STEM Fest goes virtual with free online events throughout October

For more than 10 years, Northern Illinois University’s STEM Fest has introduced thousands of visitors of all ages to the wonders of science, technology, engineering and math. After last year’s record-breaking 8,200 visitors, the NIU STEAM team is looking forward to making STEM Fest 2020 better than ever. And they’re embracing the challenge of bringing this unique event online while preserving the sense of excitement and celebration that makes STEM Fest so special.

STEM Fest is known for hands on STEM learning.

How is this possible? With a full month of programming throughout October, culminating in a four-hour live virtual celebration on Oct. 31. STEM Fest will include more than 20 online events, videos and activities; four in-person events; and the live virtual celebration. With so many activities, there’s sure to be something to spark your curiosity.

“STEM Fest is a wonderful chance for collaboration across the university,” says Kristin Brynteson, STEM Fest organizer and director of NIU STEAM. “Dozens of different NIU student groups and departments, as well as external companies and organizations, come together to make it possible each year. As we began to plan this year’s online STEM Fest, it quickly became clear that we could not fit all of this into a single day! That’s when we decided to host weekly activities and events throughout the month to set the stage for our final blowout celebration.”

STEM Fest webinars and workshops are open to the public and all online events are free (a few small in-person workshops have a fee for materials). Visitors will have the chance to interact live with STEM experts from NIU and the community and try out hands-on activities that can be completed with common household items and occasionally a few hardware-store purchases.

At in-person STEM Saturday workshops, participants will get to experience STEM Fest’s popular Build-A-Blinkie soldering activity.

Three types of weekly events throughout October are sure to educate and entertain:

  • Maker Mondays: Weekly videos aimed primarily at teens and young adults with a focus on STEM Careers, from entomology to chemistry. Each video interview with a STEM expert is followed by a hands-on activity.
  • STEM Fest Cafés: Live webinars every Wednesday evening with STEM experts. Fun science talks introduce viewers to reptiles and amphibians, the science behind haunted houses, the search for extraterrestrial life and more.
  • STEM Saturdays: Weekly workshops – online and in-person – provide hands-on STEM learning. Fun activities, such as slime-making and circuit-building, are designed for young people in grades 3-12 and their families.

We’re also sharing STEM-related events hosted by NIU departments throughout the month, including esports community tournaments on Oct. 5 and 23, and a sneak peak of the STEAM Studio Minecraft workshop offered by NIU’s Digital Convergence Lab. Check out go.niu.edu/stemfest for updates and new additions.

Online Maker Monday videos and STEM Saturday workshops will help young people experience hands-on science in their own backyards.

With most events online, STEM Fest can now reach audiences throughout Illinois and beyond.

“We want everyone to know STEM Fest is not just in DeKalb anymore,” says Amy Jo Clemens, director of the NIU Center for P-20 Engagement, in the Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development. “We’re inviting families and communities across the nation to join our online events, and we’re holding small in-person workshops at NIU Naperville, Rockford and Hoffman Estates. We’re also partnering with the Division of Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications to use their Platform Q virtual rooms for our Oct. 31 celebration. This is a great way for prospective students and families to learn about what NIU has to offer.”

Highlights of the Oct. 31 live celebration include:

  • Haunted STEAM Lab: Explore the spooky, slimy, not-so-scary side of STEM with demonstrations, live chats and fun science videos.
  • Huskie Hall:Hear how our Huskies are leading the pack in STEM research and exploration. Live and recorded sessions feature the research and artistry happening at NIU.
  • STEM Quest:Connect with STEM experts and organizations to explore STEM careers, chat with experts and see how STEM careers impact the world.
  • Livestreamed Demo Show: STEM Fest is not STEM Fest without our high energy science demonstrations! Don’t miss our livestreamed “Find Your Spark” demo show.

Learn more and register at go.niu.edu/stemfest.

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