Stories about...6–8 STEM Outreach
Local Youths' Renewable Energy Invention Propels Them to the Regionals in Toshiba’s ExploraVision Contest
April 20, 2017
One doesn’t have to be an adult to be an inventor. Nor does one have to be an adult to be green. Dina Hashash and Lawrence Zhao, two local 7th graders at Next Generation School in Champaign are doing their part to promote renewable energy in order to help solve the energy crunch. As part of ExploraVision, Toshiba’s K–12 program designed to “engage the next generation in real-world problem solving, with a strong emphasis on STEM,” the two invented the BioKT. It's a watch-like device that harvests both kinetic and thermal energy from the body of its wearer. Their innovative design helped them reach the Regionals of the contest, an achievement celebrated by an awards ceremony at their school on April 13th.
March 23, 2017
It had all come down to this. It was crunch time—figuratively, and possibly literally, if their bridge built as part of the Engineering Open House (EOH) Middle School Design Contest collapsed while being tested. For weeks, three teams of eighth graders from Next Generation School (NGS) in Champaign had been designing bridges—building their prototypes, testing them, working out any kinks. Finally, Saturday, March 11th, the day of the contest, had arrived. With their fingers crossed, each team eagerly watched Illinois engineering students attach a bucket to their bridge then slowly fill it with sand. The idea was to see how much sand could be added before their bridge buckled. And whether they won an award or not, they’d learned a lot: about teamwork; about the engineering process; and what being a Civil Engineer might be like.
At the 2017 NGS Science & Engineering Fair, Every Student Is a Winner!
March 6, 2017
Friday, February 17th, 2017 wasn’t just any day at Next Generation School in Champaign; it was the day of the much-anticipated 2017 Science & Engineering Fair. And just as in previous years, it wasn’t a competition— no individual student or team won a ribbon or prize for having the best project. All the students were winners: they designed and completed a research project, learned the scientific or engineering method, and prepared a poster. Then, after working on their project for weeks, students finally got to present them to community experts, many from the University of Illinois, who provided not only positive comments about what students had done well, but ways they needed to improve, and even suggestions regarding further research they might do in the future.
Student Spotlight: Hani Awni–Engineering for Social Justice Scholar
March 1, 2017
Hani Awni was not always interested in the role engineering should play in regards to social justice, but after venturing into the real world, he realized there was more. Hani is an engineering student who studied what he found “technically interesting” during his undergraduate years, but following two years working in Silicon Valley, he was left looking for more.
UHS Scholar-Athletes Discover “Omics,” the IGB, at I-STEM’s DNA & Health Day
March 1, 2017
Taking a break from their regular classes… and the gym, on February 22nd, 63 scholar-athletes from the Urbana High School boys’ and girls’ basketball teams visited the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) on campus to learn about DNA sciences during I-STEM’s DNA and Health Day. While learning about DNA and Health via a number of hands-on activities, they also got to interact with some Illinois researchers. During a tour of the IGB, they got hands-on experience with state-of-the-art microscopes and cutting-edge technology. And over a pizza lunch, they discovered some resources available for them should they choose to attend Illinois. What did the students take away from the event? Hopefully the notion that exploring the world of “Omics” is intriguing and fun and that they too could become scientists if they so choose.
Engineering for Social Justice Scholars Program Helps Students Rethink Engineering's Role in Society
November 10, 2016
Are you passionate about righting historical inequities in our society? Do you have a penchant for STEM outreach to multi-ethnic middle-schoolers? For 18 engineering undergrads, the answer to both of these questions was a resounding “Yes!” So this fall, they signed up for Engineering’s new, two-semester-long Engineering for Social Justice (ESJ) Scholars Program.
Illinois Math Women Seek to Keep Kids, Especially Girls, in the STEM Pipeline
June 3, 2016
Like most women in STEM, math Ph.D. students Michelle Delcourt, Melinda Lanius, and Claire Merriman, are articulate, born leaders, passionate about math, and committed to outreach. Also like most STEM women, they want to make a difference…specifically to recruit more young people, especially girls, into their field—mathematics. So all three are actively involved in the Illinois chapter of Association of Women in Math (AWM) and in math outreach, like that of the Illinois Geometry Lab (IGL) and several outreach events sponsored by AWM: Sonia Math Day, the Summer Illinois Math Camp, and GEMS.
SWE's "Save the World With Engineering" Outreach Targets Middle School Girls
May 16, 2016
Up to date on current research about STEM outreach, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at Illinois is aware that middle school is the crucial age to expose youngsters to STEM, and also that today’s young people want careers in which they can make a difference. So on April 16th, 2016, SWE held it’s first-ever SWE (Save the World with Engineering) event, an outreach that both targeted middle school girls and showed them that through careers in engineering, they can change the world.
ECE's Kitt Peterson Exposes Local Middle Schoolers to Rapid Prototyping
May 6, 2016
While it will be several years before Champaign-Urbana’s current crop of middle school students get the keys to their own car, at least a number of them now have a key chain to put them on. And it’s one that they designed themselves, thanks to ECE graduate student Kitt Peterson and MechSE’s Education Coordinator, Joe Muskin, who developed a curriculum that introduces rapid prototyping to sixth graders. So during the 2015–2016 school year, around 90 middle school students at Jefferson, Franklin, and Edison Middle Schools learned how to use TinkerCAD, a free, online software, then designed key chains, which were then 3D printed.
Local Students Learn About DNA During I-STEM's DNA Day Outreach Event
May 3, 2016
A group of 29 mostly underrepresented local students from Urbana High School and several Champaign middle schools and high schools visited campus on Friday, April 29 to participate in "DNA Applications: Interdisciplinary Perspectives for STEM Careers."Hosted by the I-STEM Education Initiative as part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-sponsored National DNA Day activities, the event, primarily via hands-on activities and tours, introduced the local students to DNA, some DNA research done on campus, and some careers that deal with DNA. Students were also encouraged that they, too, could go to college, and were apprised of several resources available to help them achieve that goal.
MCBees Help Provide Student Support, Recruit, & Share the Joy of Science
April 26, 2016
In the past, new graduate students coming into Illinois' 10-year-old School of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) didn’t have much interaction with other grad students who had been in MCB for a while. During their first six months at Illinois, they were somewhat isolated as they rotated from lab to lab to find their niche, then got further divided as they entered one of MCB’s four departments: Biochemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular and Integrative Physiology (MIB). Then, once that first semester was done, they didn’t really come into contact with their classmates any more, “because you kind of get busy with your work," admits Biochemistry grad student Amruta Bhate, "and you only meet people from your department."
NGS Students on the Ball Teaching BTW Kindergarteners About Polymers
April 26, 2016
Garbed in rubber gloves and protective goggles, Next Generation School (NGS) eighth graders on a February 23rd field trip to Booker T Washington STEM Academy (BTW), shared with BTW kindergarteners the art of making bouncy balls. According to NGS Science Teacher Bryant Fritz, it was a win-win for both groups of students. His eighth graders experienced working with young children and how to take the principles they have learned down to a level younger students can understand. BTW youngsters were exposed to some lab principles, learned how to use scientific equipment, and, of course, ended up with a ball that they had made all by themselves (with a bit of help from their older mentors.) And they all had fun.
2016 NGS Science & Engineering Fair Fosters to Research/Presenting to Experts
March 24, 2016
February 19th, 2016 was probably circled in red on the calendars of many Next Generation School students (and most likely their parents’ calendars, too). After weeks spent choosing a project, learning about their subject in depth, designing and conducting a research project, then making a poster, the day of the school’s Science and Engineering Fair had finally arrived. Projects completed, the students were excited to finally get to present their research—first, to a local expert, who gave them positive, and possibly negative, feedback—then later, to mom and dad during the evening session open to the public..
ChiSE Program Exposes Chicago Public Schools Students to STEM...and Illinois
January 21, 2016
Instead of watching cartoons or sleeping in, several Saturday mornings a semester, 100+ Chicago Public School (CPS) 5th through 7th grade students can be found doing math and physics activities as part of Illinois' Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering (ChiSE) STEM enrichment program. Seeking to expose traditionally underserved students (and their parents) to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), ChiSE is comprised of a number of Illinois faculty, staff, and students who also devote their Saturdays to work with these youngsters in hopes of increasing their interest in STEM—and possibly even STEM careers.
2015 NGS Science & Engineering Fair Called the "Most Successful" Ever
February 18, 2015
Like a swarm of bees, a noticeable buzz of anticipation was in the air as students waited to present their science projects during Next Generation School's (NGS) Science and Engineering Fair. After weeks of prep both at home and in the classroom—it was finally the big day! The students would get to present their research to one of the local experts who had gathered for the event. The hope of the organizers was that these students would not only gain valuable feedback about their specific project, but that ultimately they would have gained a better understanding of the scientific process and possibly even a new passion to explore STEM fields when they grow up.
Mommy, Me and SWE Strives to Convince Girls That They Can Be Engineers Too
November 13, 2015
Twenty-six 4th–6th grade girls and their mothers (plus one dad) visited campus this past Saturday (November 7th, 2015) as guests of SWE (the Society of Women Engineers) to participate in the group's fall outreach event, Mommy, Me and SWE. The goal of the dozens of female engineering students who participated in the event was to pique the girls' interest in engineering and show them that, like their "big sisters," they too have what it takes to become engineers.
UMS STEM Night Exhibitors Hope Their Enthusiasm for STEM Is Contagious
April 25, 2014
Excited about sharing their passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) with Urbana Middle School students and their families, some area folks devoted a Thursday evening to participate in the school's fourth STEM Night on April 10, 2014. For example, members of the Fouke Research Group, the Society of Women Engineers, and Materials Advantage brought fun STEM hands-on activities with which to engage visitors.
Memory Metal to Oobleck: NanoDays Makes Learning About Nanoscience Fun
April 10, 2014
Last weekend, 22 6th–8th grade students from Next Generation School (NGS) participated in NanoDays, a program offering unique hands-on learning experiences about nanoscale science. The two-day event was held at the Champaign Public Library on Friday, April 4th, and the Orpheum Children's Science Museum on Saturday, April 5th. The role of NGS students was to demonstrate to NanoDays visitors the unique properties of nanoscale materials...
Next Generation School's Science and Engineering Fair: Every Student Is a Winner
March 11, 2014
Compared to most science fairs, Next Generation School's Science and Engineering Fair is unique, in that no one student or team is designated the winner. After weeks researching and learning about a subject in depth, designing and conducting a research project, and finally making a poster presenting their results, during the February 21st fair, each student had the opportunity to present their research to a local expert for feedback—making all the students winners.
First Lego League—More Than Just Robots
January 23, 2014
"Some people think that Lego League is just for nerds, but it's not. It's way more than robots." —Jessica Smith, First Lego League contestant.
With its carnival-like atmosphere more reminiscent of Mardis Gras than a STEM event, the recent First Lego League (FLL) Robotics Tournament held at the ARC on campus gave young robotics aficionados the opportunity to do more than just build and program robots. In addition to the fun of competition, camaraderie with one's teammates, and dressing alike or sporting wild and wacky costumes, hats, or paraphernalia), participants honed important life skills, such as public speaking, working on a team, and learning how to perform research.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Myong, BioE Undergrads Expose Middle Schoolers to DNA/Cell Measurement
October 31, 2012
On Wednesday afternoons, a number of Illinois bioengineering undergrads can be found at Jefferson Middle School teaching seventh and eighth graders about science. The brain child of Bioengineering professor Sua Myong, this year-long, after-school outreach program funded by the Center for the Physics of Living Cells meets once a week to expose students to techniques used to measure things in cell biology.
GIRRRLS Camp Exposes Local Middle School Girls to Engineering
April 18, 2012
"This is the kind of camp that you'd want your own kid to go to." This was the impression of Nano-CEMMS educator Carrie Kouadio, who taught a number of sessions in this summer's 2012 GIRRRLS Exploring Science and Engineering Camp. Held in the heart of campus at the Campus Middle School for Girls, the week-long camp, which ran from July 30 through August 3, 2012, gave 28 rising fifth, sixth, and seventh grade local girls a taste of a variety of engineering disciplines.
CPS Students Discover Campus...and That Learning Can Be Fun
August 22, 2012
Some smoke. A little loud noise. A physics gizmo that makes one's hair stand on end. Mutilating a Pepsi can with the force of air. Tramping around hunting insects in the great outdoors armed with a butterfly net. Illinois scientists pulled out all the stops to show a group of Chicago students that exploring science at a world-class university can be fun!
Physics Center Rises to the Challenge:
iRISE Makes Learning Science Fun
September 13, 2011
Does learning science have to be boring, or can it be not only educational, but fun? Educators in the iRISE project believe the latter. They have come together to create a unique program that gives graduate students the chance to create and teach science lessons for children, offers fun and educational programs for middle school students, and provides middle school teachers with lesson plans to use for their own classes.
iRISE and Denos Work to Get Students Hooked on Science in Middle School
July 31, 2012
One of Sharlene Denos' passions is to expose middle school students to hands-on activities in order to pique their interest in science so it becomes a life-long interest—possibly even a career. Denos hopes to give today's middle school student opportunities she didn't have at that age.
Science Olympiad National Tournament turns K-12 students' attention to STEM
May 6, 2010
Around 3000 STEM-inclined middle- and high-school students from around the country converged on the Illinois campus May 21–22, 2010 to participate in the National Science Olympiad Tournament.