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Stories from... 2014

FLL contestant from Da Ex Bots holds some of his team's Lego equipment.First Lego League—More Than Just Robots

January 23, 2014

"Some people think that Lego League is just for nerds, but it's not. It's way more than robots." —Jessica Smith, First Lego League contestant.

With its carnival-like atmosphere more reminiscent of Mardis Gras than a STEM event, the recent First Lego League (FLL) Robotics Tournament held at the ARC on campus gave young robotics aficionados the opportunity to do more than just build and program robots. In addition to the fun of competition, camaraderie with one's teammates, and dressing alike or sporting wild and wacky costumes, hats, or paraphernalia), participants honed important life skills, such as public speaking, working on a team, and learning how to perform research.
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Two BTW students build their tower even taller prior to giving it the final Jello-earthquake-shake test.Illinois Students Expose Youngsters to Engineering in BTW's After-School Club

February 13, 2014

The after-school Engineering Club at Booker T. Washington STEM Academy (BTW) is a fun, exciting way to expose youngsters to STEM—specifically engineering—early in their school careers…and to introduce the idea that they too might go to college—just like the Illinois engineering students who run the club.
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A BTW student makes a "potato battery" during the Brady STEM Academy after-school program.Brady STEM Academy Provides Role Models for Local African-American Boys

March 5, 2014

Some outreach-minded folk in chemical engineering have begun a new after-school program, the St. Elmo Brady STEM Academy, hoping to make a difference in the lives of some local African-American boys. While programs providing hands-on STEM activities happen fairly frequently at Booker T. Washington STEM Academy (BTW), what sets this program apart is its emphasis on African-American role models—including the boys' own fathers.
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Engineering Students Enjoy Exposing Visitors to STEM During EOH 2014

March 14, 2014

Among the thousands of folks who made the pilgrimage to the Illinois campus to attend "Transform Your World," the 94th annual Engineering Open House (EOH) on March 14 and 15, 2014, were a couple of Springfield, Illinois mothers who wanted to give their sons a little extra exposure to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
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Psychology Professor Kara Federmeier evaluates an NGS student's presentation during the fair.Next Generation School's Science and Engineering Fair: Every Student Is a Winner

March 11, 2014

Compared to most science fairs, Next Generation School's Science and Engineering Fair is unique, in that no one student or team is designated the winner. After weeks researching and learning about a subject in depth, designing and conducting a research project, and finally making a poster presenting their results, during the February 21st fair, each student had the opportunity to present their research to a local expert for feedback—making all the students winners.
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Katie Brown does a hands-on activity with youngsters at Prairie Elementary during a recent after-school activity.NutrImpact: Encouraging Children (and Adults) to Choose Healthy Foods

March 17, 2014

During her time at Illinois, Lisa Shkoda, who recently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Food Science and Nutrition, decided "the community needs nutrition education." So she founded NutrImpact.
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Susan SchantzCenter to Study the Effects of Toxins on Children, Then Educate the Public

March 19, 2014

Like most folks these days, I make an effort to be green. However, I'm not a fanatic. But when I-STEM's director, Lizanne DeStefano, announced one day that, as a result of evaluating a new grant studying the effect of toxins on children, she had gone home and thrown out all of her Tupperware, this reporter's curiosity was piqued, and as a result of chatting with Susan Schantz about her project, I may mend my ways.

Co-funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a 5-year, $7.6 million grant was recently awarded to Illinois' Children's Environmental Health Research Center. The project, "Novel Methods to Assess the Effects of Chemicals on Child Development," is studying the effects of phthalates and BPA on children.
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Donna CoxPopcorn Anyone? Cox's Advanced Visualization Lab Makes Science Data As Much Fun as the Movies

March 31, 2014

"At my heart and soul, I am really a graphic information designer, and that's primarily what I do—it's like being an engineer of information, only visually putting it out there." Donna Cox, Advanced Visualization Lab

There's an old saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words." However, comparing a picture to the visualizations that Donna Cox, the Director of the Advanced Visualization Lab, and her team produce is like comparing Alexander Graham Bell's original invention to an i-phone: while they might perform the same basic function, the latter, with its bells and whistles, is a whole lot more fun. But while one picture can tell a story, Cox's multi-sensory, 3-D, high-def motion picture experiences present the essence of copious amounts of technical data in an unforgettable, yet totally accurate, manner. While entertaining, these visualizations are highly useful to help scientists and decision-makers understand large data sets, as well as for both formal and informal teaching and learning.
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Memory Metal to Oobleck: NanoDays Makes Learning About Nanoscience Fun

April 10, 2014

Last weekend, 22 6th–8th grade students from Next Generation School (NGS) participated in NanoDays, a program offering unique hands-on learning experiences about nanoscale science. The two-day event was held at the Champaign Public Library on Friday, April 4th, and the Orpheum Children's Science Museum on Saturday, April 5th. The role of NGS students was to demonstrate to NanoDays visitors the unique properties of nanoscale materials...
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A student learns Physics while making a ball roll down the roller coaster.Local Youngsters Experience Unity East's First-Ever Engineering Night

April 22, 2014

On Tuesday, April 8, many Unity East students headed back to school in the evening…with their families in tow. Participants at the school's first-ever Engineering Night had an opportunity to learn about engineering via a variety of fun, hands-on activities.

The night's activities were structured around four main events, which took around 30–45 minutes each. For instance, students (and their families) could dabble in 3D printing (see image to the left).
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A middle school student watches to see if the geyser he made erupts. (It did!)UMS STEM Night Exhibitors Hope Their Enthusiasm for STEM Is Contagious

April 25, 2014

Excited about sharing their passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) with Urbana Middle School students and their families, some area folks devoted a Thursday evening to participate in the school's fourth STEM Night on April 10, 2014. For example, members of the Fouke Research Group, the Society of Women Engineers, and Materials Advantage brought fun STEM hands-on activities with which to engage visitors.
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ChicTech participant proudly displays her Swag Bag.ChicTech: A Pipeline for Women in Computer Science

April 25, 2014

"This is the first time that I'm hearing her say, 'Yes, I'm considering computer science as a legitimate career field.'" –Kim Late, mother of 2014 ChicTech participant.

Based on this remark a mother made about her daughter during the ChicTech retreat's final activity, the outreach may be having the impact for which its organizers are striving: to recruit girls into Computer Science...
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MechSE Professor Sameh Tawfick glances up at the water balloons poised in the drenching booth's apparatus above him.ME 370's Unique "Drench Your Professor" Competition Hones Students' Design Skills

May 8, 2014

They came from far and wide that warm and sunny Wednesday afternoon in early May, until a crowd had assembled on Engineering Quad just outside the Mechanical Engineering Lab. They gathered there to experience the pageantry of the ME 370, Mechanical Design course's "Drench Your Professor" Competition, which pitted the course's Mechanical Engineering students and their machines against their professors.
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Imani PalmerImani Palmer—One of the Good Guys in the Digital World

May 15, 2014

“The only assumption about digital security that you can make is that nothing is truly secure.” –Imani Palmer

As most of us are aware, our increasingly digital society has given rise to cybercriminals who can commit a crime with far-reaching impacts from anyplace the world. All they need is a computer and the internet. That’s why the newly-emerging field of Digital Forensics (DF) is so important. In order to catch and stop the bad guys, the good guys need to be just as good—maybe even better.
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A Wiley student enjoying the Consilience experience.Consilience Project Teaches Technology by Capturing Students' Motion...and Attention

May 21, 2014

"Kids today are already familiar with motion capture technology...they just might not know it.

So when Wiley School 5th graders recently visited Krannert, Bruno Azeredo and Sandra Lopez from Illinois’ Consilience Project explained how it works. First students discovered that it's what tracks their movements when they play Wii and Kinect. Then they saw a clip of Avatar filmmakers using it to capture actors’ movements and facial expressions to animate the “avatars.” Already familiar with these technologies, the students immediately connected the dots…and were ready to experience it for themselves.
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A Blue Waters intern displays the tatoo she got during a tour of the Petascale facility. The message: Live free; code hardInterns Have an Up-Close-and-Personal Encounter With Blue Waters

June 24, 2014

Ever want to take a super-computer for a spin? Students from around the country who participate in the Blue Waters Student Internship Program recently got to do just that. After learning about parallel programming—the language of supercomputers—the interns being exposed to HPC (High-Performance Computing) got to run their program on the University of Illinois' Blue Waters, one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world and the fastest on a university campus.
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Grace Moran views BIF's green roof during a tour.Sustainable Futures Workshop Stokes High Schoolers' Passion: Sustainability

June 27, 2014

What prompted 14 high school students to give up prime time lounging by the pool to attend the Sustainable Futures summer workshop? Some came to explore career options; however, others, whose career aspirations were not necessarily related to sustainability, didn’t. But no matter how disparate their career goals, they all had two things in common: they wanted to change their world, and they all were passionate about sustainability.
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2014 RET Participant Dan Reed, Local Science Teachers Experience Research in NanoTechnology

July 9, 2014

For the next three years, a number of area science teachers will have an opportunity to participate in the Nano@illinois RET, where they will not only learn about, but actually participate in, cutting edge research in nanotechnology and even adapt some of what they have learned for students in their classrooms.
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Local Biology Teacher to Introduce her Students to Research on Quantum Dots

July 10, 2014

“I teach in a very small school with limited resources," says science teacher Aubrey Wachtel, "so one of the best things that I can do is have experiences and then bring them back to the classroom." So this summer, Wachtel is experiencing nanotechnlogy while researching quantum dots."
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2014 GBAM campers work on their design for the windmill competition2014 G.A.M.E.S. Campers Discover That Engineering Is Not Just for Boys Anymore

July 21, 2014

The week of July 14–18, 190 high school girls (a record number) converged on the engineering campus for the 2014 edition of G.A.M.E.S. (Girls' Adventures in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science) camp. Offering eight tracks, G.A.M.E.S. not only gave the campers an opportunity to delve into the mysteries of a specific engineering discipline, but also exposed them to female role models at all levels (undergraduate and graduate students, as well as practicing engineers)....
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IAI camper prepares to launch his glider.Illinois Aerospace Institute Designed to Launch Campers into Aerospace Careers

July 30, 2014

For a high school student who might be considering a career in aerospace, spending a week at the 23rd annual Illinois Aerospace Institute (IAI) summer camp held the week of July 20–26, 2014, was a step in the right direction. Not only were the 40 students who attended briefed about different careers available, they learned some aerospace basics, including aerodynamics, rocket propulsion, UAVs, and orbits. But students did more than just gain some head knowledge; they got their hands on some fun stuff too...
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INTC participant tries out a chemical engineering hands-on activityBeginning Teachers Add to Their Hands-On Repertoire at INTC STEM Conference

July 31, 2014

On July 29–30, 2014, 100+ teachers from all over the state attended the 2nd Annual Beginning Teacher STEM Conference hosted by the Illinois New Teacher Collaborative (INTC). Held at the I-Hotel on campus, the conference targeted new teachers in their first through fourth years of teaching, plus some of their mentors. A total of 150 teachers registered for the conference...
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CEE Undergraduate Education: Shaping Multi-Disciplinary Problem Solvers

August 19, 2014

"Our agenda is to educate and help develop the next generation of civil engineers so that they are not only theoretically rigorously strong, but can also tackle big multidisciplinary issues in a way that they have deep understanding and are also capable of working with people from different disciplines to solve societal challenges." Liang Liu
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During the Faith Walk exercise, the WIE camper who must keep her eyes shut is led across a bridge by her partner who cannot speak to give her instructions.WIE Camp 2014: Creating Community for Female Engineering Students

August 25, 2014

Dean Susan Larson recalls that when she took over as the Director of Women in Engineering (WIE) in 2003, she thought, "The women need something to get started. They're a minority, but if they know one another, they'll be ok. They'll form a community; they'll make those connections." So, hoping to "bring them all together to get to know one another and get to know the campus and some of the instructors and advisors here," she started WIE Camp.
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Arzeena AliFrom Moon Rocks to Test Tubes: Arzeena Ali Exemplifies the STEM Pipeline in Action

September 3, 2014

Chemistry Merit Scholar and Nano@Illinois REU participant Arzeena Sultana Ali has never met a STEM subject—or STEM program—she didn't like. Exposure to science early on piqued her interest, and from then on, she was hooked. "I always knew I wanted to do science from a very young age," Ali admits. So it was just a matter of figuring out which discipline.
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SWE OfficersSWE: A Support System for Illinois' Female Engineering Students

September 23, 2014

While the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is a national organization, for many of the 400 female engineering students at Illinois who are members, it's a whole lot more than just a professional organization. It's a support system that began when they were still in high school, deciding which school to attend. And once they arrived on campus, SWE became a ready-made family and even helped shape who they became during their time at Illinois. Finally, SWE helps its members in their quest for careers once they leave here. And in between? SWE members say it makes Engineering at Illinois a lot more fun.>
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Daniel WassermanECE's Daniel Wasserman Does "Whatever It Takes to Get Students to Learn"

September 25, 2014

Assistant Professor Daniel Wasserman of Illinois' Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) has never met a STEM education challenge he hasn't liked. While he enjoys working with Illinois engineering students (whom he says "are, of course, top, top students, and they're fantastic"), for a change of pace—and maybe a challenge—he likes to work with non-engineering college students, high school students, even grade-schoolers.
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Randy EwoldtMechSE's Ewoldt Brings Rheology Down to a Level Learners of All Ages Can Grasp

October 6, 2014

"If you really understand something, you can explain it to somebody else in a simple enough way to bring it down to their level, wherever that level might be." – Randy Ewoldt

And what Assistant Professor Randy Ewoldt of Illinois' Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering understands really well is fluid mechanics, particularly rheology. Bringing it down to a level most folks could understand, he defines it as: "the study of how things squish and deform when you push on them."
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left to right: Gaurav Bahl, Benjamin Sohn, and Uni High School seniorMechSE's Gaurav Bahl Promotes Outreach and Undergrad Research

October 14, 2014

While MechSE Assistant Professor Gaurav Bahl is passionate about his research—opto-mechanics —he also believes university folk should get outside the four walls of their labs and impact the community. Plus, he's passionate about mentoring students, especially undergrads. So when he recently shared his expertise with some seniors at Uni High, he invited a couple of his students to tag along to share what they know and to experience outreach for themselves.
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A student at Next Generation School's STEAM Studio uses clay and popsicle sticks to make a shelfstone while learning about speleothem during a unit on caves.Next Gen's STEAM Studio: An After-School STEM Program With a Dab of Creativity

October 20, 2014

Most folks have now heard of STEM by now, right? It stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Well, Next Generation School (Next Gen) has come up with a new after-school program—and its accompanying revision of the STEM acronym—STEAM. What does the "A"stand for? According to Angela Nelson, the program's director, while the main thrust of the program is still STEM, they've included an additional component: Art.
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Rheology Zoo DemoOpen House Showcases MechSE for Prospective and Current Students

October 23, 2014

On Friday, October 17, 2014, Illinois’ Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE) held its 3rd MechSE High School Visit Day/Open House so prospective high school students, plus new MechSE students (both freshmen and transfers), and their family members, could discover what Mechanical Engineering at Illinois is all about.

Sort of a mini-EOH (Engineering Open House), the event, held at the Mechanical Engineering Lab (MEL) gave visitors the chance to visit exhibits and lab demonstrations that showcase some of the exciting things that go on in the department, as well as meet some MechSE students, staff, and even some faculty.
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Sung Woo NamSungWoo Nam Creates Virtual Lab, Promotes Undergraduate Research

November 19, 2014

SungWoo Nam, an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Science and Engineering, appreciates the little things—the really little things—like on the nanoscale or the atomic level. However, when it comes to STEM education, he likes to work with students across the entire spectrum: graduate students, undergraduates, and even high school students. But his passion is exposing a sometimes overlooked group—college sophomores—to the wonders and the rewards of research, like his own research on nanoscale devices and materials, particularly graphene.
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Dr. Howard students and Benjamin Sohn (left)MechSE's Benjamin Sohn Gives Local Kids a Taste of Engineering

December 2, 2014

Benjamin Sohn, an Illinois Ph.D. student in Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE), devoted his lunch hour several Tuesdays this fall to sharing his love of engineering with local youngsters at Champaign Unit 4’s Dr. Howard School. Working with students in Ellen Elrick’s 3rd grade class, Sohn taught the students some engineering principles while showing them how fun engineering can be.
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 NanoSTRuCT co-founder and leader Alex Cerjanic (center) working with BTW studentsNanoSTRuCT Introduces BTW 3rd Graders to Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

December 9, 2014

In 2014, Illinois graduate students have been sharing their expertise in nanotechnology with Booker T. Washington STEM Academy (BTW) 3rd graders as a part of a student-created/student-led outreach program called NanoSTRuCT (Nanoscale Science and Technology Resources for Community Teaching). The brain child of two Ph.D. students, Alex Cerjanic and Brittany Weida, NanoSTRuCT is partnering with BTW to do what its name suggests—teach the community (especially youngsters) about nanotechnology.
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Formula SAE: Shaping Engineers Who Think Outside the Box

December 19, 2014

It makes sense that three MechSE upperclassmen, senior Mike Bastanipour and juniors Alex Allmandinger and Keith Harris, some of the leaders of Illinois' Formula SAE racing team, want careers in the automotive industry or motor sports. They've spent the last several years designing and competing a high-performance racing car and interning at companies like Ford and Chrysler. But, they've been infatuated with cars since way before that.
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