STEM Outreach adds teen, adult classes to STEM Saturdays

Participants from STEM Outreach’s summer camps show off their wearable electronic projects.
Participants from STEM Outreach’s summer camps show off
their wearable electronic projects.

A new season of STEM Saturday classes is under way to give young learners exciting experiences with science, technology, engineering and math.

But kids aren’t the only ones having fun this fall.

NIU STEM Outreach has added teen- and adult-friendly classes that will teach learners basic programming and electronics skills through fun, hands-on projects.

This year marks the first offering of “Electronic Wearables,” in which students will decorate items of clothing with LED lights that can be programmed to react to light or sound. The class takes place at NIU’s DeKalb campus on the first two Saturdays in October.

STEM Outreach director Pati Sievert will lead participants ages 14 and older as they learn how to control LEDs with a microcontroller called an Adafruit “Gemma” built especially for wearables.

Participants are encouraged to bring their own clothing, back packs or soft toys to use in their projects. The timing is also right for participants to add some electricity to Halloween costumes. “It’s a soft introduction to electronics and coding,” Sievert says. “No special experience is required.”

On Nov. 7 and 14, learners age 14 and older are invited to NIU’s Naperville campus to “Join the Maker Movement with Arduinos.”

Arduinos are small, programmable computers that can be used to automate just about anything. Because they are versatile and easy to program, they have become a staple of do-it-yourself programming projects. In this class, participants will get a chance to make their own basic circuits and program the Arduinos to look for and respond to input from sensors and controls.

STEM Saturday schedules and registration are available online. For more information, contact Jeremy Benson at (815) 743-0533 or jjbenson@niu.edu.

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