Popular STEM Saturday classes return to DeKalb, Naperville campuses

stem-7Mars might be farther than 140 million miles away, but that won’t stop kids from using LEGO Robotics to explore the red planet at NIU this fall.

STEM Outreach is again offering its interactive, hands-on STEM Saturday classes to help students in fourth-grade and older explore concepts and careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

The classes will be held on Saturday mornings and afternoons at NIU’s DeKalb and Naperville campuses. The cost is $29 per week in DeKalb and $39 per week in Naperville. Scholarships are available for students who qualify for discounted school lunch programs. A complete list of classes, dates and registration are available online.

LEGO EV3 Robotics Space Challenge, created by LEGO and NASA, is one of the offerings in the fall lineup.

During this three-session course, which is recommended for ages 10 and older, students will hone their problem-solving skills by building and programing LEGO robots to complete missions similar to those of the rovers that NASA developed to explore the surface of Mars. STEM Outreach associate and physicist Jeremy Benson is excited to bring out-of-this-world program to STEM Saturdays.

“LEGO Robotics has always been a popular class, but this connection to NASA takes the learning a step further,” Benson says. “Students can see how the concepts they are learning have real-world applications. They can understand how tinkering with a toy robot today could lead to discoveries that revolutionize the way we think about life on earth and across the solar system tomorrow!”

STEM Saturday!Benson encourages parents to attend sessions with their children. “I love to see parents getting involved,” he says. “They can take that excitement home and continue to explore together.”

Another new addition this year is the STEM Divas classes, recommended for students ages 8 to 13.

STEM Outreach associate and mechanical engineer Pettee Guerrero hopes to show students that science isn’t just about old white men in lab coats hunching over Bunsen burners. She will help girls and boys experience the sparkly side of science by using chemistry to create lip gloss, manufacturing rings and earrings on a 3D printer, decorating hats with littleBits electronics, weaving bracelets with conductive thread and more.

“STEM Outreach is committed addressing the gender gap in STEM fields and inspiring girls to explore careers like engineering,” Guerrero says. “Many girls lose interest in science around middle school because they don’t see women in STEM careers or necessarily understand how STEM effects their lives. I want to show girls and boys that brainy is beautiful.”

Back by popular demand is Computer Programming with Scratch, recommended ages 10 and older. Students in this class will explore STEAM concepts (adding “Art” to STEM). By learning to use Scratch, a fun and intuitive programming environment that makes it easy to create and share your own animations, presentations, apps and even games.

Stop-Motion-RobotThe final session of the fall will be the annual STEM Saturday Holiday Party.

This event is free for families who have a student enrolled in at least one Fall 2014 STEM Saturday class.

“The event is our way of thanking those who participated,” STEM Outreach Director Pati Sievert says. “We’ll present a winter-themed show for students and their families, and then the kids will make STEM crafts while parents learn about some of our favorite STEM-related gift ideas – just in time for the holidays.”

This program is part of NIU STEM Outreach’s ongoing initiative to provide students throughout northern Illinois with additional exposure to science, technology, engineering and math.

For more information, call (815) 753-0533 or email jjbenson@niu.edu.

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