Future inventors and innovators of the northern Illinois region will be flocking to NIU’s DeKalb campus this fall for the new season of STEM Saturdays and STEM Divas, classes that give students hands-on experience with science, technology, engineering and math.
The classes, which cover everything from LEGO robotics to the science of flight, are designed for students from age 7 and up, with the exception of a chemistry class for ages 10-14.
Most of the classes take place over two Saturdays. Each is designed by NIU’s STEM Outreach department to get students fired up about learning STEM concepts and problem-solving skills.
STEM Juniors and STEM Divas kick off the new season with a joint, two-session class on “Learning to Fly.” In the first class, students will explore the science behind different methods of flight and construct their own flying machines. In the second class, they will journey to iFly in Naperville to experience a vertical wind tunnel and try indoor skydiving.
The full schedule of classes, complete with location and registration information, is available online at niu.edu/stem/programs/stem-saturdays.
“STEM Saturdays use the same hands-on approach as our popular STEM Summer Camps,” says STEM Outreach Associate Jeremy Benson. “We don’t just put information up on a board for kids to memorize. Instead, we give them tools for thinking critically about the world they live in. That’s more useful – and more fun.”
No matter the subject or age group, the emphasis is on learning by doing, using trial and error to reach those exhilarating “eureka!” moments. Kids in “Chemistry Investigation,” for example, will conduct experiments with liquid nitrogen, plus cook up batches of glow-in-the-dark slime. In “Electronics and Electricity,” children will solder electrical components together to build their own devices.
Three different “STEM Divas” classes will expose young students ages 7 to 10 to the STEM fields. This popular series, which STEM Outreach began offering two years ago, is designed to make the STEM fields a welcoming place for girls.
“We create a safe space for them to take risks and explore how STEM relates to their passions,” says Pettee Guerrero, the program’s founder. “Women who are currently majoring in STEM fields at NIU join classes as mentors, which makes for a really welcoming atmosphere.”
At all STEM Saturday and STEM Divas classes, parents are welcome to stay and participate.
“No matter what your STEM background is, the STEM Saturdays schedule has something to offer you,” says Benson. “You don’t have to have you heart set on being a science major. You just need to be curious. STEM connects to almost everything.”
Classes begin Sept. 17 and run through Nov. 19, and there will be a STEM-themed holiday party for all STEM Saturday and STEM Divas participants and their parents on Saturday, Dec. 10.