Third annual STEMfest planned Oct. 20

Children young and old are invited to bring their imagination and sense of wonder to the NIU campus this October for a day of hands-on activities, demonstrations and exhibits focused on the marvels of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

For the third straight year, STEMfest will wow spectators at the NIU Convocation Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20. The event is free and open to the public.

Introducing learners of all ages to cutting-edge technologies and intriguing science phenomena, STEMfest is a fun and enlightening event that will amaze students, parents and educators alike. Hosted by NIU STEM Outreach, the event is aimed at educating and inspiring young students to aspire for careers in STEM fields.

STEMfest 2012 will bring back favorite exhibits such as robotics challenges, Laser Lunacy, the Haunted Physics Lab, cow eyeball dissections, Kishwaukee Community Hospital’s health demonstrations and the Midwest Museum of Natural History’s bone and fossil collection and creepy petting zoo.

STEM Outreach along with community and university partners are planning new exhibits and activities such as the PBS Kids Learning Lab, which will feature activities related to the popular shows Dinosaur Train and Sid the Science Kid; expanded educator resources; and a STEM Book Fair that will include STEM fiction and non-fiction books as well as resources from DeKalb County Libraries, local booksellers and Follett Publishing.

STEMfest Chem KidSTEMfest is also expanding the presentations on the STEMfest Stage.

Engineers from iFiber will discuss the broadband project that is connecting rural areas throughout the state to high-speed internet. Graphic novelist Jim Ottaviani will Skype and discuss his biography “Feynman,” a story about the Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman. Ottaviani will also share his experiences as a comic book writer and nuclear engineer.

Author Ilsa J. Bick will discuss her book “Ashes,” and participate in a Q&A and book signing at 2 p.m. “Ashes,” the STEM Teen Read book selection for October, focuses on a teenager who must fend for herself after an electromagnetic pulse wipes out electricity and communications and brings about a zombie apocalypse.

Throughout the day, STEM Outreach impressario Jeremy Benson will also present “Fun with Liquid Nitrogen” demonstrations on the STEMfest Stage.

Organizers will also present awards and prizes to the STEMfest 2012 winners of the Science Fiction Writing Contest and the Explain It! Video Competition. Students can enter submissions to both contests until Monday, Oct. 15.

Pati Sievert, director of NIU’s STEM Outreach, sees the day as not only an opportunity for family fun, but as an event that could spark a hunger for knowledge in students. In the last 10 years, STEM-related careers have outgrown non-STEM jobs three-to-one, and the trend is expected to continue.  said that it’s important to get children interested in STEM if America is to remain economically competitive.

“We want to get children and adolescents excited about science, technology, engineering and mathematics so they will pursue careers in those fields,” Sievert said. “We cannot rest on yesterday’s innovations. We need to encourage and invest in tomorrow’s innovators.”

Sievert also notes that STEM Outreach couldn’t hold such successful events without exceptional volunteers. This year, nearly 500 NIU students, faculty, and staff volunteers will be on-hand to help with demonstrations, explain amazing phenomena, and assist visitors in their explorations.

STEMfest is free and open to the public. Donations that support STEM Outreach’s year-round community activities will be accepted. To volunteer or learn more about STEMfest, visit niu.edu/stemfest/contact.

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