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Stories about... Next Generation School

POETS’ Education Program Introduces Students of All Ages to Interdisciplinary Research in Electro-Thermal Systems

August 31, 2017

In addition to cutting-edge research in electro-thermal systems, the NSF-funded POETS (Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems) Engineering Research Center has educational programs that expose students (as well as the teachers) to POETS’ research via educational activities, research, and courses that foster interdisciplinary collaboration and expose learners to the unique research that takes place in the Center.

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Local 8th Graders Build Solar Cars Courtesy of POETS' RET

May 23, 2017

After working for weeks designing solar cars, teams of eighth graders at University Laboratory High School and Next Generation School were either exultant or chagrined as they tested their cars to see if they would move when exposed to bright light. The project was part of the POETS’ RET program, where a team of four local science teachers were tasked with creating a multi-week curriculum unit related to power, heat, and power density that was aligned with Illinois’ Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
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Local Youths' Renewable Energy Invention Propels Them to the Regionals in Toshiba’s ExploraVision Contest

April 20, 2017

One doesn’t have to be an adult to be an inventor. Nor does one have to be an adult to be green. Dina Hashash and Lawrence Zhao, two local 7th graders at Next Generation School in Champaign are doing their part to promote renewable energy in order to help solve the energy crunch. As part of ExploraVision, Toshiba’s K–12 program designed to “engage the next generation in real-world problem solving, with a strong emphasis on STEM,” the two invented the BioKT. It's a watch-like device that harvests both kinetic and thermal energy from the body of its wearer. Their innovative design helped them reach the Regionals of the contest, an achievement celebrated by an awards ceremony at their school on April 13th.
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NGS Middle Schoolers Build Bridges, Experience Engineering During EOH Design Contest

March 23, 2017

It had all come down to this. It was crunch time—figuratively, and possibly literally, if their bridge built as part of the Engineering Open House (EOH) Middle School Design Contest collapsed while being tested. For weeks, three teams of eighth graders from Next Generation School (NGS) in Champaign had been designing bridges—building their prototypes, testing them, working out any kinks. Finally, Saturday, March 11th, the day of the contest, had arrived. With their fingers crossed, each team eagerly watched Illinois engineering students attach a bucket to their bridge then slowly fill it with sand. The idea was to see how much sand could be added before their bridge buckled. And whether they won an award or not, they’d learned a lot: about teamwork; about the engineering process; and what being a Civil Engineer might be like.
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At the 2017 NGS Science & Engineering Fair, Every Student Is a Winner!

March 6, 2017

Friday, February 17th, 2017 wasn’t just any day at Next Generation School in Champaign; it was the day of the much-anticipated 2017 Science & Engineering Fair. And just as in previous years, it wasn’t a competition— no individual student or team won a ribbon or prize for having the best project. All the students were winners: they designed and completed a research project, learned the scientific or engineering method, and prepared a poster. Then, after working on their project for weeks, students finally got to present them to community experts, many from the University of Illinois, who provided not only positive comments about what students had done well, but ways they needed to improve, and even suggestions regarding further research they might do in the future.

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Melinda LaniusNext Generation Preschool's Grazi Murad Imparts Love of Science, Animals to Students

January 30, 2017

Practically the first thing one sees upon entering Next Generation School’s Preschool is an intriguing, glass-enclosed structure—science teacher Grazi Murad’s classroom. When one ventures into the room, replete with exhibits, butterfly-filled cases, and animals in enclosures that simulate the different habitats the animals are from, her love of animals—and her students—is quite apparent. That her students love her and her hands-on style of teaching science is also readily apparent. The kids not only get to look at and hear about the eclectic range of animal friends in Murad’s menagerie, they get to meet them face to face—animals like Lizzy the Leopard Gecko, Gizmo the Bunny, Arnaldo the Chinese Water Dragon, and Bridget the Fire Corn Snake. They even get to touch them…if they’re brave enough.

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Illinois’ Chris Barkan and RailTEC Convey the Message: “Trains—They Run on 'STEAM' and They're Terrific!”

August 22, 2016

Chris Barkan, a Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering, is passionate about trains. He knows about railroad technology and history—both in America and elsewhere in the world. Here at Illinois, he leads RailTEC, the Rail Transportation and Engineering Center, a world-class railroad research and educational program studying ways to make trains safer, faster, and more efficient— environmentally, economically, and energy-wise. Barkan is also devoted to educating the next generation of railway engineering professionals. And to make sure that railroads (and RailTEC) have a steady supply of bright young students, he, along with his colleague, Tyler Dick, and their rail engineering students teamed up with Angela Nelson at Next Generation School's STEAM Studio to organize and host STEAMvention 2016, where they used the fascinating and fun aspects of railroads to attract youngsters to a journey on the STEM pipeline.

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STEAM Studio's STEAMcation Students Visit RailTEC...Learn All About Trains

August 17, 2016

Remember the excitement you felt as a youngster when you heard the shrill whistle of a train in the distance? Remember the magic of sitting at a railroad crossing, watching a train zoom by, waiting to shout, “The caboose!”?

Knowing that trains still engender excitement in youngsters, at RailTEC, Illinois’ Rail Transportation and Engineering Center, staff and students tap into youngsters' love of trains to teach them some STEM principles. And on August 3, 2016, a group of 24 local 3rd through 5th graders from STEAMcation, STEAM Studio’s 9-week summer program, visited RailTEC and experienced it firsthand. They spent the day learning about railroads; did a variety of fun, yet educational, hands-on activities related to railroads; plus had the chance to interact with some great role models—real, live engineers, who shared their passion for railroads and engineering with the youngsters.
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Illinois' MCBees Expose STEAM Studio's STEAMcation Students to Medieval Science

August 16, 2016

On July 25th, 24 local youngsters spent the morning doing some hands-on activities learning about science —in medieval times and today—as part of STEAMcation, the 9-week summer program of STEAM Studio, Next Generation School’s after-school and summer program. And taking the morning away from their labs to sharing their scientific expertise and passion about their field with the youngsters were a number of outreach-minded Ph.D. students who are members of the MCBees, a graduate student group from MCB (Molecular and Cellular Biology).
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STEAMcation Provides Summer STEAM ...With a Little Help from Illinois Friends

August 16, 2016

The 48 local youngsters who spent the summer at STEAMcation doing activities which incorporated art into a variety of STEM-related activities not only had a lot of fun. They learned some STEM principles too. And helping teach the youngsters about some of these topics were a number of outreach-minded University of Illinois folk, such as the MCBees, a graduate student group from MCB (Molecular and Cellular Biology), and RailTEC, the Rail Transportation and Engineering Center.
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NGS Students on the Ball Teaching BTW Kindergarteners About Polymers

April 26, 2016

Garbed in rubber gloves and protective goggles, Next Generation School (NGS) eighth graders on a February 23rd field trip to Booker T Washington STEM Academy (BTW), shared with BTW kindergarteners the art of making bouncy balls. According to NGS Science Teacher Bryant Fritz, it was a win-win for both groups of students. His eighth graders experienced working with young children and how to take the principles they have learned down to a level younger students can understand. BTW youngsters were exposed to some lab principles, learned how to use scientific equipment, and, of course, ended up with a ball that they had made all by themselves (with a bit of help from their older mentors.) And they all had fun.

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2016 NGS Science & Engineering Fair Fosters to Research/Presenting to Experts

March 24, 2016

February 19th, 2016 was probably circled in red on the calendars of many Next Generation School students (and most likely their parents’ calendars, too). After weeks spent choosing a project, learning about their subject in depth, designing and conducting a research project, then making a poster, the day of the school’s Science and Engineering Fair had finally arrived. Projects completed, the students were excited to finally get to present their research—first, to a local expert, who gave them positive, and possibly negative, feedback—then later, to mom and dad during the evening session open to the public..

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Entomology Ph.D. student Tanya Josek Suarez & Josek Use Insects & Robots to Teach Bioinspiration at STEAM Studio

October 14, 2015

Taking a short break from their entomology research, Illinois Professor Andy Suarez and Ph.D. student Tanya Josek visited Next Generation School’s STEAM Studio, an after-school program that incorporates art into its STEM activities (Science, Technology, Engineering, ART, and Math). There they taught the students about bioinspiration— how biology can inspire engineering. The two incorporated a variety of hands-on activities guaranteed to engage the youngsters, teaching them about a couple of their favorite subjects: insects and insect-inspired robots.

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An Illinois researcher (center) interacts with an NGS student describing her science and engineering fair project.2015 NGS Science & Engineering Fair Called the "Most Successful" Ever

February 18, 2015

Like a swarm of bees, a noticeable buzz of anticipation was in the air as students waited to present their science projects during Next Generation School's (NGS) Science and Engineering Fair. After weeks of prep both at home and in the classroom—it was finally the big day! The students would get to present their research to one of the local experts who had gathered for the event. The hope of the organizers was that these students would not only gain valuable feedback about their specific project, but that ultimately they would have gained a better understanding of the scientific process and possibly even a new passion to explore STEM fields when they grow up.
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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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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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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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NGS fourth-grader builds the pulley for the PLTW unit on Energy: Collisions.Next Generation School Pilots Project Lead the Way Elementary Curriculum

November 20, 2013

When the Big Bad Wolf shows up at the Three Little Pigs' houses to huff, puff, and blow them in, some Next Generation School kindergarteners concerned about the porkers' plight might now be able to do something about it. With the engineering principles learned through LAUNCH, Project Lead the Way's (PLTW) pilot program for elementary students, kindergarteners attempted to construct houses able to stand up to gale force winds (or a box fan, at least), thus ensuring the swine's safety.
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A BTW kindergartener operates a drill press to drill hole in his ping-pong ball mold.BTW Kindergarteners Have a Ball Learning About Polymers, Manufacturing

March 11, 2013

Amidst lots of glitter and armed with rubber gloves and goggles, Booker T. Washington STEM Academy (BTW) kindergarten students recently had the opportunity to make superballs—and were exposed to one type of manufacturing process while doing so. Assisting Nano-CEMM Education Coordinator Joe Muskin, who used his knowledge of nanotechnology and his teaching expertise to guide the youngsters through the process, were about six University pre-service teachers and a team of Next Generation middle school students who sacrificed their day off of school to help mentor the kindergarteners.
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Pint-sized scientist-in-the-making explains her science project to Illinois Psychology professor Kara Federmeier.Next Generation School Fair: Tomorrow's Scientists & Engineers Meet Today's

March 8, 2013

When Next Generation School needed some people knowledgeable about science and engineering to serve as judges for its 2013 Science and Engineering Fair, it didn't have far to look. Lucky enough to be in the same community as a world-class university, the school found plenty of folks willing to donate some time and energy to help shape some of tomorrow's scientists and engineers.
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Bryant FritzLocal Teacher Uses Project Lead the Way to Prepare Next Generation of Engineers

February 20, 2013

"Mr. Fritz, I'm going to be an engineer!"

This is what science teacher Bryant Fritz's middle school students are telling him when they greet him in the hallway these days. For a couple of years now, Next Generation School in Champaign has been incorporating Project Lead the Way STEM curriculum as part of its science curriculum for the 6th–8th grades, and it seems to be leaving an impression.
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During the Next Generation School tour of the Ford Lab, MechSE grad student Kun Hyuck Lee (left) illustrates the type of model that can be manufactured at the lab, while fellow tour guide Matthew Mayer looks on. MechSE Gives Back to the Community

February 19, 2013

When Next Generation School science teacher Bryant Fritz needed a little help with a Project Lead the Way design and modeling unit involving computer-aided drafting (CAD) and printing 3D models, he knew just whom to call. He contacted the school's big brother to the north—the Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE) Department on the Engineering campus of the University of Illinois.
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