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STEMtacular! Sixth annual STEMfest scheduled Oct. 17

October 7, 2015

STEMfestNIU’s annual STEMfest will once again dazzle and educate thousands of visitors of all ages to the Convocation Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct 17.

This free, family-friendly festival, attended by nearly 7,500 people last year, celebrates innovations in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and offers hundreds of hands-on activities that get visitors fired up about these increasingly crucial disciplines.

More than 200 exhibitors – including NIU’s STEM departments, student groups, regional corporations, museums and national laboratories – will offer learning games, interactive demonstrations, informative talks and even art projects, all designed to help visitors explore STEM concepts and careers. More than 600 NIU volunteers, students and faculty, work with visitors to help them understand the hands-on activities.

Parking and admission are free.

Throughout the day, the STEMfest Stage will host special presentations, including the unveiling of “The Toy and the Twister,” a STEM-themed children’s book developed by NIU’s P-20 Center and published by NIU Press. The book – written by Gillian King-Cargile, director of NIU’s STEM Read program, and illustrated by Kevin Krull, an NIU alumnus – tells the thrilling story of a bunny who gets stuck in a tornado and has to learn about the science of weather to escape.

Although the official release date is Nov. 15, “The Toy and the Twister” will be specially available for advance purchase at STEMfest.

Author Nancy Cavanaugh will also appear at the fest, taking apart and reassembling a small engine as she discusses her book, “This Journal Belongs to Rachet.” In addition, Usborne will sell a large selection of STEM-themed books for young readers, with a portion of the proceeds supporting STEM Read’s year-round community programs.

Other STEMfest Stage highlights will include STEM Outreach Associate Jeremy Benson having “Fun with Liquid Nitrogen,” NASA Ambassador Joel Knapper sharing “Greetings from Pluto” and the NIU Chem Club setting off “Explosively Awesome Chemistry Demonstrations.”

Thompson will appear as her comic book creation Spectra during STEMfest.

Rebecca Thompson and her comic book creation, Spectra

Rebecca Thompson, head of outreach for the American Physical Association, will appear on the STEMfest Stage as her superhero alter ego, Spectra. Thompson writes a series of comic books about Spectra, a heroine with laser powers; each installment teaches readers a new physics concept. The series, titled “Spectra: The Laser Superhero,” has been read by millions of children across America.

Several of this year’s exhibits will be recurring STEMfest favorites, such as the Laser Lab, the Haunted Physics Lab and the STEM Read Book Fair. The Midwest Museum of Natural History will once again showcase its bone and fossil collection and creepy-crawly petting zoo. Argonne National Laboratory, the DeKalb Park District, Paradise Robotics and more also will host exhibits.

As always, scouting groups and other interested children will have plenty of opportunities to earn STEMfest patches.

STEMfest, now in its sixth year, is hosted by NIU STEM Outreach and the P-20 Center, which works to inspire today’s students to become tomorrow’s STEM innovators.

STEMfest sponsors include Google, ComEd, Nicor Gas, EcoLab, Ideal Industries, the Research and Development STEM Learning Exchange, HyVee, the NIU Student Association and Northern Illinois University. Media partners include Haunted Illinois and B95 WDKB FM.

This exciting day of learning would not be possible without the help of student and teacher volunteers. For more information, contact Debbie Pixton at (815) 753-1898 or [email protected].