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NIU STEM student Mackenzie Thompson paying it forward to the next generation

April 25, 2017

Mackenzie Thompson

NIU junior Mackenzie Thompson knows that her experiences working with NIU’s P-20 Center will come in handy no matter what career she pursues.

As an instructor at the Center’s STEM Outreach camps and STEM Saturdays, she’s learned firsthand the rewards of bringing science, technology, engineering and math into kids’ lives.

“No matter what I do, I know now that I want to have STEM education and outreach be a part of my work,” says Thompson. “It’s too important––and too much fun – not to find a place for it.”

STEM Outreach camps give students from grades 2-12 a chance to roll up their sleeves, think creatively and make friends while building skills for success in STEM fields. (A full schedule of this summer’s offerings is available online.)

Thompson, a mechanical engineering major, has taught at camps for both middle and high school campers. She worked both as a volunteer and as a student employee at the STEM Saturdays program, where she was mentored by STEM Educator Pettee Guerrero, learning how to translate STEM concepts to young audiences while keeping their attention. Girls ages 7 to 11 who are regulars at STEM Divas on Saturdays and during the summer are Thompson’s greatest fans.

“I got kind of addicted to seeing how much progress kids can make,” she said. “That progress is even more visible in summer. There are kids who are super timid at the beginning of a camp session, but by the end, they’ll be so involved and engaged and enthusiastic.”

With her engineering degree, Thompson hopes to find a job in a STEM-based industry. But she hopes to land at a company that takes STEM education seriously.

“So many kids who attend STEM summer camps and Saturday sessions end up excited to go into the sciences, based on what they’ve learned about how challenging and fun it can be. Outreach is what makes the next generation of scientists, and I definitely want to play my part.”