STEM Divas program leads new STEM Saturday offerings

Hair-raising fun!Does your daughter take apart appliances to see how they tick? Is your son building a robot companion out of household items?

You just might be the proud parent of a future scientist or engineer.

NIU’s STEM Outreach has developed new and exciting STEM Saturday classes that give your young Einsteins the chance to tinker, design, develop and experiment through hands-on exploration in science, technology, engineering and math. The classes, recommended for students 10 and older, take place at NIU’s DeKalb and Naperville campuses and allow young students to work closely with highly engaged, specially trained instructors and NIU students.

“There’s a level of mentoring happening in our Saturday classes,” said physicist and instructor Jeremy Benson. “Students don’t just learn from us; they also interact with NIU student volunteers who can share their own experiences in pursuing higher education and STEM careers.”

In addition to popular favorites such as Rollercoaster Science and Lego Robotics, several new classes will be offered this spring as well. Students can attend Laser Holography to make and take home their very own hologram. An Arduino (tiny do-it-yourself computer) course is open to adults as well as children age 12 and up, providing a terrific opportunity for cross-generational STEM exploration.

Parents can also attend the PVC Construction Kit class where they can learn to create PVC pipe play sets that encourage children’s creativity and spatial reasoning.

Launched last fall, the new and extremely popular STEM Divas classes seek to inspire a commitment and understanding of STEM subject matter that can transcend the distractions of school, giving girls who participate a foundation for future success in all areas of their lives and careers. The Saturday classes hook girls with projects and investigations that might typically be avoided in co-ed groups, like creating 3D printed earrings or programming wearable LED jewelry.

Lego roboticsNIU STEM Outreach staff developed the innovative new program for girls ages 7 to 10. The goal of the program is to encourage and support the next generation of women to pursue careers in STEM fields. Women students in NIU’s STEM majors participate in the classes and act as mentors and role models, creating a welcoming and open environment where risk-taking is encouraged.

“I’m a total STEM Diva,” said engineer Pettee Guerrero, the program’s founder. “I absolutely love learning and teaching the concepts involved in science, technology, engineering and math, but I’m also a girly-girl. I enjoy jewelry, make-up, all of that stuff. STEM Divas is an opportunity for girls to embrace their interests through the lens of STEM.”

STEM Saturdays are just one in a large series of programs offered through the award-winning NIU Center for P-20 Engagement. In addition to STEM Outreach classes, camps and events designed for learners of all ages, the P-20 Center has developed STEMfest, STEM Cafés, STEM Read and SmartSpace@NIU programs, which all aim to engage the community in life-long learning.

Online registration is available for all STEM Saturday classes. For more information, call (815) 753-0533 or email jjbenson@niu.edu.

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