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Star Wars, CSI and more in new season of STEM Saturdays

December 8, 2016

thumbnail-40Still looking for that perfect holiday gift for a young scientist? Check out the diverse spring schedules of STEM Saturdays and STEM Divas, classes that give students seven and older hands-on experience with science, technology, engineering and math.

The popular classes, which cover everything from crime scene analysis to the science of flight, are designed by the STEM Outreach department of NIU’s P-20 Center to get students fired up about learning STEM concepts and problem-solving skills. Depending on the amount of material covered, each class meets on either one Saturday or two consecutive Saturdays in the spring semester.

The full schedule of classes, complete with location and registration information, is available at

“STEM Saturdays take the same hands-on approach as our popular STEM Summer Camps,” says STEM Educator Jeremy Benson. “We don’t just put information up on a board for kids to commit to memory. Instead, we give them tools for thinking critically about the world they live in. That’s more useful––and more fun.” 

Star Wars fans excited by the December release of “Rogue One,” the newest addition to the sci-fi movie franchise, will love “STEM from a Galaxy Far, Far Away.” In this class, students learn all about the science of the Star Wars universe by creating their own handheld “hologram projectors,” exploring the science behind The Force and building their own working lightsabers.

No matter the subject or age group, the emphasis is on learning by doing. Kids in “Rocketry and Spaceflight” design and launch their own rockets. Participants in “CSI: NIU” work together to analyze a model crime scene, dusting for fingerprints and using logic to rule out suspects. The “Learning to Fly” class experiences indoor skydiving in the vertical wind tunnel at iFLY in Naperville. (All other classes meet at the NIU DeKalb campus.)

Three different STEM Divas classes will expose young students ages 7-10 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. This spring, STEM Divas participants will program their own wearable electric circuits, build wacky “Rube Goldberg” machines and learn basic chemistry by mixing their own candles and perfumes.

“We create a safe space for them to take risks and explore how STEM relates to their lives and 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 truly 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 your heart set on being a science major. You just need to be curious. STEM connects to almost everything.”

Classes begin Jan. 28 and run through May 13. For more information, visit, or contact Jeremy Benson by phone 815-753-0533 or email, [email protected].