff, and blow them in, some Next Generation School kindergarteners concerned about the porkers' plight might now be able to do something about it. With the engineering principles learned through LAUNCH, Project Lead the Way's (PLTW) pilot program for elementary students, kindergarteners attempted to construct houses able to stand up to gale force winds (or a box fan, at least), thus ensuring the swine's safety.
Danville School Experiences a "Night at the Museum" Courtesy of Illinois Researchers
November 25, 2013
Growing up in Chicago, Julia Ossler went to museums a lot. "I remember just loving it, and I didn't want to leave." she reminisces. "My brother and sister would hate it because I kept them there all day." While Ossler wanted the kids at Danville's South View Middle School to have those same kinds of opportunities, obviously taking them all to Chicago museums wasn't feasible. So, as part of her Chancellor's Public Engagement project, she arranged a Science Night and took the "museum" to them.
MechSE's Dostart Hopes to Influence Local Youngsters to Choose Engineering
December 9, 2013
Nathan Dostart, a senior in Mechanical Science and Engineering, spent some early mornings at Stratton School this fall, showing Zanne Newman's fourth graders "that engineering is really cool."
Students in New Sustainability Course Tackle Real-World, Campus Problems
December 10, 2013
Ever complained about the poor condition of Illinois' interstates? Ever worried about our ever-burgeoning landfills full of garbage? Ever complained about the pot holes in campus streets, or been embarrassed that visitors' first impression of campus is a whiff of the South Farms? The 14 Civil and Environmental Engineering students who took CEE 398 PBL, a brand new sustainability course in Fall 2013, got the chance to do something about some of these issues.
iRobotics Engages Kids in the Sport to Pique Interest in Engineering
December 16, 2013
Is robotics a sport? According to the internet, it meets all of the criteria: team building, competition, awards, and the possibility of moving to a higher tournament or competition, and, thus, should be classified as a "sport of the mind." But no matter how it's classified, if a local event has something to do with robotics, it's a pretty sure thing that some students from iRobotics will show up.
While a few of iRobotics' 40 committed core members are from outside engineering, most are from Mechanical and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. But they all have one thing in common—their love of robotics...
Holiday Magic Show Helps Make the Season Merry and Bright
December 18, 2013
Area folks who attended this year's edition of the Holiday Magic Chemistry Demonstration Show discovered that learning about chemistry can not only be fun, but festive, a little loud, and quite bright. In fact, enjoying themselves as much as the rest of the audience were a couple of firemen—invited, no doubt, because of the pyrotechnic nature of many of the demos (and the slightly pyromaniacal tendencies of the performers).