Illinois STEM Educators Participate in French-American Science Festival

November 1, 2012

Bob Coverdill, I-STEM Associate Director, sharing during panel discussion on STEM education.
Bob Coverdill, I-STEM Associate Director, sharing during panel discussion on STEM education at the French-American Science Festival. Photo courtesy Joe Muskin.

On October 29–30, 2012, several representatives from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign participated in the second annual French-American Science Festival held at Northwestern University in Chicago. This year's two-day festival drew upon French and U.S. expertise to address topics on the theme "Sustainable Development." The Festival was funded by the French Consulate in Chicago and organized by Adèle Martial of the French Consulate's Office for Science and Technology.

Approximately 40 people attended the panel discussion workshop, including I-STEM associate Director Bob Coverdill, who presented on STEM education outreach tools at Illinois. In addition, Nano-CEMMS education coordinators Joe Muskin and Carrie Kouadio presented on nanotechnology as part of the event's hands-on exhibits provided for elementary through high school students.

Part of the opening ceremony was a satellite feed from Lyons, France about a project between two schools, one in France and one in the U.S. The two teams received different puzzle pieces of a "Rosetta Stone" tablet inscribed with an imaginary language and went through a cultural activity to discover the translation of their pieces; the participating schools then shared their part of the project with each other via satellite, which taught students the importance of intercultural communication and global issues.

The "International Film Project: Water and Waste, Sustainable Management for All" involved high school students from three countries: France, India, and the U.S. Students from each country worked on a project about a water/waste issue in their own country, then made a video of their part in the project. A composite film made from the student videos was aired at the opening ceremony of the workshop.

Regarding the water/waste project, Coverdill commented, "Each of them had a different flavor or concern that they had to address. The kids in Milwaukee had issues with pollutants coming down the river going into Lake Michigan. The ones in India, of course, had different issues there. So it's kind of interesting that although we all have water, and we all think we know what our water issues are, they're the same but they're different. Each one has got its own issues. So that was kind of a neat collaboration."

One of the highlights of the Festival was scientific journalist Jamy Gourmaud (the French equivalent of Bill Nye, the Science Guy) who is a famous celebrity in France. The French students, and even some from the U.S., were excited about his presence and wanted to be photographed with him.

The workshop portion of the festival addressed three questions:

  1. How can we develop international projects in science education and outreach that treat global issues with intercultural approaches?
  2. How do we identify the actors and finance programs to accomplish such projects?
  3. What tools and programming can be used at the international scale for such projects, and how can these be shared?

Coverdill, who in his talk addressed question #3, shared about I-STEM and its role in promoting STEM education. He then shared the following four types of outreach categories, the targeted groups, and some of the specific activities used at Illinois and how these might be tailored for use internationally:

  • Illinois' partnerships with k-12 schools via after-school science clubs and field trips to campus labs.
  • I-STEM's High School Summer Research Experience, which gives high schoolers authentic research experiences in campus labs.
  • Partnerships with national competitions, such as FIRST Robotics and Science Olympiad;
  • K-12 teacher professional development through projects such as ICLCS and EnLiST.

"The idea that I was trying to convey," said Coverdill, "was that any of these things can be scaled internationally in the sense that all you need are partner institutions. If you have a university, a college, and schools or kids nearby that could benefit from this, that's all you need. You've got the main components right there. It's just a matter of putting the pieces together to make it happen."

According to Coverdill, there was a great deal of interest in his talk, and some of the questions he fielded afterwards during the question and answer session were, " Well, how do you pay for this?" as well as other questions about program logistics. Since most teachers in France are restricted in the kinds of things they can do outside of school, the notion that teachers could volunteer their time in an after-school program seemed foreign to them. To the question, "Who pays for the University's role in this?" he responded, "Well, that's a good point. I guess it's just paid by the University or the State, and that's seen as part of our outreach or our mission to provide this to the communities."

Another component of the festival was hands-on booths addressing a variety of science topics. On both days, local school groups took part in the activities, with CPS schools bringing groups on Monday, while on Tuesday, students from French-speaking schools attended the event. About 100 students participated from the French-speaking K–12 school, Lyceé Français de Chicago. This school, which follows the French national curriculum, is attended primarily by children of parents who work in the French Embassy in Chicago.

Offered a variety of hands-on science exhibits, students could wander around the event and participate in activities that looked interesting. Offering truly hands-on activities, the Nano-CEMMS booths were two of the most interesting because they gave students the opportunity to make something while they learned about nanotechnology. While Joe Muskin did an exhibit on 3D printing where students were given the opportunity to make a Lego, Carrie Kouadio did one where the youngsters mixed chemicals to make a vial of gold nanoparticles.

Joe Muskin, Nano-CEMMS Education Coordinator
Joe Muskin, Nano-CEMMS eudcation coordinator

Muskin and Kouadio reported that although a large number of students experienced their exhibits, because they have done these kinds of events so often, they have a routine figured out and can move groups of youngsters through quickly, like an assembly line. For example, the 3D printing project takes about fifteen minutes; four kids at a time can make a Lego, and it takes the group about 10 minutes to do the printing; that group then moves on down the line, where they spend five minutes to clean and wrap up, while a new group begins. The gold nanoparticle project takes about five minutes for students to mix their chemicals, then put the vial in a hot water bath for another five. Then, like in a cooking show, she has some finished products made up ahead for the kids to take home and says, "Well, if you waited five minutes, it would look like this." Then she goes on to explain why the mixture looks red, and shares some applications of gold nanoparticles in cancer research.

Muskin reports that in the past in the 3D Printing demo, he's tried to do the "cooking show" thing, and supplied finished products for participants to take home. However, the kids always want to take home the one they actually made, and are willing to wait the extra 5–10 minutes to get it. He says, "It is interesting, because I've tried in past events to do the 'cooking show' with the 3-D printing, but people actually want their Lego. Gold, it's just a liquid, which is cool, but they don't feel as much ownership. But with the Lego, they actually made that Lego. They want that Lego."

Kouadio added that "In some cases, the students do want to wait for the one they made. I'll say, "If you don't mind, I've made some up ahead,' and they'll say, 'No, actually, I think I'd like to wait,' so they'll stand there, and they'll wait through another cycle of students so they can get their own. And they watch it!"

The Nano-CEMMS duo reports that the kids were very receptive, and afterwards the two received an email from the coordinators of the event saying that their hands-on presentation was one of the highlights.

Carrie Kouadio works with a student
Carrie Kouadio, Nano-CEMMS eudcation coordinator, working with a student. Photo courtesy Carrie Kouadio.

Regarding the popularity of the Nano-CEMMS exhibits, Muskin reported that "Students would actually pull over other students, 'Oh, this is the table that you've got to do this at!' So we didn't advertise. Other students would pull their friends over and tell them to do that. That happened several times."

Added Kouadio: "I think our exhibits were very popular, and are very popular in general, because students get to do something very hands on, very engaging, they get to learn about something that they've never done before, probably, the 3D printing and making gold nanoparticles. Also they get to take something home. So at the 3D printing, they actually get to take home the little object, and they can describe the process to their family and friends. And then with the gold nanoparticles, they actually get to take a vial home and explain how they made it, and what's inside, and what are the possible applications. So I think the combination of the two makes the exhibit really fun for the kids."

Story and photographs by Elizabeth Innes, Communications Specialist, I-STEM Education Initiative
More: I-STEM Initiatives, Nano-CEMMS, 2012





Nobel Project’s End-of-Year Zoom Bash Recaps Learning

February 1, 2022
The STEM Illinois Nobel Project held a special, end-of-the-year Zoom event celebrating its participating students’ achievements.
Full Story

It’s not magic, it’s physics

January 26, 2022
In Franklin STEAM Academy, Musical Magnetism program makes STEM fun, approachable.
Full Story

Program prepares STEM educators to teach all students

November 30, 2021
This summer, a group of educators gathered to learn about engaging STEM activities they can do with their students.
Full Story

Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program

November 11, 2021
Undergrads get a taste of research through I-MRSEC’s REU program.
Full Story

Goldstein’s Renaissance Engineering Summer Camp

November 1, 2021
Goldstein’s Renaissance Engineering Summer Camp Incorporates Art, Design, Mechatronics, and Mentoring
Full Story

TechTogether Chicago to Redefine the Hacker Stereotype

July 10, 2021
New workshops that can help inspire students to pursue careers in technology..
Full Story

Aerospace Engineering Launches Virtual Summer Camps to Pique Students’ Interest in Aero.

July 2, 2021
Design an aircraft then watch it soar after launching it with a huge rubber band. Build a Mars lander to safely transport a real egg, then test the contraption by dropping it from a second story window.
Full Story

Undergrads Experience Materials Science Research Courtesy of the I-MRSEC REU

June 16, 2021
Ten undergraduate students are spending the summer of 2021 discovering what research is like.
Full Story

MatSE Afterschool Academy

MatSE Afterschool Academy

June 14, 2021
MatSE Afterschool Academy to Introduce Students to Materials Science and Beyond.
Full Story

Taylor Tucker Embraces Multidisciplinary Interest

Taylor Tucker Embraces Multidisciplinary Interest

June 14, 2021
Taylor Tucker Embraces Multidisciplinary Interest While Researching Task Collaboration.
Full Story

Exposes Franklin Middle Schoolers to Science, CS

What Studying Engineering at Illinois is Like?

May 25, 2021
NSBE’s Michaela Horn Exposes Franklin Middle Schoolers to Science, CS, and What Studying Engineering at Illinois is Like.
Full Story

Jenny Saves a Convertible.

Children’s-Book-Writing Duo/

May 19, 2021
Convertibles and Thunderstorms—Children’s-Book-Writing Duo on Their Way Thanks to Illinois Training and Encouragement from Mentors.
Full Story

Improve Learning in Engineering

Improve Learning in Engineering

May 17, 2021
Liebenberg Espouses Mini-Projects to Engage Students Emotionally, Improve Learning in Engineering.
Full Story

Joshua Whitely makes an adjustment to the 3D Bioprinter during the demo.

BIOE435 Capstone Projects

May 12, 2021
BIOE435 Capstone Projects - BIOE Seniors Use Knowledge/Skills to Problem Solve.
Full Story

Elani and Gonzalo shine a UV light on a rose that has absorbed a solution that has made it fluorescent.

Illinois Scientists Shine a (UV) Light on Fluorescence

May 7, 2021
What is fluorescence? What causes it?
Full Story

Joshua Whitely makes an adjustment to the 3D Bioprinter during the demo.

HackIllinois 2021 “Rekindled Connections” With The Tech Community

May 5, 2021
Annual student hackathon HackIllinois with the aim of developing projects on current problems facing society.
Full Story

A Shane Mayer-Gawlik image of the Bridger Aurora, part of his Night Skies photography collection exhibited at the Art-Science Festival.

The Art-Science Festival

April 26, 2021
Illinois Art-Science Festival: Illuminating the Universe...from the Quantum World to the Cosmos.
Full Story

Joshua Whitely makes an adjustment to the 3D Bioprinter during the demo.

Illinois Engineering Seniors Prepared to Change the World

April 22, 2021
Ready. Set. Go! Illinois Engineering Seniors Prepared to Change the World.
Full Story

HML 2021 Virtual Health

HML 2021 Virtual Health

April 19, 2021
Make-a-Thon Gives Citizen Scientists a Shot at Making Their Health-Related Innovations a Reality.
Full Story

I-MRSEC’s Music Video

I-MRSEC’s Music Video

April 7, 2021
I-MRSEC’s Music Video for EOH ’21 Plugs Graphene, 2D Materials
Full Story

Health Make-a-Thon Orientation

HML 2021 Health Orientation

March 30, 2021
HML 2021 Health Make-a-Thon Orientation Prepares Finalists for Competition.
Full Story

Andrea Perry shows Franklin students how to take apart the magnetic drawing board they received in their kit

Musical Magnetism

March 25, 2021
Musical Magnetism: Encouraging Franklin Middle Schoolers to Express Science Via the Arts.
Full Story

Carmen Paquette street performing.

Love of Science

March 9, 2021
Paquette Conveys Her Love of Science, Dance to Franklin STEAM Students Via Musical Magnetism.
Full Stroy

An Engineering Exploration participant exhibits the tower they built as part of the engineering challenge related to Civil Engineering

Engineering Exploration

March 2, 2021
SWE’s Engineering Exploration Outreach Lives Up to Its Name.

ChiS&E’s Family STEM Day

ChiS&E’s Family STEM Day

February 23, 2021
Helps Chicago Youngsters Progress Along the STEM Pipeline Toward Engineering.

Kathny Walsh

Kathy Walsh

February 17, 2021
On Her First Foray into STEAM, Kathy Walsh Acquaints Franklin Students with Microscopy, Haiku.

ChiS&E student

ChiS&E CPS Students

January 19, 2021
Illinois Undergrads Encourage ChiS&E CPS Students Toward Possible Careers in Engineering.

I-MRSEC’s Music Video

CISTEME365 Provides Year-Round PD/Community

January 4, 2021
to Illinois Teachers in Support of Informal STEM Education Efforts to Underserved Students.