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STEM SaturdayInventors and innovators of tomorrow will be flocking to NIU’s DeKalb and Naperville campuses this fall for an exciting new season of STEM Saturdays, classes that give students hands-on experiences with science, technology, engineering and math.

The classes, which cover everything from robotics to virtual reality, are designed for students from age 7 to adults.

Each class takes place over two Saturdays, and each was designed by NIU’s STEM Outreach department to help students learn important STEM concepts in a fun environment. The list of classes, complete with dates, location and registration info, is available online.

STEM Saturdays use the same hands-on approach as our popular STEM Summer Camps,” says STEM Outreach Associate Jeremy Benson. “We don’t just give out information for kids to memorize. Instead, we give them tools for exploring the world they live in. That’s more useful – and more interesting, too.”

No matter the subject, the emphasis is on learning by doing, using trial and error to reach that exhilarating “eureka!” moment. In the “Science of Flight” class, for example, students will explore the physics of air travel by designing and constructing models of different flying machines. As a final exercise, students will build and launch their own rockets. Students in “Stop Motion Animation” will direct short movies, and in “Chemistry Investigations” they will cook up glow-in-the-dark slime.

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 on the first two Saturdays in October, which means participants will be able to incorporate their creations into their Halloween costumes. “It’s a soft introduction to electronics and coding,” says STEM Outreach Director Pati Sievert. “No special experience is required.”

Three different “STEM Divas” classes will expose young women ages 7 to 10 to the STEM fields. This popular series of classes, which STEM Outreach began offering last fall, gets female students hooked on STEM with activities like using 3D printers to make custom earrings.

STEM Divas use 3Doodlers, a hand-held technology similar to that of 3D printers, to create their own jewelry.

STEM Divas use 3Doodlers, a hand-held technology similar
to that of 3D printers, to create their own jewelry.

“We create a safe space for girls to take risks and explore STEM,” says Pettee Guerrero, the program’s founder. “Women who are currently majoring in STEM fields at NIU come to the classes to mentor the campers, which makes for a really engaging, welcoming atmosphere.”

Even the youngest little Einsteins of northern Illinois get a class.

“Stem Jr.” introduces students as young as seven to the basic concepts of engineering and design with hands-on challenges. Each student will leave with a completed project of which he or she can be proud. As with all STEM Saturday classes, parents are welcome to stay and participate, too.

“No matter what your STEM experience level is, STEM Saturdays have something for you,” Benson says. “You don’t need to have your heart set on being a scientist. You just need to be curious. STEM is everywhere and connects to almost everything.

Classes kick off Saturday, Sept. 12, and run through Saturday, Dec. 5, with a special STEM-themed holiday party for all STEM Saturdays participants and their parents Saturday, Dec. 12.

STEM Saturdays are offered through the award-winning NIU Center for P-20 Engagement. In addition to its STEM Outreach classes, camps, and events such as STEMfest and STEM Cafés, the P-20 Center directs innovative, life-long learning programs such as STEM Read, [email protected], the Center for Economic Education and the Regional P-20 Network for college and career readiness.

For more information, call (815) 743-0533 or [email protected].

by Peter C. Baker

Date posted: August 28, 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Eureka! NIU STEM Outreach offers new season of STEM Saturdays

Categories: Communiversity Digital Signage Engagement Events What's Going On

Students from Dongguan Taiwanese Business school were among the more than 300 campers who attended STEM Outreach summer camps in 2015.

Students from Dongguan Taiwanese Business school were among
the more than 300 campers who attended STEM Outreach summer camps in 2015.

NIU alum Sam Watt will be in China using innovative, NIU-developed techniques to teach STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – to sixth- and seventh-graders in Beijing this school year.

Watt’s classes will be based around lab activities specially developed by STEM Outreach, part of NIU’s P-20 Center in the Division of Outreach, Engagement, and Regional Development.

“This invitation from Beijing demonstrates STEM Outreach’s international reputation as innovators in STEM teaching,” says Anne Kaplan, vice president of Outreach, Engagement, and Regional Development.

In China, traditional education in the STEM fields relies heavily on memorization and recitation.

Watt’s classes, by contrast, will stress learning by doing. His students will build balloon-powered cars, design simple machines, construct prosthetic body parts, and program their own computer animations.

“These activities aren’t about following instructions,” says Watt, who will arrive in Beijing in September. “They’re about trial-and-error, problem-solving and learning how to think like a scientist.”

International Innovation: From DeKalb to the World

Watt’s journey to Beijing is the culmination of months of work by STEM Outreach.

Sam Watt

Sam Watt

For four years, students from China and Taiwan have been coming to NIU for STEM summer camps. Last year, the trip coordinator from Asian visited NIU with a teacher whose students had attended the STEM camps. The trip coordinator was so excited by the students’ experiences and the teachers’ reactions that she asked STEM Outreach Director Pati Sievert to come to China and introduce hands-on STEM teaching methods to students, teachers, and education administrators.

Last November, Sievert taught STEM activities in China and Taiwan. At each stop, she led a hands-on STEM lesson challenging students to construct a neutrally buoyant toy.

“The kids got so into it,” she says. “They jumped in right away. The teachers could see their excitement.”

Sievert even had a gathering of principals build paper helicopters. “They were smiling and laughing,” she says. “It was like they became students for the afternoon.”

The staff of Beijing Academy, a K-8 school in the city’s Chaoyang district, were particularly impressed. They kept in touch with Sievert and eventually asked STEM Outreach to develop a year-long visiting teacher program for students plus a professional development curriculum for principals and teachers across the district.

“As soon as I knew we needed a teacher, I thought of Sam Watt,” Sievert says.

Since his first semester at NIU, Watt has been sharing his passion for STEM every chance he gets. While earning his physics degree, he volunteered every year at the university’s annual STEMfest and worked every summer at its STEM camps. After graduating last spring, he took his hands-on science skills to Bloomington, Ill., where he taught high school physics.

“The NIU approach to STEM – the hands-on, exploratory approach – has always been my favorite, and I’m excited to bring it somewhere new. There’s nothing like being in the room with students when they have their ‘a-ha!’ moment of really getting the concept.”

Sam Watt leads Engineering Amusement campers in constructing model roller coasters.

Sam Watt leads Engineering Amusement campers in constructing model roller coasters.

Benefits to the Region

Watt’s trip is part of a broader effort to connect NIU and its students and alumni to the wider world.

“International connections are very beneficial to our campus and the region,” says Marilyn Bellert, associate director of NIU’s P-20 Center. “Sam is going to be introducing the kids at Beijing Academy to a whole new way of learning – one that prepares them to invent the future. But there’s a big benefit for us here in Illinois, too.”

Students from Tsinghua high school attempted to build neutrally buoyant toys during Pati Sievert's first visit to China and Taiwan.

Students from Tsinghua High School attempted to build neutrally buoyant toys during Pati Sievert’s first visit to China and Taiwan.

For example, more international schools besides Beijing Academy have already asked STEM Outreach to create similar teacher-in-residence programs, which means more NIU students and alums could have opportunities for immersive teaching experiences abroad.

In addition, more students from China and Taiwan have enrolled in NIU summer programs, helping campers to increase their understanding of the world by learning with students from other cultures.

Some of those international students might even find their way to NIU as undergraduates through connections to NIU partnerships with Chinese universities such as Nankai. Plans are in motion for more Chinese teachers to visit NIU for training.

Middle school students in northern Illinois will benefit, too.

The lessons that STEM Outreach developed for Watt’s class in Beijing will be available for free online through [email protected], an online repository of learning games and activities for K-12 students. The site, coordinated by the P-20 Center’s Mary Baker is already being used by teachers across northern Illinois and in 137 countries.

As for Watt, he’s packing his bags and counting the days until he gets to bring the NIU STEM Outreach approach to China. “It’s going to be such an adventure.”

by Peter C. Baker

Date posted: August 25, 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on NIU alum Sam Watt takes STEM Outreach to Beijing

Categories: Alumni Engagement Global

The wild bison herd at Nachusa Grasslands is the first herd reintroduced for habitat restoration purposes east of the Mississippi River.

The wild bison herd at Nachusa Grasslands is the first herd
reintroduced for habitat restoration purposes east of the Mississippi River.

Most of the Midwestern tall grass prairie vanished in the 19th century with the rise of the steel plow, but researchers say that prairie restoration is essential for maintaining native plant and animal habitats, improving water and soil quality and reducing erosion.

Here in Illinois, NIU professors are fighting to save the prairie ecosystem at Nachusa Grasslands – and they have enlisted bison as collaborators.

At 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, two of those professors, Holly Jones and Nick Barber, will describe the efforts to restore Nachusa’s tall grass prairie in STEM Café’s “Breakfast with the Bison” event in Oregon.

This special morning event will begin at NIU’s Lorado Taft Field Campus (1414 N. River Rd, Oregon, Ill.), where Barber and Jones will give a talk on why tallgrass prairies have diminished, why it matters,and what it will take to bring them back. They will focus on the Nachusa Grasslands, where NIU researchers measure how plant, animal and microbial life responds to different restoration techniques, including the recent reintroduction of a herd of wild native bison.

A breakfast buffet, which will include Lorado Taft’s famous cinnamon rolls, will be available for purchase for $10. To help Lorado Taft prepare enough food for breakfast, contact Judith Dymond at (815) 753-4751 or [email protected] to report number in your party.

At 10:30 a.m., the group will travel to Nachusa Grasslands to tour the area, view the bison and enjoy self-directed hiking.The formal activities will end at noon, after which visitors will be able to continue exploring on their own, taking in a vast diversity of prairie plants and flowers, including the spectacular Shooting Stars, Golden Alexanders, Pink Milkworts, Yellow Coneflower, and Wild Indigos

Anyone who thinks of prairies as flat and boring is in for a surprise, Jones says.

nachusa

Professor Holly Jones and NIU graduate students Heather Herakovich (center)
and Angela Burke (right) turn the Nachusa Grasslands into a living laboratory.

“It takes thousands of animals and innumerable microbes to have a healthy tallgrass prairie. Bringing that diversity back requires enormous effort and commitment,” she says.

The wild bison herd at Nachusa is the first herd reintroduced for habitat restoration purposes east of the Mississippi River. Their presence should naturally increase the local biodiversity, helping to restore the health of the ecosystem.

“Our research is trying to answer several questions,” Barber says. “How do bison affect the plants and animals? Do other animals and organisms return after a prairie is replanted? Do these restored prairies function like the native prairies that historically existed in the Midwest? What makes a restoration ‘successful?’ ”

Barber and Jones will also talk about how local citizens can get involved, whether by joining Nachusa’s army of volunteers, growing native plants in their gardens or creating “way stations” for monarch butterflies in their backyards.

Both Barber and Jones are assistant professors in NIU’s Department of Biological Sciences and associates at the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy. Barber, an ecologist, studies communities of plants and animals and how they interact in nature. Jones focuses on restoration, researching ways that degraded or destroyed ecosystems can be repaired.

This event is part of NIU STEM Outreach’s series of monthly STEM Cafés, all of which are free and open to the public.

The STEM Café series is just one of the many engaging events STEM Outreach hosts throughout the year to increase public awareness of the critical roles the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math play in everyday lives. For more information, call (815) 753-4751 or email [email protected].

Date posted: August 19, 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on STEM Café to serve ‘Breakfast with the Bison’ August 29

Categories: Communiversity Digital Signage Engagement Events Latest News

Photo courtesy NASA.

Photo courtesy NASA.

Here come the meteors!

Once a year, our planet crosses the path of the Swift-Tuttle Comet. Debris from the comet’s tail slams into the Earth’s upper atmosphere, creating the dazzling Perseid meteor shower.

This year, watch the meteors streak across the sky with NIU STEM Outreach at “Star Gazing,” a STEM Café event at Bliss Creek Golf Course in Sugar Grove. The event takes place from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12.

While the sun sets, guests can enjoy short, entertaining talks about the night sky and its secrets. During the talks, a buffet with pizza, pasta, salad and soft drinks will be available for $12.

  • At 7:30, STEM Outreach Associate Jeremy Benson will kick things off by explaining the science behind meteor showers. “This is one of my favorite STEM Outreach events of the year,” he says. “It’s great to get outside and marvel at the night sky with no obstructions and no light pollution. Plus it’s awesome to think about what meteors are and how this light show comes to exist.”
  • At 7:45, NASA Ambassador Joel Knapper will discuss Pluto, from its discovery by an Illinois citizen in 1930 to historic new data gathered by the New Horizons spacecraft just a few weeks ago. “We’re alive to witness one of the last new discoveries in our solar system,” Knapper says. “That’s pretty amazing.”
  • At 8:20, NIU Associate Professor of Geology and Environmental Geosciences Paul Stoddard will talk about the search for life in the solar system, focusing on Mars and Europa, a moon of Jupiter.

Photo of a telescopeAfter the sky goes dark, guests will view the meteor shower. Because the shower will be at its peak, approximately 50 meteors will fall each hour. Guests will be able to see the meteors with the naked eye.

Guests are also welcome to bring their own telescopes or use those provided by NIU to get a closer look at other celestial bodies that will be viewable in the night sky. “The event will take place rain or shine,” says STEM Café coordinator Judith Dymond. “We’re hoping for clear skies, but regardless of the weather, we’ll have great speakers who can shed some light into the dark reaches of space for us.”

This event is part of NIU STEM Outreach’s series of monthly STEM Cafés, all of which are free and open to the public. STEM Cafés are just one type of engaging event that STEM Outreach hosts throughout the year to increase public awareness of the critical roles the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – play in everyday lives.

For more information on STEM Cafés and other STEM events, call (815) 753-4751 or email [email protected].

by Peter C. Baker

Date posted: July 31, 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on All this and the stars, too

Categories: Centerpiece Communiversity Digital Signage Engagement Events

Formal and informal educators will get to experience hands-on activities that they can easily incorporate into their own classes.

Formal and informal educators will get to experience hands-on activities
that they can easily incorporate into their own classes.

Robots in the classroom. Science-infused artwork. Digital storytelling.

Teachers will learn how to make their classrooms more exciting by adding the arts to STEM to produce STEAM (science, technology, arts, engineering and math) during “STEAMing It Up,” a one-day conference at NIU’s Gabel Hall from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3.

Bringing STEAM into the classroom gets students fired up about interdisciplinary learning, fosters their creativity, and encourages them to relate the curriculum to their lives outside of school – all of which fits perfectly with the new Illinois Learning Standards for math, language arts and science. Conference attendees will participate in hands-on workshops, attend networking sessions and head home with ready-to-use classroom tools and lesson plans.

The keynote speaker is Tim Farquer, superintendent of Williamsfield School District 201.

In recent years, students from Williamsfield have engaged in a variety of interdisciplinary projects that address real-world issues and make their community a better place to live and learn. To improve access to healthy, locally-grown food, students built a hydroponics program that now provides fresh produce to the cafeteria.

Williamsfield students also recently participated in an industry-led renewable energy challenge. The school is considering the students’ proposal to implement a vertical wind turbine on the school that will serve as source of clean, renewable energy for a cell phone charging station. The district also testing biodiesel fuel and planning student-run workshops to educate community members on smart, renewable technology. Superintendent Farquer will discuss his experiences and share lessons learned.

“We all know the world is getting more and more interdisciplinary,” says Kristin Brynteson, assistant director of NIU’s innovative Center for P-20 Engagement, which organized the conference. “Being able to spot and tackle problems that crisscross traditional domains is increasingly valuable. So if teachers want their kids to be ready for the courses and careers of tomorrow, their lessons have to be interdisciplinary, too.”

Brynteson will facilitate several of the day’s breakout sessions and moderate a panel of educators who have successfully incorporated STEAM programming into their curriculum.

At a recent P-20 training session, teachers learned to draw inspiration from storybooks to teach young children about the engineering design cycle.

At a recent P-20 training session, teachers learned to draw inspiration from storybooks
to teach young children about the engineering design cycle.

“This conference will let teachers from across the region share their experiences of what works best for students,” she says. “They’ll talk about what really motivates them to make connections between school and the real world.”

Other breakout sessions will be facilitated by P-20 Center experts, who specialize in creating fun, high-energy, hands-on activities that often blend reading, art and creativity into STEM learning.

“This definitely isn’t just for STEM teachers,” says Erin Spencer, a P-20 Center curriculum developer who brings several years of experience as a high school physics teacher. “These are tools that can be used in all subject areas. It’s about getting a little bit out of your comfort zone, learning fun games for your classroom, and starting the new school year with a bunch of fresh ideas.”

The cost of $95 per person includes breakfast, lunch and parking. Professional Development Hours are available. Registration information and a full list of workshops are available online.

For more information, email [email protected].

Date posted: July 17, 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on STEAMing It Up: NIU conference offers hot ideas for inspiring K-12 students

Categories: Communiversity Digital Signage Engagement Events Latest News

Photo of an acoustic guitarSnare drums snap, bells ting-a-ling and flutes whistle like birds.

But why does one instrument sound any different than another? And how do objects produce sound in the first place?

NIU alum Andrew Morrison has spent his career using physics to study these questions. At the next STEM Café, he will present “Good Vibrations: The Physics of Musical Instruments,” a crash course – complete with musical demonstrations – in how basic scientific laws help us understand the sounds that make up our favorite tunes.

The free talk will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23, at the House Café, 263 E. Lincoln Hwy. in DeKalb.

Morrison, who received his Ph.D. in physics from NIU in 2005, is a professor of physics and astronomy at Joliet Junior College. He also chairs the Technical Committee on Musical Acoustics of the Acoustical Society of America. At NIU, he focused on the physics of musical instruments, especially the vibration and sound radiation of the Caribbean steelpan.

Morrison says that his talk will show people how to understand finely crafted musical instruments scientifically by applying the basic laws of physics to an instrument’s individual components.

“I think people might be surprised to find out how seemingly complex musical instruments can be simple to understand,” Morrison says. “At the same time, some seemingly simple instruments are actually quite complicated.”

Photo of a tambourineEric Schroeder will perform the musical demonstrations during the talk. Schroeder received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in guitar performance from NIU’s School of Music. He now works with NIU’s Community School of the Arts and is on the music faculty at Rockford College. Shroeder also specializes in Suzuki guitar and is the founder of the NIUkulele Ensemble.

Good Vibrations is part of NIU STEM Outreach’s series of monthly STEM Cafés, which are free and open to the public. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from the House Café.

Organizer Judith Dymond looks forward to hosting this event at a space known for its live band performances

“This is our first time working with the House, but it seemed like the perfect venue for a talk about the science of music,” Dymond says. “We’re hoping that both House Café and STEM Café regulars will learn some new things, listen to some great musical demonstrations, and enjoy a night out.”

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.

For more information on STEM Cafés and other STEM events, call (815) 753-4751 or email [email protected].

by Peter C. Baker

Date posted: July 8, 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Good Vibrations: July 23 STEM Café to explore physics of musical instruments

Categories: Alumni Arts Communiversity Digital Signage Events Faculty & Staff Liberal Arts and Sciences Music Visual and Performing Arts

A participant in a STEM Divas Saturday class works on her original creation using a 3Doodler, a hand-held 3-D printing device.

A participant in a STEM Divas Saturday class works on her original creation using a 3Doodler, a hand-held 3-D printing device.

STEM learning will collide with summer fun on the Northern Illinois University campus in a new one-day STEM Divas summer camp.

The camp, which is designed for girls from ages 7 to 16, will take place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 21.

Divas will learn how to solder, take a tour of NIU’s engineering building, use a variety of tools to complete their own woodworking projects and more.

Participants will use the engineering design cycle in the planning and creation of their projects, and will work directly with facilitators to address stereotypes of females in STEM through discussion and activities.

The camp session builds on the success of NIU’s STEM Divas initiative, which strives to create a community of confident female leaders and learners age seven and up who embrace femininity while using hands-on activities to explore science, technology, engineering, and math. Developed in fall 2014 as a component of the popular “STEM Saturdays” program, STEM Divas is the brainchild of mechanical engineer and STEM Outreach Associate Pettee Guerrero.

“These kinds of opportunities are so important for young women today, and it’s crucial that we reach them while they are still excited about learning concepts in all subjects,” Guerrero said. “Statistically, girls’ performance and interest in STEM subjects drops off in middle and high school.”

Guerrero says STEM Divas classes have been hugely popular because they provide girls with the skills, role models and confidence to pursue their interests. She sees the camp as a way to keep these young students engaged during the summer.

Female STEM experts, such as NIU graduate student Erin Spencer, will serve as mentors to participants throughout the day.

Female STEM experts, such as NIU graduate student Erin Spencer, will serve
as mentors to participants throughout the day.

A key component of STEM Divas classes are mentors who are paired with small groups of participants.

Mentoring gives each girl an opportunity to get to know a professional STEM educator or a female student from one of NIU’s STEM majors. This personal attention is extremely important because it gives campers an opportunity to ask questions and discuss their interests in a safe and casual environment.

“The young women we bring in as mentors are so excited to participate. They can see themselves in these girls and want to help keep them interested in science and technology,” Guerrero said.

The cost for the one day camp is $70 per diva and includes lunch and all materials. Registration is available online. For more information, call (815) 753-0533 or email [email protected].

The Center for P-20 Engagement at NIU provides many other camps and activities throughout the year via STEM Outreach along with free STEM and STEAM resources at www.stemread.niu.edu and www.smartspaceniu.com.

Date posted: June 12, 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Learning, fun come together in STEM Divas Summer Camp for Girls

Categories: Communiversity Digital Signage Engagement Events On Campus What's Going On

Photo of a vaccinationDiseases that were once nearly eradicated in the Western world are again threatening both young children and adults.

Although numerous studies have proven the safety of vaccinations, low vaccination rates in some communities are causing outbreaks of whooping cough, measles and other serious but preventable diseases.

At the next STEM Café, DeKalb County Public Health Administrator Jane Lux will explore the facts about 21st century vaccines, the future of vaccinations and the necessity of vaccines locally and internationally.

The talk, “Vaccines and Quarantines: It’s Not Really a Question,” will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 27, at O’Leary’s Restaurant & Pub, 260 E. Lincoln Hwy. This event is free and open to the public. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from O’Leary’s.

Lux earned both her Bachelor of Science in nursing and Master of Public Health at Northern Illinois University.

She began her 34-year career at the DeKalb County Health Department as a public health nurse, working in the department’s maternal and child health and communicable disease prevention programs, and has been the public health administrator since July 2011.

Jane Lux

Jane Lux

Lux is passionate about helping people understand the facts behind their health decisions.

“As a nurse and a public health practitioner, I have seen the importance of immunizations on both an individual and community level,” Lux said. “Because the world is so interconnected through international travel, I have also seen the impact of vaccine-preventable diseases worldwide.”

Immunization with vaccines is one of the greatest achievements of biological science and public health, said Lux, adding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) called vaccination one of the “Ten Great Public Health Achievements in the 20th Century.”

Lux stresses that immunization protects not just individuals, but also the health of the overall community. She hopes that her talk will dispel myths surrounding vaccines.

This talk is part of NIU STEM Outreach’s popular monthly STEM Café events, which invite people to meet at restaurants throughout the area to eat, drink and have lively discussions about the latest innovations in science, technology, engineering and math.

For more information about STEM Cafés and other learning opportunities from STEM Outreach, email [email protected].

Date posted: May 14, 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on May STEM Café to explore vaccines, quarantines

Categories: Alumni Communiversity Digital Signage Engagement Events Health and Human Sciences Latest News

STEM Career Exploration campers explore engineering concepts through hands-on activities like bridge-building.

STEM Career Exploration campers explore engineering concepts
through hands-on activities such as bridge-building.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Northern Illinois University’s STEM Outreach is hoping to help students answer that question by offering a variety of fun, hands-on summer camps that explore in-demand careers and concepts in science, technology, engineering and math.

STEM Outreach and other STEM departments host camps from June through August at NIU’s main campus in DeKalb and the field campus at Lorado Taft in Oregon, Ill. This year, in addition to popular camps like Engineering Amusement, they are adding a variety of new camp experiences.

Organizers say that as job opportunities in STEM fields continue to grow, they want to help students explore their talents and expand their interests.

“We want students to come in, have fun, get their hands dirty, learn from STEM professionals and get excited about pursuing STEM careers,” says Jeremy Benson, STEM Outreach Camp director.

In STEM Career Explorations, students in grades 10 through 12 now can choose among tracks in engineering, science, chemistry, video game design and health sciences.

More than 180 students have registered for STEM Outreach’s camps so far; parents should register their children as soon as possible to reserve their spaces in these popular camps.

New this year is STEM Read’s Crisis on Mars! camp (June 21-26). The camp, which is organized in conjunction with [email protected] and STEM Outreach, presents high school students with a fresh challenge each day as they use Andy Weir’s best-selling novel “The Martian” to participate in engineering challenges and explore STEM concepts, art and design, and creative writing. Crisis on Mars! uses hands-on experiences to foster creative problem solving and is geared toward future scientists, artists, writers and sci-fi fans alike.

A camper in Engineering Amusement designs and constructs a model roller coaster.

Campers in Engineering Amusement design
and build model roller coaster.

“Whether you’re an artist or an astronaut, creativity will be important in your career,” says Mary Baker, coordinator of [email protected], “students don’t always get time to innovate and work collaboratively on open-ended problems during the school day. That’s where camps like ours come in.”

Baker will lead campers in creating space ship concept art and cinematic trailers to document their Martian adventures. The campers will use STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and math) to explore Weir’s popular book.

Crisis on Mars! campers also will have the opportunity to Skype with author and computer engineer Weir, who is currently adapting “The Martian” as a major motion picture directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon. Early bird registration for this camp has been extended until Sunday, May 10.

Eagle’s Nest STEAM Camp is another new offering that blends art with STEM concepts. The camp gives young artists a chance to investigate new techniques in digital art, holography, electronic wearable art, scientific illustration, kinetic art,and more. The camp will be held at NIU’s Lorado Taft campus, a former artists’ colony.

Also new this year are camp experiences for teachers.

“Why should students have all the fun?” asks Kristin Brynteson, assistant director of NIU’s P-20 Center. “This summer we’ve created teacher professional development camps that will run parallel to the Exploring STEM and Crisis on Mars! camps.”

The teacher camps will follow a co-learning approach where teachers will learn alongside students during some of their STEM challenges, Brynteson says. Teachers also will have breakout and reflection sessions to plan for implementing STEAM lesson plans in their own classrooms.

The P-20 Center is offering a special discount for educators who submit recommendations for two or more students who register for camp. “We think it will be powerful for teachers to work with their students and to witness firsthand the impact that STEAM-based learning can have on young learners,” Brynteson says.

For information on summer camps from STEM Outreach, visit niu.edu/stem. For information on teacher professional development camps, visit niu.edu/p20.

Camp fun continues into the night with activities like making your own liquid nitrogen ice cream.

Camp fun continues into the night with activities
such as making your own liquid nitrogen ice cream.

STEM Summer Camps for Students

  • Crisis on Mars!: a residential camp for students entering grades 9-12. June 21-26
  • STEM Career Exploration Session 1 (choose science or Engineering): a residential camp for students entering grades 10-12. June 21-26
  • Green Energy: a day camp for students entering grades 6-8. June 21-27
  • Exploring STEM Week 1 (choose engineering, nature, EV3 Robotics-Space Challenge or art) a residential camp for students entering grades 7-9. July 5-10 at NIU’s Lorado Taft Campus
  • Engineering Summer Academy: a residential camp for students entering grades 9-12. July 5-10
  • Exploring STEM Week 2 (choose engineering, EV3 Robotics-Engineering Challenge or nature) a residential camp for students entering grades 7-9. July 12-17 at Lorado Taft
  • Eagle’s Nest STEAM Camp: a residential camp for students entering grades 9-12. July 12-17 at Lorado Taft
  • Nanotechnology: a residential camp for students entering grades 9-12. July 12-17
  • Exploring STEM Week 3 (choose chemistry, art, sports or EV3 Robotics-Engineering Challenge) a residential camp for students entering grades 7-9. July 19-24.
  • Engineering Amusement: a residential camp for students entering grades 5-7. July 26-31

Date posted: May 7, 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on STEM camps prepare students for creative problem-solving, careers

Categories: Communiversity Engagement Engineering and Engineering Technology Health and Human Sciences Liberal Arts and Sciences On Campus

Genoa teen Katie Sosnowski performs her original song, “Acceleration” during Tuesday’s event. Sosnowski and her music have a major role in the radio play.

Genoa teen Katie Sosnowski performs her original song, “Acceleration” during the May 5 event. Sosnowski and her music have a major role in the radio play.

The Martians have landed in DeKalb – and they did not come in peace!

That’s the premise of STEM Read’s new adaptation of the classic 1938 radio play, “The War of the Worlds.” Throughout the winter and spring, STEM Read worked with Northern Public Radio and teens from DeKalb, Sycamore and Genoa to imagine, write and record the story of a Martian invasion in DeKalb County.

The new radio play will air at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 10, on WNIJ (89.5 FM), but contributors and guests were able to attend a May 5 premiere party at Northern Public Radio. Visitors gathered in NPR’s newly remodeled studio to hear the finished radio play, make tinfoil hats, see laser demonstrations and celebrate Orson Welles’ 100th birthday with cake and cookies.

“ ‘The War of the Worlds’ was one of our most ambitious projects so far,” says STEM Read Director Gillian King-Cargile.

Part of NIU’s P-20 Center, STEM Read creates live events and online resources to help readers of all ages explore the science behind popular fiction books. They highlight both new and classic books and create videos, interactive games, field trips, author visits, collaborative writing activities and educator lesson plans that are free online at stemread.niu.edu.

STEM Read kicked off the project in October by handing out more than 200 copies of H.G. Wells’ novel “The War of the Worlds” to visitors during STEMfest 2014. Staff also created video interviews with experts on the role of H.G. Wells in science fiction, the science of heat rays, the impact of Welles’ 1938 broadcast on modern media, the true history of Mars exploration and the legacy of radio dramas.

From there, STEM Read hosted listening parties at the DeKalb Public Library and the Sycamore Public Library, where community members could hear the panic-inducing 1938 broadcast by Welles and the Mercury Theater. STEM Read then worked with teen groups including Sycamore High School’s Sci-Fi Club and teen advisory groups from the two public libraries to collaborate on writing a script for a new version of the radio play.

Visitors worked with SMARTspace@NIU coordinator Mary Baker to create tinfoil hats to protect their brains from Martian transmissions.

Visitors worked with [email protected] coordinator Mary Baker to create
tinfoil hats to protect their brains from Martian transmissions.

“It was great to go to different locations and see what different groups of teens added to the radio play,” says Mary Baker, coordinator of [email protected], who helped plan the project. “Even though some of the teens never met, they played off of each other’s ideas and really created something spectacular!”

Baker worked with the teens to brainstorm ideas for Martian Math Mania, an online game that uses an alien invasion as the basis for fun and challenging story problems. The game is available on STEM Read and SMARTspace websites.

Once the script was finished, STEM Read worked with the teens and community members as well as NIU faculty, staff and students to record voice-overs, sound effects and mock-commercials in the style of a modern-day NPR broadcast. Northern Public Radio experts provided advice and encouragement throughout the process.

“Over 100 high school students, community members and NIU employees contributed their time, voices and talents to this production,” King-Cargile says. “The result is 30 minutes of fun, freaky radio. The Martians destroy a lot of local landmarks!”

Listeners can hear the broadcast on 89.5 FM or stream it from northernpublicradio.org by clicking Listen Live. After May 10, the broadcast will be available on stemread.niu.edu.

Date posted: May 7, 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on STEM Read, local teens adapt ‘The War of the Worlds’

Categories: Community Communiversity Digital Signage Engagement Events Latest News

STEM - artStudents looking for fun, hands-on ways to explore new careers this summer can register for Northern Illinois University’s summer camps.

NIU’s day and residential camps run throughout June, July and August and cover a variety of topics to keep students in elementary school through high school engaged in learning and growing. They also offer students an opportunity to experience college life and interact with university experts.

At this year’s camps, students will experience everything from developing video games, to engineering the homes and products of the future, to becoming the next nightly news anchor.

Students who want to add some adventure to their summers can sign up to navigate the zombie apocalypse, perform with a jazz ensemble, train the Huskie way with NIU Athletics or try to survive the surface of Mars.

With new camp offerings and favorites from past years, there is sure to be something to interest every young learner.

Several camps offer merit-based and need-based scholarships. Some camps also offer discounts for early-bird registration, children of NIU employees, returning campers or multiple campers from the same family.

For 2015, STEM Outreach has expanded its offerings to give students more experience with in-demand careers. In addition to popular camps such as Engineering Amusement, they have added new tracks to STEM Career Exploration camps for students entering grades 10 through 12. Students can now choose among tracks in engineering, science, math, chemistry, video game design and health sciences.

“Job opportunities in STEM fields will continue to grow,” says Jeremy Benson, STEM Outreach Camp director. “We want students to come in, have fun, get their hands dirty, learn from STEM professionals, and get excited about pursuing STEM careers.”

More than 130 students already have registered for STEM Outreach’s camps. Parents should register their children early to reserve their spaces in these popular camps, Benson says.

Book cover of “The Martian” by Andy WeirNew this year is STEM Read’s Crisis on Mars! camp (June 21-26).

The camp, which is organized in conjunction with [email protected] and STEM Outreach, will present high school students with a fresh challenge each day as they use Andy Weir’s best-selling novel “The Martian” to explore STEM concepts, art and design, and creative writing. Crisis on Mars! uses hands-on experiences to foster creative problem solving and is geared toward future scientists, artists, writers and sci-fi fans alike.

“Creativity is important in every career, says Mary Baker, coordinator of [email protected], “but schools don’t always give students time to innovate and work collaboratively on open-ended problems. That’s where camps like ours come in.”

Baker will lead campers in creating space ship concept art and cinematic trailers to document their Martian adventures. “We’ll use STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math) to explore Andy Weir’s fantastic book,” Baker says.

Crisis on Mars! campers also will have the opportunity to Skype with author and computer engineer Andy Weir, who is currently adapting “The Martian” as a major motion picture directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon.

The Digital Convergence Lab (DCL) is again offering their popular Video Game Design camps, including 2-D game development, 3-D game development, co-ed camps and girls-only camps.

“A lot of people play video games,” says Aline Click, director of the DLC’s camps, “but not many people think about all the aspects of video game development. Our programs help campers learn not only how to use the applications needed to develop a game, but to deconstruct and analyze popular video games to recognize the components of truly engaging games.”

Campers also will learn about careers in video game design and interview professional game developers via Skype, Click says.

Also new this year are communications camps from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences External Programming (CLASEP). Fledgling reporters and future YouTubers alike will enjoy learning to produce content in the Digital Media Day Camp (grades 6-8; July 20-24) and TV Broadcasting Residential Camp (grades 9-12; July 26-31).

Surviving the Zombie ApocalypseHigh school students concerned about being devoured by a zombie hoard should attend CLASEP’s Geography Camp: Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse.

In this camp, students will explore how the physical, human and technological aspects of geography affect their daily decision-making process and learn geography-related tips that could save their lives if the dead decide to walk the earth.

“I’m always excited to provide new opportunities for young learners and to see the breadth of topics that NIU’s summer camps cover,” says Mark Pietrowski, associate director of CLASEP. “Whether you’re into creative writing, sports, or zombies, you’re going to have a great experience at an NIU summer camp.”

Liberal Arts and Sciences

Movie set clapperThe College of Liberal Arts and Sciences External Programming offers a variety of camps to help students explore the craft behind creative endeavors, dig into dirt or numbers, or explore global issues and cultures.

  • Creative Writing Camp: a residential camp for students entering grades 9-12. June 21-26
  • Global Leadership & Philanthropy: a residential camp for students entering grades 9-12. June 21-26
  • Speech Camp: a residential camp for students entering grades 9-12. June 21-26
  • Film Camp: a residential camp for students entering grades 9-12. July 5-10
  • Journalism Camp: a residential camp for students entering grades 9-12. July 12-17
  • Archeology Day Camp: a day camp for students entering grades 6-8. July 13-17
  • Foreign Language and Culture: a day camp for students entering grades 6-8. July 20-24
  • Digital Media Day Camp: a day camp for students entering grades 6-8. July 20-24
  • Geography Camp: Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse: a residential camp for students entering grades 9-12. July 26-31
  • TV Broadcasting Camp: a residential camp for students entering grades 9-12. July 26-31
  • Creative Writing Day Camp: a day camp for students entering grades 6-8. July 27-31

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)

High school campers interested in STEM visit a clean room at NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.

High school campers interested in STEM visit a clean room
at NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.

Northern Illinois University is a regional leader in STEM studies.

Building on the popularity of community programs such as STEMfest, Science Saturdays, and STEM Read, NIU STEM Outreach and other STEM departments are expanding their summer offerings. Students can participate in day and residential camps on everything from the science of art and roller coasters to STEM and health career investigation and more.

  • Crisis on Mars!: a residential camp for students entering grades 9-12. June 21-26
  • STEM Career Exploration Session 1 (Choose one of the following tracks: Science, Engineering, Math): a residential camp for students entering grades 10-12. June 21-26
  • Green Energy: a day camp for students entering grades 6-8. June 21-27
  • Exploring STEM Week 1 (Choose one of the following tracks: Engineering, Nature, EV3 Robotics-Space Challenge, Art) a residential camp for students entering grades 7-9. July 5-10 at NIU’s Lorado Taft Campus
  • Engineering Summer Academy: a residential camp for students entering grades 9-12. July 5-10
  • Exploring STEM Week 2 (Choose one of the following tracks: Waterbotics, Engineering, EV3 Robotics-Engineering Challenge, Nature) a residential camp for students entering grades 7-9. July 12-17 at NIU’s Lorado Taft Campus
  • Eagle’s Nest STEAM Camp: a residential camp for students entering grades 9-12. July 12-17 at NIU’s Lorado Taft Campus
  • Nanotechnology: a residential camp for students entering grades 9-12. July 12-17
  • Exploring STEM Week 3 (Choose one of the following tracks: Chemistry, Art, Sports, EV3 Robotics-Engineering Challenge) a residential camp for students entering grades 7-9. July 19-24 at NIU’s DeKalb Campus
  • Engineering Amusement: a residential camp for students entering grades 5-7. July 26-31
  • STEM Career Exploration Session 2 (Choose one of the following tracks: Health, Engineering, Video Game Design): a residential camp for students entering grades 10-12. August 2-7

NIU Huskies logoSports

Young athletes can take their skills to the next level with the help of top collegiate coaches. Campers train in NIU facilities and are grouped according to age and skill level.

NIU offers a variety of day and residential camps on:

  • Athletic Training
  • Cheerleading
  • Football
  • Soccer
  • Volleyball
  • Wrestling

Video Game Design

Campers in DCL’s video game design camps can create and produce their own fun, original games.

Campers in DCL’s video game design camps can create
and produce their own fun, original games.

The Digital Convergence Lab hosts day camps where students can explore the technical and creative side of game design. The DCL staff will guide students in animation, virtual worlds, character design, story development, logic and even sound effects as they create their games.

  • Just for Girls! Video Game Design: a day camp for students entering grades 5-9. June 22-26
  • Co-ed Video Game Design Camp: Section 1: a day camp for students entering grades 5-9. July 6-10
  • Co-ed Video Game Design Camp: Section 2: a day camp for students entering grades 5-9. July 20-24
  • Co-ed Intro to 3D Game Design: a day camp for students entering grades 5-9. July 27-31
  • Advanced Games Camp: a day camp for students ages 13 to adult (younger students must have attended a prior game lab and get permission from Eric Russell [email protected]). August 10-14

Visual and Performing Arts

The College of Visual and Performing Arts’ summer camps offer young artists, musicians and thespians a place in the spotlight. Campers will innovate, experiment and grow as artists by participating in group activities and personal exercises and by receiving feedback from mentoring artists.

  • Jazz: a residential camp for grades 8-12 (grade completion). July 12-17
  • Theatre Arts – Junior: a residential camp for grades 6-8 (grade completion). July 12-17
  • Theatre Arts – Senior: a residential camp for grades 9-12 (grade completion). July 19-24
  • Visual Arts: a residential camp for grades 8-12 (grade completion). July 19-24

For more information on NIU’s summer camps, call (800) 345-9472.

Date posted: April 14, 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on NIU Summer Camps offer creative activities, career preparation

Categories: Communiversity Engagement Events Latest News On Campus

Doug Sisterson

Doug Sisterson

Mixed messages about climate disruption in the media and elsewhere cause confusion for the public and could prevent action to ensure a better future, says Doug Sisterson, a research meteorologist at Argonne National Laboratory.

Sisterson will visit NIU Friday, April 10, to speak on “What We Know and Don’t Know About Climate Disruption,” exploring striking scientific data that points to trouble ahead.

The event will take place in NIU’s Holmes Student Center. Visitors are invited to a casual reception outside the Carl Sandburg Auditorium at 6 p.m., followed by a presentation and Q-and-A session from 6:30 until 7:30 p.m.

The family-friendly event is free and open to the public; parking is available in the Visitor Pay Lot.

Argonne researches and develops energy innovations that can protect the environment and ensure national security. Sisterson’s presentation is part of the Argonne OutLoud program, a lecture series that highlights cutting-edge research topics of interest to the community.

Sisterson is a research meteorologist at Argonne and senior manager at Argonne for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility. He is also the co-author of “How to Change Minds About Our Changing Climate” with fellow Argonne researcher Seth Darling. His book will be available for purchase before and after the event. A portion of the proceeds will support future community programs at NIU.

NIU’s P-20 Center is collaborating with Argonne National Lab to provide this program.

“We’re very excited to continue our partnership with Argonne National Lab and to share this important topic with the community during Earth Month,” says Gillian King-Cargile, director of the P-20 Center’s STEM Read program. “Doug Sisterson is a talented researcher as well as an entertaining and engaging speaker. His insights into climate disruption will help people of all ages understand the challenges we face and the ways we can make a difference.”

Those who cannot attend the event in person can live-stream it on YouTube or view the recorded presentation on STEM Outreach’s YouTube channel. For more information, email [email protected].

Date posted: April 7, 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Argonne OutLoud Lecture Series Comes to NIU Friday, April 10

Categories: Communiversity Digital Signage Engagement Events Latest News What's Going On