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Top Stories

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

Uni High Sophomores Build Infant Incubators Courtesy of POETS-RET-Developed Curriculum

June 14, 2019

“What is the point of this?!” a middle school student asked several of the 22 Summer Illinois Math (SIM) Camp Epsilon participants during an activity on the first day of week-long day camp which ran from June 10–14th. Tied into a “human knot,” he and several of his fellow campers were trying to get untangled. Here’s how they got in this predicament: they stood in a circle facing each other; each raised their right hand and took the hand of someone across from them, then took another’s hand with their free hand. The goal? To untangle the knot without letting go of each other’s hands, deciding which players should go over, under, backwards, or forwards until they all ended up in a single circle, still holding hands.

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Uni High Sophomores Build Infant Incubators Courtesy of POETS-RET-Developed Curriculum

June 11, 2019

During the spring semester, as a part of the POETS RET program’s ongoing curriculum development, University Laboratory High School (Uni High) students in science teacher David Bergandine’s chemistry classes tried out POETS’ Infant Incubator curriculum. Here's the scenario: students were to develop an infant incubator which could be used in the developing world in places where folks often can't use electricity. And because this was for a chemistry class, they were to use a chemical reaction to generate heat. Also as part of the curriculum, they were to create a poster and present at an end-of-the semester poster session, complete with judges and prizes.

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CPLC’s BESO Program Teaches International Prep Academy Students About DNA…in Spanish

June 4, 2019

Navigate a mouse robot through a maze; program a Dash robot; make a DNA model with candy; experience DNA origami: these are some fun STEM activities 60 third grade students from Champaign’s International Prep Academy (IPA) got to do during a May 16th field trip to campus as part of the BESO (Bilingual Engineering and Science Outreach) program. Sponsored by the Center for the Physics of Living Cells (CPLC), the spring 2019 program featured DNA-related hands-on activities in the school, capped off by a visit to NCSA where students rotated through several additional STEM activities around the main theme for the outreach–DNA. But what was especially unique about the program was that most of the activities were conducted in Spanish.

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POETS Young Scholars Program Attracts High Schoolers to Research

May 28, 2019

POETS’ Young Scholars program does just what its name implies—it gives young (high school) students the opportunity to engage in scholarly pursuits—conduct research and learn what it means to be part of a research team—just like their older counterparts. In fact, they’ve even gotten to present their research in a number of venues, including Young Scholars’ end-of-summer poster session, at the Emerging Researchers National Conference (ERN), and most recently, to the Champaign School Board. And for three local youth who have been a part of the program, Neha Hebbar, Darius Jackson, and Kerene Kombe, this extensive exposure to academia has pretty much sealed the deal: at least two of them want to continue the research path they’ve been pursuing once they get to college, and maybe even further.

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A local eighth grader learns about milk's hydrophobic and hydrophyllic properties.MCBees Share Their Passion for Science With Jefferson Middle School Students

May 21, 2019

Thanks to the MCBees, Jefferson Middle School eighth graders learned about some basic science topics in spring 2019, such as cells and the pH scale. A couple of times a month from February through May 2019, nine members of Illinois’ School of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) graduate student organization dropped by Elizabeth Wheatman’s and Sammy Yoo’s  classes to lead students in some fun, STEM hands-on activities. The MCB Ph.D students (and postdocs) hoped to pique the younger students’ interest in science and possibly add some diversity to the field. Plus, the eighth graders weren’t the only ones to benefit; the scientists themselves got a lot out of the partnership. Some just enjoyed getting out of the lab for a bit, and others were reminded why they had become passionate about science in the first place.

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May '19 Industrial and System Engineering grads, Frances Ponicki, Teresa Ponicki, Mary Ponicki, and Siobhan Fox, ready for graduation.Female Industrial and Systems Engineering Graduates Poised to Make a Difference

May 17, 2019

Ready. Set. Go! It’s May, and a new batch of Illinois engineers, including Siobhan Fox and Frances, Teresa, and Mary Ponicki, with whom I-STEM has had significant interactions during their tenure at Illinois, are chomping at the bit to go out and change the world. The top of their respective high school classes, upon arriving on campus as freshmen, they discovered that it was a whole new ball game. They all experienced failure in one form or another, or encountered challenges that they had to work to overcome. But through the community here at Illinois, including some amazing Engineering professors, they overcame those challenges and have emerged prepared for the future—well-trained, inspired, and excited to use their knowledge and skills to problem solve and to make the world a better place.

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iRobotics Uses Robots to Get Local Youngsters Interested in STEM

May 13, 2019

On April 1st, several local youngsters whose parents were participating in the Health Make-A-Thon got an up-close-and-personal introduction to robots courtesy of iRobotics, an Illinois RSO (Registered Student Organization) that seeks to spread its members’ passion for engineering and robotics to youth throughout the community. The children at the event not only watched these robots in action, but they even discovered some of the things the little machines can do firsthand when they got to hold the controllers and operate a couple themselves. The iRobotics students were hopeful that this early exposure to robotics might lead to an interest in STEM or even robotics down the road.

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Design for America members Brianna Creviston and Kirtan Patel run DFA's 2019 Engineering Open House booth.Design for America Espouses Human-Centered Design to Solve Unmet Needs

May 6, 2019

So you try something out and if it doesn’t work, stop doing it. If it is working, make it better and do it more. – Lucas O’Bryan on Design Thinking

The goal of the Illinois chapter of Design for America (DFA), according to its president, senior Lucas O'Bryan, is “to create local, social impact through projects that are focused on or partnered with community organizations.” So, through DFA, multidisciplinary teams of students seek to positively impact people’s lives by solving problems using the Human-Centered-Design Process.

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A young visitor exhibits the model she made of graphene for flexible electronics.Cena y Ciencias Exposes Hispanic Elementary School Students to Materials Science at MRL

April 29, 2019

As part of I-MRSEC’s Cena y Ciencias (Spanish for “Supper and Science”) outreach program, a group of mostly Hispanic K–5 students and their families followed a supper of free pizza at Urbana’s Dr. Preston Williams Elementary School with a visit to the Materials Research Lab (MRL) for the second and equally-as-fun part of the evening—some science. During the April 1st event, the visitors not only participated in a variety of materials-related, hands-on activities, but they also got to interact with Illinois students and staff. Also, since many of those presenting were Hispanic and were leading the activities in Spanish, the youngsters also got to see scientists who look like them and who speak their language.

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Amaury Saulsberry, a member of the winning team who dreamed up Nouvou, the Smart Pacifier, shows off their prize, a Health Make-a-Thon Encourages Local Citizens to Dream Up Ideas for Improving Health

April 22, 2019

Dream it; make it! This pithy slogan epitomized the Carle Illinois College of Medicine’s (CI MED) recent Health Make-a-Thon, whose lofty goal was to democratize health innovation. The aim of the competition was to foster innovative ideas for improving human health by offering a huge incentive: a chance for contestants to win $10,000 in Health Maker Lab resources to create a real prototype of their idea.

Regarding the term “democratize,” Libby Kacich, the CI MED Communications and Marketing Director, explains it like this: “So, to bring literally anyone in Champaign County into a role of being empowered to bring ideas for improving health care to life.” Chemistry Professor Marty Burke, the College’s Associate Dean for Research, alludes to the “everything-I-need-to-know-I-learned-in-kindergarten” mentality, defining democratization as: “to invite everyone into the sandbox.”

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Leon Liebenberg presenting about his adventures with playful pedagogies during the recent Playful by Design Symposium.Via ENGINE, a Group of Illinois Educators Promote Using Playful Pedagogies to Engage Students

April 10, 2019

While Illinois students receive a good education and become highly sought after once they graduate, a group of Illinois faculty and educators believe faculty can do an even better job of engaging students. So a multidisciplinary team of educators with similar goals of improving education are collaborating in a new program called ENGINE: ENGagment In eNgineering Education, whose focus is for not just engineering faculty but all Illinois faculty to move beyond traditional teaching methods to explore a number of engaging new pedagogical strategies. A key objective, along with engaging students, is to share their passion for playful learning with other educators by developing resources then assessing the impact of these new teaching pedagogies to share with other faculty, both on campus and beyond.

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An Illinois student stands with their candy wave demo.Engineering Open House Poised to Pique Students’ Interest in Engineering, Illinois

April 3, 2019

On March 8–9, thousands of visitors, including children and their parents, school field trips, and presenters, such as current Illinois engineering students and even alumni showed up to participate in Dare to Defy, the 2019 Engineering Open House. For the elementary and middle-school-aged visitors, it was a chance to learn more about science and engineering. (And let’s admit it, for students and even teachers, a day away from school is always fun.) For many high school students, it was a chance to discover what being an engineering student at Illinois might be like and possibly narrow down their career choices. For the many alumni and their industry colleagues who presented exhibits, it was a chance to display their products, share their experiences in engineering, and possibly get some young students interested in their field and maybe even their company. For all participants, it was a chance to celebrate engineering at Illinois.

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A Franklin student experiences virtual reality during the students' visit to MRL.Franklin Steam Academy Students Experience High-Tech Science at MRL

March 27, 2019

On February 25th, Franklin STEAM Academy eighth grade students took a break from their science textbook to experience some real-world, high-tech science first hand during a visit to MRL (the Materials Research Lab), home of I-MRSEC (the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center). The field trip was one of the highlights of I-MRSEC’s “Musical Magnetism,” a multi-disciplinary curriculum that used rap and music to expose students to materials science and magnetism. At MRL, the university folk pulled out all the stops, proudly introducing the youth to some of their million-dollar equipment and exposing them to some of the cool stuff they do—all while practicing another of I-MRSEC’s main emphases: scientific communication.

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Christing Mehr (center) gives some advice to a couple of students building their egg-drop apparatus.Clinton 4-H Group Visits Campus, Experiences STEM at Illinois

March 20, 2019

On March 4th, ten junior high and high school students, members of Clinton County’s 4-H Federation leadership group, traveled up from southern Illinois to spend the day on the Illinois campus. During their visit, they participated in STEM hands-on activities and briefly toured a number of campus buildings, including the IGB. While here, they were exposed to several STEM disciplines, dabbling a bit in Mechanical Engineering, Math, Aerospace Engineering, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Entomology. Plus, they got to interact with a number of Illinois students to find out what being a student at Illinois might be like, as well as some possible career options.

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Scott Clem exhibits some of his hover fly collection.Entomology’s 2019 Insect Fear Film Festival Touts the Terrific Termite

March 18, 2019

Lest anyone get the wrong idea about the 36th annual Insect Fear Film Festival (IFFF), the event wasn’t just to celebrate scary (or cheesy, perhaps?) movies about an insect. The February 23rd event was actually a love-fest celebrating insects, particularly the star of the evening, the termite. Sponsored by Entomology and the EGSA (Entomology Graduate Student Association), the goal of the evening was to help folks overcome their fear of insects, plus to educate them that not all insects are pests, but that many are actually useful. And of course, the overarching goal for the evening was for everyone to have fun.

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An eighth grader experiences virtual reality during the students' visit to MRL.I-MRSEC’s Musical Magnetism Curriculum Uses Hip Hop to Teach Science

March 12, 2019

It’s not your mother’s science class…or music class, for that matter! The goal of I-MRSEC’s “Musical Magnetism” curriculum was to expose Franklin STEAM Academy eighth grade students to materials science and magnetism, but also to another of the center’s main emphases: scientific communication. What’s unique about the lesson plans is that they embraced a medium today’s kids can probably get into: hip hop or rap. So, after a number of Illinois researchers, students, and staff, who also served as role models, had exposed the students to multidisciplinary lessons in several related areas, the kids teamed up to create then present raps about specific areas of magnetism.

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Natalie Beccera helps Wiley Elementary students test their solar car.Becerra and Muskin Expose Wiley Fifth Graders to Engineering Via Fun Solar Projects

March 7, 2019

On most Tuesday mornings since the end of January, Tanissa Tutwiler's 5th grade class at Wiley Elementary has been learning some things about mechanical, electrical, even environmental engineering via some cool hands-on projects, including making a solar cell and designing a solar car. The activities were presented by a couple of Illinois staff who are passionate about STEM education: Natalie Becerra, who currently works as Extra Help for the Graduate Office in Academic Affairs, but who dreams of doing STEM outreach permanently, and Joe Muskin, the Education Coordinator of the Mechanical Science and Engineering Department.

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A participant tests the battery she and her teammates made.Middle School Girls Discover Engineering Is Fun During SWE’s Round Robin

March 6, 2019

Nine 5th through 7th grade girls showed up on Saturday, February 23rd, for Engineering Round Robin, hosted by the Illinois chapter of Society of Women Engineers (SWE). The idea was to pique the girls’ interest in engineering by exposing them to some of the different engineering disciplines, plus to serve as role models for them to show them that girls can be engineers too.

When deciding on which disciplines they would expose the girls to, the organizers went with some of the most common fields of engineering, such as electrical and computer engineering, and mechanical engineering. However, Rose Carroll, the Round Robin coordinator who’s a freshman in agricultural and biological engineering, reports that in previous years, the event had done a lot of civil engineering activities, like bridge building, and she had wanted to change that up a bit. “I wanted to do something different,” she reports, “especially with me being in agricultural and biological engineering. There's not many activities that are incorporated into large-scale events like this.”

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A Next Generation student shares about her project.Next Generation School’s New-Look Science and Engineering Fair Imparts the Same Old In-Depth Learning and Life-Long Skills

Feburary 28, 2019

"Courage to Be Curious," Next Generation School’s Science and Engineering Fair on February 15th, had a bit different look than in previous years—you could see from one end of the gym to the other! What was missing was the roomful of large display boards on which students had explained their research in the past. In their place were laptops, which the older kids (4th grade and up) used to present their research on websites they’d created using Weeble, an online platform. Other than that, it was exactly the same. As in previous years, it was the highlight of the year for scores of excited kids who presented to community experts. Also as in previous years, there was no 1st place winner, but every child was a winner as they learned more about their chosen topic, embraced the scientific method or engineering process, and gained communication skills…including learning how to make a website!

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Student looks through a telescopeSTEAM Studio AstroTech Unit Focuses on Telescopes Courtesy of Astronomy’s Wong

Feburary 22, 2019

When folks at STEAM Studio, Next Generation School's after-school program that emphasizes STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math [STEM], plus Art) were planning a curriculum on Astro-Technology, they recalled that the father of one of their students was an astronomer. So it made perfect sense for Illinois Astronomy Professor, Tony Wong, to come and present to Kristi Hiatt’s Tera class (3rd–5th graders). During his visit, Wong didn’t get to share much about his research in molecular clouds, star formation, or the evolution of galaxies, but he did get to zero in on a tool he uses on a pretty regular basis: the telescope. And not only did the students learn about different kinds of telescopes and what they’re good for, they actually got to put together some Galileo telescopes and look through them to see what they could see.

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A Monticello Middle School student assembles here teams incubator.Monticello Teacher Exposes Students to the Engineering Process Via a POETS-RET-Developed Curriculum

Feburary 20, 2019

For the last month or so, eighth graders in Jennifer Smith’s class at Monticello Middle School have been learning a whole lot about what being an engineer might be like. They’ve been designing infant incubators as part of a month-long curriculum Smith helped design when she participated in the POETS’ Research Experience for Teachers (RET). While doing so, they’ve not just learned some science and about the engineering process; they’ve experienced what working on a team is like.

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I-MRSEC, Champaign Unit 4's Roundtree, Embrace Hip Hop/Rap to Reach Youth at Their Level

Feburary 14, 2019

“So if you can find value and show value for what students value, then they are going to find value in the things you are asking them to value.” – Jamie Roundtree

While some folks might insist that Hip Hop or rap doesn’t belong in the classroom, some of those involved with I-MRSEC’s Musical Magnetism curriculum, including Champaign Unit 4’s Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning, Jamie Roundtree, would disagree. They’re using the medium as a way to teach the students at Franklin STEAM Academy about, and get them engaged with, science—specifically magnetism. As part of the multidisciplinary curriculum, students are creating a rap song about one of a number of principles related to magnetism.

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Members of the P cubed team work on their lego robot at the FIRST Lego Champtionship.At FIRST Lego Championship, Illinois Youngsters Have a Blast Doing Robotics, Encountering Deep Space

Feburary 12, 2019

After working for months to build then program their Lego Mindstorm robots to do space-related activities, 48 teams of 4th–8th graders (9–14-year-olds), including four local teams, showed up at the ARC on Saturday, January 26th, to compete in the FIRST Lego Championship for central and southern Illinois. The competition is sponsored by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics, and its partner Lego, (a foundation supporter), with support from its local partner, Engineering at Illinois. Along with robotics, the youth learned a bit about space; gained leadership, teambuilding, and communication skills; plus gained some core, life-long values.

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Bioengineering freshman, Saaniya Kapur.Bioengineering’s Saaniya Kapur Passionate About Biotech, STEM Outreach

Feburary 8, 2019

Bioengineering freshman Saaniya Kapur’s parents never told her, “Oh, you're too young to do this!” Instead, Mom, who is preschool teacher, and Dad, who is a computer engineer, told her to go for it. So her early love of and exposure to science have shaped her dreams of a career in biotechnology. They have also fueled her passion for STEM outreach. Her goal? To give youngsters, as well as her peers, similar opportunities to fall in love with science the way she has.

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Keith Jacobs watching through the camera as he pilots one of his drones.4H STEM Specialist Keith Jacobs Shares His Passion for Technology With Illinois Youth

Feburary 6, 2019

Entrenched in front of a newly-acquired, huge flat-screen tv that serves as his computer monitor, and surrounded by his tech toys—myriad boxes of cutting-edge technology including drones, virtual reality headsets, and 3D printers courtesy of Google, Microsoft, and other tech giants—Illinois 4-H STEM Specialist Keith Jacobs imparts his tech savvy to youth all over the state. In his free time, he’s developing drones to provide medical services to folks in remote areas. And while these two passions might seem to be totally unrelated, they’re really quite interconnected.

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Two Schlumberger recruiters show off some of the swag they gave away at the fall 2018 ECF.Looking to Find That Dream Job? Engineering Career Services and Its Upcoming Spring Engineering Career Fair Can Help

January 28, 2019

Start early! This is the pithy advice proffered by Engineering Career Services (ECS) job-hunt gurus Ulyssia Dennis and Lauren Stites. By “Start Early!” they mean that practically the second engineering students arrived back on campus after winter break, they should have roused themselves from their eggnog-and-holiday-goodie-induced fog and rushed right over to Engineering Career Services. Why? It’s time to get geared up for the spring Engineering Career Fair (ECF) on Jan 30–31.

When it comes to leveraging that shining new engineering degree into a much-coveted job in the not-too-distant future, Illinois engineering students should heed Dennis and Stites’ “Start early!” mantra. First, they recommend that students start focusing on finding that perfect job early in the semester by attending the spring Engineering Career Fair to be held at the ARC from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm on Wednesday and Thursday, January 30th–31st.

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Joe Muskin explains an experiment to Cornerstone Christian Homeschoolers.Cornerstone Christian Homeschoolers’ Students Design Infant Incubators Using POETS RET-Developed Curriculum

January 24, 2019

Over the last several months, 7th through 12th grade students who are a part of a home school support group, Cornerstone Christian Homeschoolers, have not only been learning some things about engineering and heat, but they have been discovering that engineers work to solve real-world problems. Using a POETS RET-developed curriculum, Joe Muskin, Education Coordinator for the NSF-funded POETS (Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems) Engineering Research Center, has been working with the students who, after learning some of the science and engineering they might need to draw on, have been designing infant incubators for the developing world.

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Local DREAAM House boys experience how liquid nitrogen can impact various materials.Uni High Students Bolster Local African-American Boys' Journey on the College Pipeline

January 10, 2019

On December 12, a number of University Laboratory High School (Uni High) students from the Students for a Better World (S4BW) club stayed after school in hopes of making the world a better place for twenty or so local boys. Mostly African Americans, the young boys were from the DREAAM House (Driven to Reach Academic Achievement for Males) program. Part of the Uni-DREAAM Connect partnership, the after-school outreach has this as its short-term goal: to expose young boys to fun and exciting learning opportunities, as well as mentoring. Its long-term goal? To reinforce academics, thus improving the youngsters' achievement so they can successfully navigate the educational pipeline from kindergarten to college.

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