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Top Stories

(Note: Web articles are organized in descending order from the newest to the oldest articles.)

Uni High 8th Graders Grow Big Idea Projects to Make a Difference in Local Community Gardens

June 14, 2017

This past semester Sharlene Denos planted the seed of innovation in her University Laboratory High School (Uni High) 8th grade science students. In collaboration with local Champaign-Urbana community gardens, and funded by the Illinois Learning Sciences Design Initiative (ILSDI), her students unearthed problems encountered by managers of the gardens, then, based on science learned in school, as well as via research, got to work on how to effectively solve these problems. While the science aspect of their projects was important, the main focus was really on the design element.
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Science Policy Group Seeks to Foster Careers in, Educate About, and Advocate for Science Policy

June 14, 2017

While the Science Policy Group, which began in January of 2017, might be the new kids on the block when it comes to RSOs (Registered Student Organizations), they’re not hesitant to tackle some weighty subjects, like diversity in STEM or President Trump’s impact on science education. Their latest coup? They’ve invited Illinois State Senator Scott Bennett to drop by campus to participate in a dialog about Science Policy at 4:00 pm on July 13, 2017, at Beckman Auditorium...and invite everyone to attend.
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New Female Engineer Statue to Inspire Women— Past, Present, and Future—to Embrace Engineering

May 30, 2017

Confident. Passionate. Intelligent. Courageous. Innovative. Resilient. Pioneering. Successful. Inspirational. These character traits describing Illinois’ women engineers are emblazoned on the platforms which support the Quintessential Engineer, Illinois’ newest statue: a female engineer. Unveiled on April 28, 2017, the statue, located just east of MNTL, was four years in the making. While Engineering grad student Sakshi Srivastava is quick to credit Texas Instruments, artist Julie Roblatt Amrany, and the many folks across campus who helped to bring it about, it was Srivastava who first dreamed of a statue to serve as a role model for young women. And it was Srivastava's courage, confidence, and determination (plus a little help from her friends) that helped that dream become a reality.
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ESJ Scholars’ End-of-Semester Pecha Kucha Address Social Justice Issues in Engineering

May 23, 2017

To showcase their final projects related to social justice issues they’re passionate about, eleven engineering undergrads who were part of the pilot for the new, two-semester-long Engineering for Social Justice (ESJ) Scholars program presented Pecha Kucha in an end-of-the-semester event. (In this Japanese presentation style, 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each, keeping presentations by multiple speakers concise and fast paced). On hand to witness the May 8 final event, were a number of interested Engineering administrators, faculty, and members of the Illinois community.
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Local 8th Graders Build Solar Cars Courtesy of POETS' RET

May 23, 2017

After working for weeks designing solar cars, teams of eighth graders at University Laboratory High School and Next Generation School were either exultant or chagrined as they tested their cars to see if they would move when exposed to bright light. The project was part of the POETS’ RET program, where a team of four local science teachers were tasked with creating a multi-week curriculum unit related to power, heat, and power density that was aligned with Illinois’ Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)..
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Summer Camps Expose Students to Engineering, College Life at Illinois

May 17, 2017

High school (even middle school) students looking for something fun to do once school is out need look no further than the numerous Engineering camps being offered at Illinois this summer. Most emphasize a specific engineering discipline, such as mechanical or materials engineering, while a few introduce the students to several disciplines. Some are for girls only; others are co-ed. Some are designed with specific age groups in mind, such as younger students or older ones who are closer to graduation and grappling with choosing their careers. However, despite their differences, they’re all alike in that they use fun demos, presentations, and hands-on activities to expose participants to engineering, and they give students a taste of what college life at Illinois is like.
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Engineering Grad Students Introduce High Schoolers to Engineering Via IRISE

May 11, 2017

In spring 2017, IRISE (the Illinois partnership for Respecting the Identities of Students in Engineering) connected Illinois Engineering graduate students in the ME598EO course with local ninth-graders from Centennial High School’s AVID program. The goal was to use engineering to provide a solution to a problem in our local community. So the students sought to address obstacles athletes in the Illini Wheelchair Basketball Program encounter while training, competing, or just in everyday life. Not only did the grad students learn a lot about outreach; the high school students learned a bit about what engineers do, and a few even discovered that they might like to become one.>
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ME370 Students Find End-of-the-Semester Robot Races a Fun Learning Experience

May 9, 2017

There was a lot riding on the 36 little robots navigating the ropes stretched across Boneyard Creek for ME 370's final competition. Held just north of the Engineering Building at noon on Wednesday, May 3rd, the contest drew a crowd of interested spectators who vicariously experienced the little robots' ups and downs, "oohing" and "ahing" during the spectacle. For the students, the contest not only motivated them to show off their engineering prowess; it got their competitive juices flowing as they sought to beat the socks off their opponents. And as an added incentive, teams whose robots beat the time set by Professor Socie's robot got to skip the upcoming final exam.
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Kelly CrossScience Policy Group Hosts Brown Bag Luncheon About Diversity Initiatives in STEM

May 3, 2017

On April 19th, a number of University folk interested in increasing diversity in STEM attended a brown bag luncheon, "Diversity Initiatives in STEM." The featured speakers at the event were Ellen Wang Althaus, Director of Graduate Diversity in the Chemistry Department, and Jennifer Greene, a Professor in Educational Psychology. Sponsoring the event was a new RSO (Registered Student Organization), the Science Policy Group, which began in fall of 2016.
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Alleyne and Wissa Foster Interdisciplinarity in New Biomimetics/ Bioinspiration Course

May 3, 2017

Folks in different disciplines, say engineering and biology, often don’t know how to talk to each other and, thus, have trouble collaborating. So Marianne Alleyne, a Research Scientist in Integrated Biology’s Entomology Department, and Aimy Wissa, an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE), have teamed up to try to change that. They’ve designed a new biomimetics/bioinspiration course, ME 498/IB496, which seeks to use an advanced design experience to foster an interdisciplinary mindset among students in the course.
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POETS Seminar, ENVISION, Seek to Get Grad Students Hooked on Outreach

April 26, 2017

The objective of the contest? To use a pizza box to build a solar oven capable of heating up a marshmallow to the hottest temperature possible. But in a room full of 50 or so talented and competitive engineering graduate students from four POETS universities, the challenge wasn’t so much the design itself. It was about finishing first and getting one of the coveted, optimal spots in front of a limited number of lights!
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Leal's Career Grant: Research in Soft Materials, Mid-GLAM Camp for Girls, Workshop for Incarcerated Adults

April 24, 2017

Cecelia Leal, an Assistant Professor in Materials Science and Engineering (MatSE), was recently awarded a 5-year National Science Foundation Grant called, “CAREER: Nanostructured Soft Substrates for Responsive Bioactive Coatings,” to study key fundamental properties of biocompatible lipid materials. Because Career grants also require researchers to do an educational outreach component, in addition to the graduate students she’ll be training and mentoring, Leal will be doing a new summer camp for middle school girls and a workshop for incarcerated individuals as part of the Education Justice Project.
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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.
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Kelly Cross“Double Bind” Study Examines Obstacles Women of Color Face in Engineering

April 10, 2017

“You don’t want diversity just for the sake of diversity, don’t want them just for the sake of having them in the room. You want them for their perspective.” – Kelly Cross

Kelly Cross and several colleagues have begun a three-year study funded by the National Science Foundation to examine the experiences of women of color in engineering. Aptly named “The Double Bind of Race and Gender: A Look into the Experiences of Women of Color in Engineering,” the study Cross is conducting, along with Jenny Amos, Kathryn Clancy, Princess Imoukhuede, and Ruby Mendenhall, is looking at how women of color are doubly disadvantaged. They not only have to overcome historical gender inequities inherent in engineering, but also face the many challenges racial minorities encounter.
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Mahomet Second-Graders Experience Hands-On Chemistry Courtesy of REACT

April 5, 2017

When members of Illinois’ REACT (Reaching and Educating America's Chemists of Tomorrow) program visited Sangamon Elementary School’s 2nd grade classrooms the week of April 4–8 to lead the students in several chemistry activities, it was a win-win for all involved. The teachers met some of their Next Generation Science standards about the properties of matter. REACT students had the rewarding experience of giving back to their community. And while participating in several hands-on activities and demonstrations, the 2nd-graders learned some things about chemistry…and discovered that science is fun.
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EOH Visitors Discover that Engineering is Fun, Exciting, and Can Change the World

March 27, 2017

Making the pilgrimage to Illinois to take part in Illuminate New Horizons, the 2017 edition of Engineering Open House (EOH) were thousands of visitors, young and old, including mumerous classes on field trips, and lots of families. During the event, held on March 10–11, visitors encountered some of the many faces of engineering, ranging from current engineering students from all across campus, to alumni, who were excited to come back to their alma mater to show visitors some of the exciting projects they’re currently involved in, and possibly do some recruiting. It was clear that exhibitors hoped to engage visitors in their demonstrations and exhibits, many of which included interesting hands-on activities, to show them not only the breadth of the field of engineering, but that it’s fun and exciting, and that engineers can change the world.
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NGS Middle Schoolers Build Bridges, Experience Engineering During EOH Design Contest

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.
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EOS Contest Exposes Local Kids to EOH, Engineering

March 21, 2017

“Hail to the Orange, Hail to the Roof!” This was emblazoned in bright orange on the front of the blue t-shirts more than 200 local 1st, 3rd, and 4th grade students wore as they invaded Engineering Open House (EOH) on Friday, March 10. They showed up to participate in the Engineering Outreach Society (EOS) engineering contest. Their main goal? To determine how well the house their team had constructed—particularly the roof—would stand up to the test: an avalanche of “hail” stones...
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two girls play with oobleck REACT: Recruiting Tomorrow's Chemists Today Via Fun, Hands-On Activities

March 17, 2017

If you happen to visit a local 2nd, 3rd, or 4th grade classroom and find the students doing an engaging, hands-on activity about chemistry, it’s probably being led by members of REACT (Reaching and Educating America's Chemists of Tomorrow). Chemistry's student outreach group, which specializes in engaging hands-on activities and demonstrations, can be found in local classrooms, school STEM nights, and other community outreach events, showing learners of all ages that Chemistry is fun and exciting.
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Barkstall STEM Night Exposes Students and Their Families to Fun Science and Engineering

March 15, 2017

A large number of Barkstall Elementary School students, along with their parents and siblings, ended up back at school on Thursday evening, February 23rd to take part in the school’s Science Fair/STEM Night. In addition to viewing science fair project posters made by Barkstall students, participants took part in a number of fun, STEM-related hands-on activities and demonstrations presented by Barkstall folks, as well as University of Illinois students, including some from the Physics Van and REACT outreach groups.

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Girls Discover that Engineering Is Sweet at Introduce-A-Girl-to-Engineering Day

March 7, 2017

About one hundred girls (and their parents) from around the state (and even a couple from out of state), showed up at the 2017 edition of SWE’s Introduce-a-Girl-to-Engineering Day (IGED). The largest SWE (Society of Women Engineers) outreach event of the year, it was held at Illinois on Saturday, February 22nd. Not only did the participants learn a bit about the different engineering disciplines, they learned that like many of the female role models at the event, they too could do engineering and make a difference in other peoples’ lives.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Melinda LaniusLots of Local Kids (and Parents) Have Fun with Math at Math Carnival: Gathering for Gardner

February 3, 2017

Hundreds of local adults and children converged on Altgeld Hall on Saturday, January 28th for Math Carnival: Gathering for Gardner. As they participated in the numerous puzzles, games, riddles, magic tricks, and other hands-on activities, they discovered that math is more than just figures and formulas.According to Melinda Lanius, a math Ph.D. student who, along with Assistant Professor Philipp Hieronymi, organized this year’s event, “Math is play!” So numerous volunteers from Illinois’ Department of Mathematics, Illinois Geometry Lab, and Association for Women in Mathematics spent the afternoon showing members of the community that play can indeed be math—and that it’s fun.

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Melinda LaniusNext Generation Preschool's Grazi Murad Imparts Love of Science, Animals to Students

January 30, 2017

Practically the first thing one sees upon entering Next Generation School’s Preschool is an intriguing, glass-enclosed structure—science teacher Grazi Murad’s classroom. When one ventures into the room, replete with exhibits, butterfly-filled cases, and animals in enclosures that simulate the different habitats the animals are from, her love of animals—and her students—is quite apparent. That her students love her and her hands-on style of teaching science is also readily apparent. The kids not only get to look at and hear about the eclectic range of animal friends in Murad’s menagerie, they get to meet them face to face—animals like Lizzy the Leopard Gecko, Gizmo the Bunny, Arnaldo the Chinese Water Dragon, and Bridget the Fire Corn Snake. They even get to touch them…if they’re brave enough.

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Melinda LaniusMath Carnival: Gathering for Gardner to Show Kids—Math Is Play…and Fun!

“It’s flipping the switch. Every time we have this event, kids are like, ‘Wait, this counts as math?’ Because they’re having fun! – Melinda Lanius

January 20, 2017

The math folks in charge of the 2017 edition of the Math Carnival: Gathering for Gardner have one goal in mind: trying to get kids to realize that math is more than just some dry formulas memorized in school, but it’s a creative, problem-solving process that’s fun. So from 2:00-5:00 pm on Saturday, January 28th, volunteers from the Department of Mathematics, IGL (Illinois Geometry Lab), and Association for Women in Mathematics will be on hand at Altgeld Hall to get the community, especially local kindergarten through middle school youngsters, engaged and playing with math. “That’s the spirit behind this—Math is play!” says Melinda Lanius, a math Ph.D. student who, along with Assistant Professor Philipp Hieronymi, is organizing this year’s event..

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