Booker T. Washington and Illinois: Partnering to Improve STEM Education

One student carefully cradles a live, tickling insect in the palm of his hand. Another makes a rubber ball from scratch using polymers. One budding engineer builds a contraption designed to protect an egg, then she tests it by dropping it from a balcony. And yet another student forms a hypothesis about which surface will have greater friction to slow down a rolling object, then tests his hypothesis.

These are just some of the innovative, hands-on activities students from Booker T. Washington STEM Academy (BTW) have been given the opportunity to do over the last several months as a result of the school's partnership with the University of Illinois. All of the above activities were designed/provided by University units and projects in collaboration with the Champaign Unit 4 elementary school's teachers to provide its students with stimulating educational programs in the areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Highlighted below are a number of the Illinois units/projects currently partnering with BTW to provide outreach activities in STEM.

BTW students build protective apparatus for their egg.
BTW students building a protective apparatus for their egg.


Professor Pat Shapley, with the help of Uni High students, performs weekly chemistry experiments with different grade levels. In a recent Egg Drop lesson, Illinois Chemistry undergraduates supervised BTW students who designed and built protective apparatuses for their eggs, then dropped them from a balcony to test their designs.

College of Applied Health Sciences

Illinois' College of Applied Health and Sciences is working with BTW on numerous projects emphasizing health and wellness. Heading up AHS's outreach to the school is Assistant Dean Renique Kersh, who serves as the chair of BTW's Health and Wellness Committee. Of the collaboration with BTW, she writes, "A highlight for me is having the opportunity to connect AHS students, who are passionate about health and well-being, to a school that is dynamic and is filled with not only great kids, but fantastic teachers and staff." Following are some of the BTW projects on which AHS has collaborated.

  • BTW Wellness Fair. Illinois staff and students from a number of units, including AHS, presented exhibits on safety and nutrition at BTW's Wellness Fair as part of the school's health and wellness emphasis.
  • Flash Workout. In a partnership between AHS, Illinois' Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, and Northeast Elementary School, BTW students participated in this health and wellness activity. Video clip
  • Go, Slow, and Whoa. This program uses posters to educate kids about healthy foods they should eat a lot of (Go), foods they can eat sometimes (Slow), and foods they should try to avoid (Whoa).
  • Read and Run. In this after-school BTW program coordinated by two AHS students, students read books on health and wellness topics, have a healthy snack, and "train" for a 1K race the kids and their adult volunteer/mentors will run in the 2012 Illinois Marathon on April 28, 2012.

EnLiST: Entrepreneurial Leadership in STEM Teaching and Learning

EnLiST’s professional development in chemistry, physics, and physical sciences provides BTW teachers with cutting-edge content knowledge, pedagogy, and entrepreneurial capacity so they can transform teaching and learning in their classrooms, school, and district.

BTW students examine bee hive during Entomology presentation.
BTW students examine bee hive at a station supplied by Pollinatarium staff during a recent presentation by Entomology.


This collaborative lesson about insects involved hands-on learning stations manned by Entomology staff and students. BTW students not only learned about insects, but got to see them up close and touch or hold some of them.

Family Resiliency Center

As a part of BTW’s health and wellness emphasis, Family Resiliency Center director Barbara Fiese will present food demonstrations on good nutrition. The parental involvement component will look at the economy of food, possibly using BTW’s Community Garden.

I-STEM Education Initiative

During BTW’s transition to a STEM academy, I-STEM helped with building design and curriculum planning. In 2012, I-STEM will collaborate with BTW on these STEM projects:

  • Summer 2012 Science Camp
  • Technology Club
  • Field trips to Illinois STEM projects
  • Elementary Science Olympiad team
Urbana Middle School student helps BTW student during a hands-on project were students used polymers to make their own rubber ball.
Urbana Middle School student helps BTW student during a hands-on project.

Nano-CEMMS: The Center for Nanoscale Chemical-Electrical-Mechanical Manufacturing Systems

NanoCEMMS faculty introduced BTW and Urbana Middle School students to nanotechnology: how scientists and engineers work to manipulate matter at the atomic or molecular level. In a recent cutting-edge engineering project, EnLiST teachers and Nano-CEMMS partnered to create a lesson where BTW students used polymers to make rubber balls, then did hands-on activities to learn about force, friction, and gravity.


BTW student uses flashlight to study color spectrum.
BTW student uses flashlight in a darkroom to study color spectrum in white light.

Physics of Living Cells

In this collaboration, Illinois staff and students from the Center for the Physics of Living Cells used hands-on learning activities to teach BTW students principles about how microscopes work and how the color spectrum is used in computer monitors.

Technology Night

BTW’s recent Technology Night involved the following Illinois projects/units:

Public Engagement Symposium

As a result of its many partnerships with different University units, BTW will be presenting a poster in the 2012 Public Engagement Symposium describing the many outreach activities provided by its many partners. The Symposium will take place from 3:00–6:00 pm on April 18, 2012, at the ARC. BTW's Public Engagement Symposium Poster
More: Booker T. Washington, K-6 Outreach

Program prepares STEM educators to teach all students

November 30, 2021
This summer, a group of educators gathered to learn about engaging STEM activities they can do with their students.
Full Story

Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program

November 11, 2021
Undergrads get a taste of research through I-MRSEC’s REU program.
Full Story

Goldstein’s Renaissance Engineering Summer Camp

November 1, 2021
Goldstein’s Renaissance Engineering Summer Camp Incorporates Art, Design, Mechatronics, and Mentoring
Full Story

TechTogether Chicago to Redefine the Hacker Stereotype

July 10, 2021
New workshops that can help inspire students to pursue careers in technology..
Full Story

Aerospace Engineering Launches Virtual Summer Camps to Pique Students’ Interest in Aero.

July 2, 2021
Design an aircraft then watch it soar after launching it with a huge rubber band. Build a Mars lander to safely transport a real egg, then test the contraption by dropping it from a second story window.
Full Story

Undergrads Experience Materials Science Research Courtesy of the I-MRSEC REU

June 16, 2021
Ten undergraduate students are spending the summer of 2021 discovering what research is like.
Full Story

MatSE Afterschool Academy

MatSE Afterschool Academy

June 14, 2021
MatSE Afterschool Academy to Introduce Students to Materials Science and Beyond.
Full Story

Taylor Tucker Embraces Multidisciplinary Interest

Taylor Tucker Embraces Multidisciplinary Interest

June 14, 2021
Taylor Tucker Embraces Multidisciplinary Interest While Researching Task Collaboration.
Full Story

Exposes Franklin Middle Schoolers to Science, CS

What Studying Engineering at Illinois is Like?

May 25, 2021
NSBE’s Michaela Horn Exposes Franklin Middle Schoolers to Science, CS, and What Studying Engineering at Illinois is Like.
Full Story

Jenny Saves a Convertible.

Children’s-Book-Writing Duo/

May 19, 2021
Convertibles and Thunderstorms—Children’s-Book-Writing Duo on Their Way Thanks to Illinois Training and Encouragement from Mentors.
Full Story

Improve Learning in Engineering

Improve Learning in Engineering

May 17, 2021
Liebenberg Espouses Mini-Projects to Engage Students Emotionally, Improve Learning in Engineering.
Full Story

Joshua Whitely makes an adjustment to the 3D Bioprinter during the demo.

BIOE435 Capstone Projects

May 12, 2021
BIOE435 Capstone Projects - BIOE Seniors Use Knowledge/Skills to Problem Solve.
Full Story

Elani and Gonzalo shine a UV light on a rose that has absorbed a solution that has made it fluorescent.

Illinois Scientists Shine a (UV) Light on Fluorescence

May 7, 2021
What is fluorescence? What causes it?
Full Story

Joshua Whitely makes an adjustment to the 3D Bioprinter during the demo.

HackIllinois 2021 “Rekindled Connections” With The Tech Community

May 5, 2021
Annual student hackathon HackIllinois with the aim of developing projects on current problems facing society.
Full Story

A Shane Mayer-Gawlik image of the Bridger Aurora, part of his Night Skies photography collection exhibited at the Art-Science Festival.

The Art-Science Festival

April 26, 2021
Illinois Art-Science Festival: Illuminating the Universe...from the Quantum World to the Cosmos.
Full Story

Joshua Whitely makes an adjustment to the 3D Bioprinter during the demo.

Illinois Engineering Seniors Prepared to Change the World

April 22, 2021
Ready. Set. Go! Illinois Engineering Seniors Prepared to Change the World.
Full Story

HML 2021 Virtual Health

HML 2021 Virtual Health

April 19, 2021
Make-a-Thon Gives Citizen Scientists a Shot at Making Their Health-Related Innovations a Reality.
Full Story

I-MRSEC’s Music Video

I-MRSEC’s Music Video

April 7, 2021
I-MRSEC’s Music Video for EOH ’21 Plugs Graphene, 2D Materials
Full Story

Health Make-a-Thon Orientation

HML 2021 Health Orientation

March 30, 2021
HML 2021 Health Make-a-Thon Orientation Prepares Finalists for Competition.
Full Story

Andrea Perry shows Franklin students how to take apart the magnetic drawing board they received in their kit

Musical Magnetism

March 25, 2021
Musical Magnetism: Encouraging Franklin Middle Schoolers to Express Science Via the Arts.
Full Story

Carmen Paquette street performing.

Love of Science

March 9, 2021
Paquette Conveys Her Love of Science, Dance to Franklin STEAM Students Via Musical Magnetism.
Full Stroy

An Engineering Exploration participant exhibits the tower they built as part of the engineering challenge related to Civil Engineering

Engineering Exploration

March 2, 2021
SWE’s Engineering Exploration Outreach Lives Up to Its Name.

ChiS&E’s Family STEM Day

ChiS&E’s Family STEM Day

February 23, 2021
Helps Chicago Youngsters Progress Along the STEM Pipeline Toward Engineering.

Kathny Walsh

Kathy Walsh

February 17, 2021
On Her First Foray into STEAM, Kathy Walsh Acquaints Franklin Students with Microscopy, Haiku.

ChiS&E student

ChiS&E CPS Students

January 19, 2021
Illinois Undergrads Encourage ChiS&E CPS Students Toward Possible Careers in Engineering.

I-MRSEC’s Music Video

CISTEME365 Provides Year-Round PD/Community

January 4, 2021
to Illinois Teachers in Support of Informal STEM Education Efforts to Underserved Students.