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Stories from... 2013

Martha GilletteMartha 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...
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During the Next Generation School tour of the Ford Lab, MechSE grad student Kun Hyuck Lee (left) illustrates the type of model that can be manufactured at the lab, while fellow tour guide Matthew Mayer looks on. 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.
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Bryant FritzLocal 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.
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Pint-sized scientist-in-the-making explains her science project to Illinois Psychology professor Kara Federmeier.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.
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A BTW kindergartener operates a drill press to drill hole in his ping-pong ball mold.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.
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Betabrain contestants work to build a tower that will successfully hold up a brick.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.
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A mother and her son examine a display about "Creatures That Are Not Afraid of the Dark," while her daughter considers her career options.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.
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Allison Rogala helps a student during a hands-on activity at Tap-In.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.
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Kevin Wang of Microsoft discusses his TEALS program during a presentation at NCSA.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...
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Michael Rivkin and Angela Lee compete in the Water Quality eventMarie 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.
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Rochelle Gutierrez interacts with a local middle school students at Noyce's iMATHS club.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."
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Central HS student competes in ICTM Math ContestChampaign'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.
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4H robotics club member competes at Robotics Competition4-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.
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Two contestants competing in the 4-H Robotics Competition4-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.
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Rochelle Gutierrez interacts with a local middle school students at Noyce's iMATHS club.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.
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Rebecca Ginsburg poses by a poster of the EJP Shakespeare class's presentation of The Tempest.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.
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PI Roy Campbell and Masooda Bashir, one of the Co-PIs on the project, at the recent Digital Forensics workshop.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.
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GEMS camper enjoying making life-size graph during a math activity.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.
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Allante Whitmore Stanley presents her Water Filtration project to teachers during the PIFSE workshop.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.
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Vikram Bagchi performing research on the navel orangeworm in the Berenbaum lab. 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...
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Discover Architecture student enjoys a drawing exercise. 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.
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Camper models the fiber optics barette she made for her hair.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.
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Brian Woodard and a couple of GAMES campers follow the flight of a rocket during the launch event at Dodds' Park.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.
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GLAM camper tastes chocolate during session exploring bloom2013 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..
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High School student Chieli Moldonado (left) reads the equipment during one of Wednesday's hands-on activities, as Walt Kelly (right) from the Illinois State Water Survey teaches campers how to analyze a water sample they have just taken from a well.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.
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Camper uses a ph strip to test a water sample during a hands-on activity exploring water purity.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.
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.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.
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G-BAM camper displays the prototype she and her team designed for the wind turbine project.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.
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EBICS REU undergrad Madeline TolishEBICS 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.
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Hannah LantChemistry 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.
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GLEE camp director, Lynford Goddard, instructs a camper during a session on optics.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.>
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Bioengineering GAMES camper doing hands-on projectG.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.
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Mats SelenMats 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."
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Vet Med student interacts with a young visitor to the Large Animal Emergency Rescue station during the fall 2013 Open House.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.
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2013 Physics Van Coordinator Scott LuedtkePhysics 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.
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Clockwise from left: CEE grad student Jeevaka Somaratna explains CEE 398 to Ann Horton-Weis and Lizanne DeStefano of I-STEM.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.
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Local youngster appreciates slime she just made in an experiment during a recent REACT outreach event at the Orpheum Children's Science MuseumREACT: 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.
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A local youngster and Illinois grad student Lorna Rios stand in front of a green screen to "dance with plants."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.
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NGS fourth-grader builds the pulley for the PLTW unit on Energy: Collisions.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.
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Two brothers blow through straws trying to "levitate" a ping-pong ball in order to observe the Bernoulli principle for themselves.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.
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Nathan DostartMechSE'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."
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CEE 398 students examine the smoke stacks during a tour of Abbott Power Plant.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.
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iRobotics member judges an event during the recent practice robotics competition.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...
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Tina Huang exhibits a flask she "turned silver" by shaking the contents together.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).
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