Students looking for engaging, hands-on ways to explore their interests and career options this summer can now register for Northern Illinois University’s 2016 summer camps.
Day and residential camps will run throughout June, July and August.
The schedule includes both time-tested favorites and exciting new offerings from programs across the NIU community. With options in science and technology, visual arts, music performance, theater, TV broadcasting and sports – to name just a few – there is definitely something to spark the interest of every young learner.
Whatever the subject or age group, every NIU camp experience is all about learning by doing. Campers don’t memorize material or take tests. Instead, they roll up their sleeves and get busy building machines, designing experiments, programming computers, producing movies and plays, honing their athletic skills and making art.
A full schedule is available online at niu.edu/summercamps: log on today to make sure you reserve a spot for your top choice. Several camps offer both merit- and need-based scholarships. Some camps also offer discounts for early-bird registration, children of NIU employees, returning campers or families who enroll multiple children.
Creative Arts, Liberal Arts, and Communications
Camps offer students a chance to flex their creative muscles and work with professional artists, writers, and communications experts.
“Our camps immerse students in the creative process,” says Mark Pietrowski, associate director of the college’s External Programming office. “That’s why kids love them so much. They learn how to make things and express themselves. Along the way, some of them catch a glimpse of a future career.”
A returning Liberal Arts and Science favorite, Geography Camp: Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse (June 26-July 1), teaches high school students about the field of geography by immersing them in an adventure scenario that involves outwitting roaming hordes of the angry walking dead.
New this year from Liberal Arts and Science is Huskie Pride (June 26-July 1), NIU’s first ever LGBTQ+ camp, designed by members of NIU’s graduate program in mental health counseling. High school students will learn about the LGBTQ+ community, explore how to advocate for change in their schools and communities and get tips for finding colleges friendly to LGBTQ+ students.
For jazz musicians, stage actors and visual artists, the College of Visual and Performing Arts is offering its usual roster of residential camps that help students hone their art through intensive daily practice guided by experts in a university environment.
Science and Tech
Students looking to explore a passion for science, technology, engineering or math can now choose from a wider variety of STEM-related camps than ever before.
STEM camps are all about hands-on learning.
At the Exploring STEM camps, students entering grades 7-9 can choose from among a wide variety of tracks, including engineering, chemistry, LEGO robotics, art, wild biology, computer coding, green technology, the science of sci-fi, and lightning bolts and magnetic fields.
“This camp always sells out quickly,” says Jeremy Benson, director of STEM Summer Camps. “We have campers who enjoy it so much that they come back and do it multiple times. Some of them worked through several tracks and wanted more – so we made more. We want as many people as possible to find their STEM passion.”
Starting this year, even the youngest students can have a summer STEM experience. The STEM Juniors day camp (June 27-30) will offer project-based STEM activities – including electrical circuit design and 3D printing – for students entering grades 2-5. STEM Divas (June 27-30) includes similar activities, with an additional focus on helping female students embrace STEM skills as empowering.
Also new this year is STEM with Purpose, a residential camp that will bring students entering grades 9-12 from around the world and across the country to learn how STEM skills can be used to address today’s greatest global challenges. Campers are expected from Pakistan, China and several European countries, so local students will be able to meet people from around the world and learn about their cultures without boarding a plane.
For students whose primary tech passion lies in video games, NIU’s Digital Convergence Lab offers a series of game design camps, with options for all levels of computer coding experience.
All NIU summer camps give students a chance to learn more about potential career interests. But at some camps, career-oriented thinking is particularly front and center.
Students in grades 10-12 who attend STEM Career Exploration camps get to pick the professional field that interests them most, whether it’s healthcare, engineering, science, video games, coding or nanotechnology. Campers learn what different jobs in these fields require, enabling them to tailor their coursework accordingly.
At the Athletic Training and Sports Medicine overnight camp (July 10-13), students interested in helping athletes stay learn what it takes to succeed in the field. “Most students at our Sports Medicine camp go on to study athletic training in college and become certified athletic trainers,” says Sue Hansfield, assistant director of Athletics.
A similar professional focus is at the forefront of the new Hospitality Leadership Camp(June 5-10), which gives high school students an introduction to the hospitality industry, including travel and tourism, the hotel industry and restaurant and event management. Through work with NIU professors and trips to local restaurants hotels, campers will learn about the career landscape and get a chance to figure out whether hospitality might be the place for them.
Don’t Delay! Sign up Today!
Don’t wait to check out the full schedule online at niu.edu/summercamps, where you will find camp descriptions, registration information, and details about scholarships and other policies.
Liberal Arts and Sciences
Creative Writing: a residential camp for students entering grades grades 9-12, June 19-24
Exploring STEM, Week 1: a residential camp for students entering grades 7-9 (or campers entering Grade 6 who have attended Engineering Amusement), with tracks available in art, engineering, LEGO EV3 robotics engineering, waterbotics, and wild biology, July 10-15 at NIU’s Lorado Taft Field Campus
Exploring STEM, Week 2: with tracks available in art, coding, engineering, LEGO EV3 robotics space, sci-fi, waterbotics, and wild biology, July 17-22 at NIU’s Lorado Taft Campus
Exploring STEM, Week 3: with tracks available in chemistry, green tech, LEGO EV3 robotics space, lightning bolts and magnetic fields, and sci-fi, July 24-29
Green Energy: a residential camp for students entering grades 6-8, July 22-26
STEM Career Exploration, Week 1: a residential camp for students entering grades 10-12, with tracks available in coding, engineering, health, nanotechnology, science, June 19-24
At the next STEM Café, “Predicting the Primaries: How Math Shapes Presidential Elections,” Department of Political Science Chair Matt Streb will explore the nitty-gritty of election polls, discussing how they work, how they are analyzed and how they can affect outcomes.
The free talk and discussion will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, at Eduardo’s Mexican Restaurant, 214 E. Lincoln Hwy. in DeKalb.
With primary season in full swing, every day brings news of yet another poll claiming to show which candidates are pulling ahead or falling behind. Streb’s research, which has been cited everywhere from The New York Times to USA Today, provides insight into why different polls produce different results, making winners and losers difficult to predict.
“I want people to get an understanding of why it’s so difficult to poll presidential elections, especially the primaries,” Streb said. “That means talking about the statistics behind polling, factors like sampling size, margins of error, the weighting of data. The math is not complex, but it’s important. It explains the difference between a scientific and unscientific poll.”
Streb’s voice is a familiar one; he frequently provides election commentary on the radio, appearing regularly on DeKalb’s WNIJ and Rockford’s WROK, where he is a weekly guest on “Straight Talk with Riley O’Neal.”
“With all the interest buzzing around this year’s primary contests, this is sure to be an interesting evening,” said STEM Outreach Associate Judith Dymond. “Anyone who comes will leave with a better understanding of the math behind the daily news.”
This event is part of STEM Outreach’s series of monthly STEM Cafés, all of which are free and open to the public. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from Eduardo’s.
For more information on STEM Cafés and other STEM events, contact Dymond at (815) 753-4751 or[email protected].
Date posted: February 25, 2016 | Author: Gillian King-Cargile | Comments Off on March 8 STEM Café to Explore Math Behind Election Polls
NIU students, DeKalb community members, civic leaders, computer coders, and tech enthusiasts will come together Saturday, March 5, in Founders Memorial Library for the first CodeAcross DeKalb, a free, day-long event exploring how public data can be harnessed for public good.
The day will begin at 10 a.m. with a quick introduction to the idea of “civic hacking,” the practice of writing programs that access publicly available data – on anything from health and crime to infrastructure and economic development – and try to make it more accessible and useful for citizens, nonprofits and government.
“But often it’s just sitting on big spreadsheets that are hard for people to use. Civic hacking can change that. The data can become a map, or a chart, or an app that sends out real-time updates about community needs.”
Free parking will be available in the parking deck and lot near the library. Each participants needs to bring a computer, a snack or lunch, and enthusiasm for addressing local challenges. By the end of the day, new computer applications based on participants’ ideas will be under way.
Participants do not need coding experience.
“Code is just one piece of the puzzle,” Rogers-Tryba said. “This is a day for anyone who wants to see their community working better. Coders do not build applications on their own. They need to collaborate with subject matter experts and community members to understand how open data can be used in multiple and diverse ways.”
The event is the brainchild of a national nonprofit called Code for America. Similar CodeAcross gatherings will be taking place all across the country.
After Whittaker’s speech, a City of DeKalb official will suggest possible uses for local data that is already available.
For the rest of the day, participants will break into teams, roll up their sleeves and get to work on possible hacks. Before going home, each team will give a short presentation about its progress.
And that’s just the beginning. On June 4, the P-20 Center will host a follow-up Code for Good event. “People who come up with great ideas in March don’t need to stop when they go home,” Rogers-Tryba said. “They can keep working – keep taking advantage of the new, productive connections they made. Then, in June, they can report back.”
TechBark, an NIU student organization focused on the wide variety of civic and entrepreneurial uses of computer code, helped the P-20 Center prepare for the event.
“We’re excited,” said Luis Martinez, TechBark’s treasurer. “We’re excited to use our skills as a way to get more involved with the greater DeKalb community.”
These events will be hosted as “story circles” where residents take turns sharing personal stories and ideas. From there, residents’ collective stories will be incorporated into a report and circulated nationwide through publications, videos and social media.
Join a group of neighbors and share your perspectives on the state of the union at one of these events:
President Obama’s recent State of the Union address was, as always, a broadcast from one to many. But democracy is a conversation, not a monologue. Understanding the state of our union takes “We the People” reflecting in our own communities on our local, national, and global challenges and opportunities.
Each of the DeKalb County reflections will be facilitated by Tracy Rogers-Tryba, a research fellow at NIU’s P-20 Center.
“As citizens, we know we have to change the story to change the world,” Rogers-Tryba says.
“The People’s State of the Union is an invitation to dive in, right here, right now. We can tell stories about challenges, about optimism and hope, while listening deeply to the experience of fellow community members, understanding that their personal stories reflect national issues and concerns,” she adds. “Doing these things, we can come to know each other and learn more about the issues.”
Similar events will be held across the country. The results of the DeKalb area sessions will be forwarded to the USDAC National Committee for inclusion in an address that will be presented Feb. 20 in Washington, D.C., and then circulated throughout the nation.
Last fall, the automobile industry and eco-minded consumers were rocked by the revelation that Volkswagen had intentionally manipulated sensors in its cars – 11 million in all – to beat emissions tests, letting their diesel engines spew illegally high amounts of harmful nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere.
At the next STEM Café, two NIU professors will explore how such deceptions occur and how they affect human health. The free talk, “What’s Really Being Coughed Up by Our Cars,” will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20, at Fatty’s Pub and Grille, 1312 W. Lincoln Hwy. in DeKalb.
Prior to joining the NIU faculty in 2002, Haji-Sheikh worked for ten years at Honeywell’s division of sensing and controls, focusing primarily on car sensors.
“I think people will be surprised to learn how easy it was to beat the system,” Haji-Sheikh says. “There are more sensors in automobiles than ever before, but they don’t necessarily prevent cheating. The way the systems are interconnected lets them work together to protect the environment – or to fool regulators.”
Michael Haji-Sheikh and Theodore Hogan
Theodore Hogan, an assistant professor of technology in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, will focus on how chemicals such as nitrogen oxide harm human health.
Like Haji-Sheikh, he will draw on years of experience in the field. As a member of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, he helps develop workplace chemical exposure guidelines that are relied on worldwide.
Hogan will talk about how the human health risks of different chemicals are evaluated and explain why the Volkswagen scandal is such a big deal.
“There is a link between the magnitude of air pollution and the number of heart attacks,” he says. “That’s why regulation – and enforcement – are so important.”
“This is a perfect chance for anyone who wants to learn more about a complex global scandal from local experts,” says STEM Outreach associate Judith Dymond. “It will be a stimulating evening for people interested in how cars work today, but also for anyone who cares about human health in the world of modern technology.”
This event is part of STEM Outreach’s series of monthly STEM Cafés, all of which are free and open to the public. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from Fatty’s. In addition to the STEM Café series, NIU STEM Outreach hosts other engaging events throughout the year to increase public awareness of the critical roles the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – play in everyday lives.
These engaging, affordable classes––which cover everything from robotics and 3D printing to virtual reality and stop-motion animation––are designed for students age 7 and up, with some recommended for the 10-14 age group. Each class takes place at NIU’s DeKalb campus over one or two Saturdays this winter or spring. The full list of offerings, complete with dates, location, and registration information, is available online.
No matter the subject, the emphasis is on learning by doing, using trial and error to reach “eureka!” moments of invention and discovery. Participants in “The Science of Music” will build their own instruments. Those who opt for “Electronics and Soldering” will wire their own functional circuits. In the popular series of “Arduinos” classes, students will program responsive microcomputers that translate user input into the control of lights, motors, and more.
Kids excited by this winter’s Star Wars sequel will love our “LEGO Robotics” series. An introductory course in January teaches the basics of LEGO Robotics programming. This prepares students for a two-session class in March where they design, build, and program their own Star Wars-themed “droids.”
Three different “STEM Divas” classes will introduce young women ages 7 to 10 to the STEM fields. This popular series of classes gets female students engaged in STEM with activities like using 3D printers to make custom earrings.
Even the youngest innovators get a class. “Stem Jr.” introduces students as young as 7 to the basic concepts of engineering and design with hands-on challenges. Each student will leave with a completed project. As with all STEM Saturday classes, family members are welcome to tag along and make learning a family adventure.
The complete schedule is available online. For more information, contact Jeremy Benson at (815) 753-0533 or [email protected]. Act soon to get a registration slip with your child’s name on it under the tree in time!
Date posted: December 18, 2015 | Author: Gillian King-Cargile | Comments Off on Education Under the Tree
This prosthetic leg is one of the many things that can now be manufactured by 3D printers.
The technology in your home office probably allows users to print letters and photos, but what if you wanted to print 3D toys, bracelets or even dinner for your family?
Advances in 3D printing are actually allowing researchers and average folks to print everything from car parts to body parts. At the next STEM Café, visitors can find out how 3D printing actually works and how it is changing lives.
STEM Café’s “The 3D Printing Revolution” will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, at Rock Bottom Brewery, 28256 Diehl Road in Warrenville. This casual, family-friendly event is free and open to the public. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from Rock Bottom.
Sciammarella’s research focuses on laser-enabled manufacturing. He is a member of America Makes Roadmap Advisory Group for Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing, and he recently was awarded a National Institute of Standards and Technology grant for $2.4 million for measurement science in additive manufacturing.
Additive manufacturing is the industry standard term for the process by which 3D printers create objects. These printers work from a digital, three-dimensional design and create objects by depositing materials layer by layer. This is different than traditional milling, where an object would be created by removing material from a solid block.
This difference is what makes 3D printing greener than traditional manufacturing methods, Sciammarella says. “Additive manufacturing builds parts with only the necessary amount of material,” he says.
As technology continues to evolve and improve, Sciammarella sees additive manufacturing as a way to reduce costs and prevent waste in the manufacturing process.
STEM Outreach Associate Pettee Guerrero demonstrates a MakerBot at a past presentation of The 3D Printing Revolution.
Sciammarella says that the goal of his talk is to help people understand the current landscape of research and industry in additive manufacturing.
Researchers are working on commercial applications such as printing cars, shoes and hamburgers, he says. They are also working on medical applications that seem right out of a science fiction novel: printing human skin, kidneys and even hearts.
“There are a lot of neat things that are happening, but we have a long road ahead to make it better,” Sciammarella says.
One of the most exciting aspects of 3D printing is that the technology is coming of age during a do-it-yourself movement. People can use open-source plans to make their own 3D printers. While do-it-yourself systems can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, Sciammarella says, the more sophisticated systems can cost more than $1 million.
With this technology becoming less and less expensive, the applications of 3D printing and the innovations it can spawn will continue to grow.
The STEM Café series is just one of the many engaging events NIU STEM Outreach hosts to increase public awareness of the critical role that STEM fields play in everyday lives. For more information on upcoming STEM Cafés and other events from NIU STEM Outreach, contact Judith Dymond at (815) 753-4751 or [email protected].
Date posted: November 4, 2015 | Author: Gillian King-Cargile | Comments Off on November STEM Café to explore 3D printing
Horror fans are invited to participate in a variety of hands-on activities to learn more about the technology of haunted houses, the psychology of fear and other scientific factors that cause chills and thrills.
Other activities include a costume contest where people can dress as their favorite character from a horror novel, STEM Outreach’s haunted physics lab, and a screening of STEM Read’s “Two Minutes of Terror” short film contest winners. The evening will culminate with a screening of John Carpenter’s cult classic, “In the Mouth of Madness.”
The evening is not for the faint of heart. Organizers say the event is geared toward teens and adults. High school groups are also encouraged to attend.
“The Science of the Scare” is part of STEM Read’s mission to encourage people to learn more about the science behind popular fiction and films. In addition to its live events, STEM Read also creates online games, expert videos, lesson plans, and collaborative stories to help readers learn more about their favorite books.
The event will be hosted by STEM Read and Lex Thomas, the pen name of horror writers Lex Hrabe and Thomas Voorhies. Hrabe and Voorhies are screenwriters and novelists. “Quarantine: The Loners,” the first book in their award-winning young adult trilogy, was named as one of Booklist’s top 10 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books for Youth.
“We’re very excited to have Lex Thomas at this event,” says Gillian King-Cargile, director of NIU’s STEM Read. “Their writing is so fun and twisted and their knowledge of the horror genre is extensive. Their influences include everyone from Dario Argento to Dean Koontz.”
Lex Hrabe and Thomas Voorhies, authors of the hit YA novel “Quarantine: The Loners,” will be on hand to share their creepy creative influences.
In the book, high school students are locked in their school after a biological weapon makes students toxic to adults. With scarce resources and no supervision, the student body breaks into gangs based on their social groups and a thrilling battle for survival begins.
Copies of the “Quarantine” series will be available for purchase during the event.
STEM Read worked with Lex Thomas to choose a feature film for “The Science of the Scare.”
“ ‘In the Mouth of Madness’ was a great fit for our program because it blurs the line between reality and fiction and asks what would happen if a horror writer’s darkest nightmares were unleashed in the real world. I’m sure that theme appealed to Lex and Tom.”
Hrabe says he wanted to share the movie with a new generation of viewers. “John Carpenter turns his favorite genre inside out with this mind-bendy cult classic that traps you inside a horror novelist’s brain. You definitely want to see this one in the theater!”
NIU’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.”
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.
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].
Date posted: October 7, 2015 | Author: Gillian King-Cargile | Comments Off on STEMtacular! Sixth annual STEMfest scheduled Oct. 17
Rebecca Thompson, head of APS Outreach and a pop culture fan, will lead a fun and educational talk.
If you love “Game of Thrones“ – either the hit HBO show or the bestselling novels – you might think the story is pure escapism: a fantasy romp set in a faraway world of magic and dragons.
In fact, its creators get a surprising amount right about the fundamental laws of science and physics.
At the next STEM Café, Rebecca Thompson of the American Physical Society (APS) will train a physicist’s eye on the “Game of Thrones“ universe, exploring how dragon fire matures, how ice walls keep out white walkers and how a summer could last for 10 years.
The free talk and discussion will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, at the Two Brothers Roundhouse, 205 N. Broadway in Aurora.
“I want people to see JUST how much science went into creating this fiction,” Thompson says. “They’ll walk away having learned some exciting physics, but also looking at their favorite shows and books in a new way.”
Thompson knows her physics. She earned her doctorate in the field studying, among other things, a process called microflowering, in which silicon wire blossoms into highly complex designs. But she is equally passionate about science outreach. As head of outreach for the APS, she writes comic books and creates presentations designed to bring physics to the widest audience possible.
“I love combining storytelling, science and pop culture,” she says. “When a fantasy world feels complete and easy to fall into, like in ‘Game of Thrones,’ it’s often because someone really thought through the science behind it. So when you’re reading or watching, you might be picking up some solid physics without even realizing it.”
Super cool: Thompson will appear as her comic book creation, Spectra, during STEMfest.
“This should be a truly fun night, especially for ‘Game of Thrones’ fans,” says NIU STEM Outreach associate Judith Dymond. “Dr. Thompson will give them a whole new perspective on the story. It’s a perfect example of what our STEM Cafés are all about: making science fun and accessible in surprising ways.”
This event is part of STEM Outreach’s series of monthly STEM Cafés, all of which are free and open to the public. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from Two Brothers Round House.
Thompson will also present “The Physics of Game of Thrones” as a lecture for NIU’s campus community at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16. This talk, which will take place in Room 143 of Faraday Hall, is also free for students, faculty and staff. The campus talk is co-sponsored by STEM Outreach and NIU’s Society of Physics Students.
STEM Outreach hosts other engaging events such STEMfest, the university’s free, family-friendly celebration of all things science, technology, engineering and math. This year’s STEMfest takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, at the NIU Convocation Center. Thompson will appear as her comic book alter ego, Spectra, and discuss comics and physics on the STEMfest stage.
For more information on STEM Cafés and other STEM events, call (815) 753-4751 or email [email protected].
Date posted: October 5, 2015 | Author: Gillian King-Cargile | Comments Off on October 15 STEM Café to bring science perspective to ‘Game of Thrones’
Participants from STEM Outreach’s summer camps show off their wearable electronic projects.
A new season of STEM Saturday classes is under way to give young learners exciting experiences with science, technology, engineering and math.
But kids aren’t the only ones having fun this fall.
NIU STEM Outreach has added teen- and adult-friendly classes that will teach learners basic programming and electronics skills through fun, hands-on projects.
This year marks the first offering of “Electronic Wearables,” in which students will decorate items of clothing with LED lights that can be programmed to react to light or sound. The class takes place at NIU’s DeKalb campus on the first two Saturdays in October.
STEM Outreach director Pati Sievert will lead participants ages 14 and older as they learn how to control LEDs with a microcontroller called an Adafruit “Gemma” built especially for wearables.
Participants are encouraged to bring their own clothing, back packs or soft toys to use in their projects. The timing is also right for participants to add some electricity to Halloween costumes. “It’s a soft introduction to electronics and coding,” Sievert says. “No special experience is required.”
On Nov. 7 and 14, learners age 14 and older are invited to NIU’s Naperville campus to “Join the Maker Movement with Arduinos.”
Arduinos are small, programmable computers that can be used to automate just about anything. Because they are versatile and easy to program, they have become a staple of do-it-yourself programming projects. In this class, participants will get a chance to make their own basic circuits and program the Arduinos to look for and respond to input from sensors and controls.
Do you know where your personal data is going – or even how much is out there?
Each time you browse the web, post on social media, use your smartphone’s GPS or make a credit-card purchase, you generate records and build your data trail, which grows longer every day.
At the next STEM Café, NIU alumni and College of Business marketing instructors Alex Eddy and Brian Gillet will discuss how these data trails can affect our lives for better and worse, impacting everything from job applications to insurance rates.
“For almost everything we do, there is now a company trying to figure out how to capture data about it,” says Eddy, who designs data-driven marketing campaigns for the Fortune 500 company RR Donnelley. “But where does this data go? Who looks at it? Why?”
The purpose of the talk is not to make people scared or nervous about their data. Instead, attendees will come away knowing more about how data is collected, how they can avoid collection they do not want, and why not all collection is a bad thing.
Gillet, for example, uses data collection and analysis in his job at KishHealth Systems. “The health care industry is working on harnessing the data categorization techniques invented by Google, Facebook and LInkedIn and using them to improve patients’ experiences,” he says. “And there are several other uses that are similarly benign. The key is awareness.”
Both Eddy and Gillet are NIU College of Business alumni who studied marketing as undergrads and information systems as graduate students. Currently, Eddy teaches interactive marketing technology and database marketing. Gillet teaches marketing strategy.
“We’ve all heard about data-gathering, but it’s hard to know how it relates to us, personally,” says NIU STEM Outreach associate Judith Dymond. “Alex Eddy and Brian Gillet will help us understand where we’re leaving our digital footprints, who is collecting our data and what they’re doing with it.”
This event is part of STEM Outreach’s series of monthly STEM Cafés, all of which are free and open to the public. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from Eduardo’s. In addition to the STEM Café series, NIU STEM Outreach hosts other engaging events throughout the year to increase public awareness of the critical roles the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – play in our everyday lives.