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Stories from... 2015

Cliff GulyashGulyash, MechSE Machine Shop Solve Problems, Save Money…and Recruit

January 20, 2015

What I have is a lifetime of solving problems by building anything and everything that’s been given to me.” – Clifford Gulyash

Clifford Gulyash, who heads up MechSE’s Machine Shop, doesn’t have an engineering degree. “What I do have is a basic understanding of how to make things,” he modestly explains. And he’s been making things since he was a six-year-old.

He shares an anecdote about his early proclivity for making things: “I started building as soon as I could pick up a hammer, and when I was five or six, I built my first go-cart, put a sail on it, and ended up getting into trouble going down the street. That’s a true story.”
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Uni Student Darren LiuUni High Engineering Class Makes Wind Maze for Orpheum Museum

January 22, 2015

"It's a real-world project: they're learning about engineering by actually being engineers." – Sharlene Denos, Uni High engineering teacher

This past summer, University Laboratory High School (Uni) teacher Sharlene Denos made a visit to Champaign's Orpheum Children's Science Museum to further cement the university's partnership with the museum. She told the interim director:

"I've got this new engineering class, and I'd really like them to do something that would benefit the community. We love the Orpheum; is there anything that we can design and build for you that would be useful for your museum?" The director promptly responded, "Yes, we really want an air maze."
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MLK third grader examines a flunny fluidGrand Opening of Orpheum’s Air Maze Celebrates Fluid Mechanics, Rheology

February 2, 2015

On Wednesday, January 28th, a group of 16 third and second graders from Urbana’s Martin Luther King School (MLK) took a field trip to the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum to experience the unveiling of the museum’s new air maze, plus do some other engineering-related activities, including learn about funny fluids and fluid mechanics.
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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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Kelsie KellyKelsie Kelly Gives Back to the Community Via STEM Outreach and Mentoring

March 30, 2015

Kelsie Kelly’s goal in a lot of what she does is to pay it forward.

A Ph.D. student in Community Health, Kelly has lofty career aspirations which appear to have been influenced by her own experiences. For one, she would eventually like to start a women’s clinic—no doubt influenced by the many outreach programs in which she participated growing up. Her other dream—starting a non-profit organization that mentors underrepresented students—probably came about because both mentoring and being mentored were so important early on in her life...and still are: "I have a bunch of mentors in Milwaukee whom I still talk to regularly to make sure I'm staying on track," she admits.
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Local youngster and his motherEngineering Open House 2015 Looks to the Future

April 6, 2015

The thousands of guests who visited campus on March 13–14, 2015, to attend “The Future Starts Here," the College of Engineering’s 95th annual Engineering Open House (EOH), were not only exposed to the many facets of engineering. Staffing the numerous exhibits were eager engineering students on hand to suggest to visitors that engineering at Illinois, and/or some of the technology being presented, could be in their future.
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Daniel Urban, a grad student from the School of Integrative Biology's Animal Biology DepartmentLeal Science Night Exposes Local Youngsters to STEM, Role Models

April 13, 2015

Instead of heading to the movies last Friday night, a number of local STEM students and professionals gathered at Urbana’s Leal School to share their passion for their respective fields with local students and their parents at the school’s annual Science Night. Presenting at the April 10th event were a number University student groups and staff. For example, two undergraduate student outreach groups, Physics Van and Chemistry’s REACT group, shared activities with the visitors. In addition, MechSE undergraduate student Patrick Slade was on hand to demonstrate bionic prosthetics.
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Aadeel & SladeTwo Illinois Students to Make Low-Cost Bionic Prosthetics More Accessible

April 30, 2015

Patrick Slade, a junior in MechSE, and Aadeel Akhtar, a Ph.D. student in Neuroscience, have the same tastes in a lot of things. For one, they both like to play guitar. They listen to the same kind of music. Members of the Bretl Robotics and Neuroscience Research Group, they both research bionic prostheses. And they both decided that someone should build more low-cost prostheses, so even people in third-world countries can have access to the technology. So in their spare time, they've started a company, PSYONIC. And they're on their way: Akhtar and Slade and their fledgling company recently won the Cozad New Venture Competition held on Friday, April 24 at the Illini Union; the prize: $25,000 to begin their company and start building prostheses like the ones they've been designing—only better, and at a lower cost!
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Local students and SACNAS member Elena MontotoCena Y Ciencias: Supper and Science…and Role Models, Courtesy of SACNAS

May 18, 2015

The program, called Cena y Ciencias (it’s Spanish for Supper and Science), meets on Monday nights once a month. For supper, there's pizza. The science is presented by Illinois graduate students who are all SACNAS members. For the April session, the science was a hands-on activity about acid-base reactions. Wearing the conventional garb of scientists—white lab coats—the grad students shared their passion for science with excited Leal and Prairie School students who clustered around them, eagerly learning about acids and bases while glibly chattering in Spanish.

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Marty BurkeBurke Hopes to Cure Disease, "Hook" Students, Via Molecule-Making Machine

May 21, 2015

Marty Burke’s life-long dream was to become a doctor. Then one day, while chatting with a 22-year-old patient with cystic fibrosis whom he was helping to care for, he had an epiphany:

“We had this big conversation about her disease,” recalls Burke, “and I was telling her—because I had just learned about it—down to the molecular level, exactly what was wrong with her. And she said to me, ‘If you know exactly what’s wrong with me, why can’t you fix it?’ It was one of those totally life-changing conversations.”

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Lauren Amendola and Megan DevineSTRONG Kids Project Gives Undergrads a Research Opportunity in Children's Health

May 28, 2015

We constantly hear about the results of some well-known researcher's important study, and their findings often impact our lives and our choices. But over the last year, undergraduate students across a number of Illinois colleges and disciplines collaborated to perform important research themselves. As part of the Family Resiliency Center’s STRONG Kids program, students enrolled in an undergraduate research course, HDFS 494, conducted interdisciplinary research related to children’s health and obesity. Then, during the Undergraduate Research Symposium at the end of the Spring 2015 semester, they actually presented their research to the public
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Sahid RosadoRosado's Summer 2015 Camps Expose Young People to Engineering...and Illinois

July 1, 2015

Sahid Rosado never dreamed when she signed on to teach an Environmental Engineering G.A.M.E.S. camp session a few years ago that she would end up where she is today—the reigning Queen of Illinois’ Engineering camps. As Outreach Coordinator for the College of Engineering, Rosado is ultimately responsible for 356 campers this summer—and she loves it.

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I-STEM evaluator Jung SungI-STEM Evaluators Serve as “Critical Friends” for STEM Education Programs

June 4, 2015

A trait most human beings share is that we love to receive praise about something we’re doing right, but sometimes take umbrage when we receive even constructive criticism. And folks involved with STEM education programs are no different. But when it comes to the evaluation of these programs, I-STEM evaluators work hard at being objective, describing themselves as “critical friends.” While they are pleased to inform those involved in the programs about the things they’re doing right—similar to the proverb that begins, “Better are the wounds of a friend”—they’re also willing to tell them about things that need improvement and how they could do that.
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ME370's Drench-Your-Professor Competition Creates a Splash

June 9, 2015

Mechanical Engineering students who took ME370 in Spring 2015 were tasked with designing a couple of mechanisms that would allow them to dunk their professor. Giving students hands-on, practical experience, the course taught them how to work as a team to design something on CAD, then build that mechanism. Part of the process involved overcoming obstacles—students would design, unsuccessfully test, then have to go back to the drawing board and improve their product. And, oh, yes, as added motivation, they got to vie for the chance to pay their professor back for all of those long hours of study by dunking him or her in the dunking booth set up on the Quad.
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XSEDE Scholar Wanda Moses, a Ph.D. student in Computer Science at Clemson UniversityPetascale Institute Introduces Students to High-Performance Computing

June 12, 2015

Most of the 34 students who attended the two-week Petascale Institute May 24th–June 5th are not in computer science; however, by the middle of the second week, they were glibly rattling off HPC (High Performance Computing) jargon, confidently referring to concepts most of us have either never heard of or have no idea what they actually are, like: OpenMP and MPI, vector accelerators, OpenACC, CUDA, debugging, optimization, and visualization. Their goal? To learn enough about parallel computing to be able to use Blue Waters or another supercomputer to analyze data for projects ranging from studying black holes, neutron stars, and galaxies, to natural language acquisition, visualization in cyber security, or protein folding using molecular dynamic simulations.
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GLEE camper shakes off a previous moment of frustration over something that didn't go quite right while building her LED calculator.2015 GAMES Camps Recruit Girls to the STEM Pipeline...and Engineering

July 17, 2015

Just about everyone who helped run this summer’s eight, week-long GAMES (Girls’ Adventures in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science) camps from June 7th–July 18th would unashamedly admit hoping to influence the 199 high school girls who attended to choose engineering as a career—and to come to Illinois to learn all about it. And GAMES appears to have a pretty good track record of doing just that...

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Exploring MechSE camper uses a drill press to make his team's wind turbineWYSE Camps Treat Guys and Gals to an Engineering Smorgasbord

July 27, 2015

Like Illinois' cutting-edge GAMES camps, the five summer 2015 WYSE (Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering) camps are designed to show high school students how fun and exciting engineering can be...and to encourage them to choose it as a career. What sets WYSE apart from GAMES camps, which are for girls only, is that it exposes guys to engineering too. What also sets these camps apart is that while two focus on specific disciplines (like GAMES), the other three are designed to give students a taste of all of the different types of engineering available—kind of like an engineering smorgasbord.

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During the recent RET poster session, Azza Ezzat shares with a visitor about her research on receptor differences in cancer cells.RET Teachers Experience Multidisciplinary Nanotechnology Research via nano@illinois

August 3, 2015

When the twelve P-20 STEM teachers participating in this summer’s iteration of nano@illinois Research Experience for Teachers (RET) arrived on campus to do research in some of Illinois’ state-of-the-art labs under some of Illinois’ premier researchers, they learned a whole lot about their research topics. And while learning about converting 3D files to DNA brick objects, or receptor differences in cancer cells, or graphene, or that micro cavities can trap light between mirrors, they discovered one overarching fact about nanotechnology research at Illinois: it isn’t all housed in one particular department. While nanotechnology is about things that are really, really small, nanotechnology research on campus is really big and is spread out across numerous disciplines.
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Bharathi Subramaniasiva performs research on Self-Rolled Up Membranes in the MNTL clean room.2015 nano@illinois RET Teachers Perform Nanotechnology Research, Make Modules

August 3, 2015

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the nano@illinois Research Experience for Teachers (RET) offered eleven practicing P-20 STEM teachers and one pre-service teacher the chance to do research under some of Illinois’ premier researchers in their state-of-the-art labs. Over the next year, teachers are then to develop a module related to their nanotechnology research that can be used in their own or other classrooms. According to Program Coordinator Carrie Kouadio, the RET's main goal is “that the students will be impacted and can benefit from the teacher's increased enthusiasm, higher content knowledge, and ability to direct them in considering careers.”
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2015 INTC STEM Conference participantSTEM Conference Gives Teachers the Courage—and the Tools—to "Do Science"

August 17, 2015

“I have never felt science was my strong suit. But attending this conference and participating in the workshops, it just gives you the courage to go and do science, and have fun with it, and not be afraid of it.” – Brenda Montgomery, Holmes Elementary 1st grade teacher

The 2015 Beginning Teacher STEM Conference on July 28 & 29 did more than impart courage to the approximately 125 new Illinois teachers who attended. The annual event, hosted by the College of Education’s Illinois New Teacher Collaborative (INTC) also equipped them with the know-how and the tools, including a raft of hands-on activities they could take back to their own classrooms.
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REU participant Casey TroccoliSummer Research Experience Exposes Undergrads to Bioimaging at Illinois

August 24, 2015

One goal of the NSF-funded Bioengineering REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) was that students who participated this summer would consider going to graduate school, and hopefully in bioimaging—and it appears they might have achieved that goal. The ten undergrads who participated in the REU not only performed cutting-edge bioimaging research; they also found out what grad school is like, and some even decided that the area they researched this summer might be the career for them—and that Illinois is the place to prepare for it.
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EBICS REU participant Solomon McBride2015 EBICS REU Introduces Undergrads to the World of Research, Graduate School

August 25, 2015

While performing cutting-edge research at Illinois this past summer as part of the NSF-funded EBICS (Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Celllular Systems) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), the five students gained more than a deeper understanding of the subject they were studying; they learned time management, networked with researchers, and experienced what it's like to be graduate students.
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nano@illinois REU participant Sahil Nayyar REU Undergrads Experience Research, What Graduate School Is Like

August 25, 2015

Twenty-six undergrads helped with cutting-edge research at Illinois this past summer as part of three NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs: the nano@illinois, EBICS, and Bioimaging REUs. In addition to the research experience itself, as a side benefit, participants got to find out what being a graduate student is like and possibly decide if research—particularly the area they were studying this summer—might be the career for them.
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Rumya Raghavannano@illinois REU Undergrads Experience Growth Via Nanotechnology Research

August 27, 2015

"I definitely think the best learning experiences are those that push you out of your comfort zone." – Rumya Raghavan

Eleven undergraduate students spent the summer working in the labs of some of Illinois' world-class researchers as part of the 10-week nano@illinois REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates). Not only did participants perform nanotechnology research, but they were challenged both professionally and personally as they learned new things about nanotechnology, about life in a research lab, and about themselves. As a result of their experience, some decided that graduate school might be in their future; some even considering careers in nanotechnology research.
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An engineering student turns in her team's completed Lego structure.WIE Orientation 2015 Shows Female Engineering Freshmen the Ropes

September 9, 2015

To get a head start on their first year in Engineering at Illinois, 257 young women attended the 2015 Women in Engineering (WIE) Orientation on August 18–19, 2015. One perk of participating? Getting to move in early to avoid the traffic jam that is move-in day. But more importantly, these freshmen got a head start on community building and networking with peers, especially in their engineering disciplines. Other WIE Orientation goals were to introduce the girls to key folks in their departments, acquaint them with campus, plus provide practical tips to help them be successful students.
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Left to right: Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, and Ph.D. students Maria Chavarriago, Brenda Andrade, and Ariana Bravo, all members of the SACNAS organization.Lt. Governor Campus Visit Aimed at Increasing Diversity in the STEM Pipeline

September 18, 2015

When Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti visited I-STEM on Wednesday, September 16th, she met with a number of like-minded Illinois folk regarding increasing the number of underrepresented students in STEM. During the dialogue, administrators, educators, project directors, and students alike shared their passion for STEM education and outreach, conveying this message to the Lt. Governor: the STEM pipeline at Illinois is alive and well.
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Adrian Gomez, a chemistry undergrad at Cal State, L.A.Under-Represented Students Visit Campus, Feel “At Home” at Illinois During ASPIRE

September 24, 2015

“We believe in the mission of trying to broaden participation; we believe in the value of diversity.” –Daniel Wong, Associate Director of the Graduate College's Educational Equity Program

With the Graduate College and individual departments, who helped provide meals, footing the bill, under-represented undergraduate students from all over the U.S. visited Illinois on September 20–22, 2015, as part of ASPIRE, a campus visit and early application program of the Graduate College’s Educational Equity Program.
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Chicago Youth Experience College, Fun STEM Activities at Illinois

September 24, 2015

“We believe college graduation is not an option, but an expectation.” – Wanikka Vance, Head of School

When 30 or so Chicago youngsters visited campus for a tour and some hands-on STEM activities on September 17th, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the majority of the students were three, four, and five years old. According to Wanikka Vance, the founder and Head of Foundations 4 Advancement Christian College and Career Readiness Academy, it’s never too early to begin shaping youngsters into young entrepreneurs and inculcating into them this paradigm: they’re college-bound.

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Vet Med student Katelyn Bagg2015 Vet Med Open House Offers Visitors Hands-On Learning Opportunities

October 7, 2015

The thousands of visitors of all ages who attended the 2015 Vet Med open house on Sunday, October 4, found plenty to see and do tailored to their specific interests. For instance, pet owners got tips on how to train Rover or care for Fluffy. Folks hankering for the good ole’ days learned practical skills: how to milk a cow or a goat, or sheer a sheep. Parents who needed to get the kids out of the house found a plethora of educational yet entertaining activities, ranging from...

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Lara Flasch & Ashley MaySWE Outreach Seeks to Interest Kids in Engineering and Say, “You Can Do It Too!”

October 12, 2015

Not all kids have parents who will tell them, ‘Yes, you can do it...You’re smart enough to change the world!’ I want SWE outreach to be an organization that can do that for kids.” — Ashley May

The main goal of Lara Flasch & Ashley May, the 2015–2016 Outreach Co-Directors for the Illinois chapter of SWE (the Society of Women Engineers), is to help youngsters believe that they, too, can become engineers.

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little studentLeal Kindergarteners Are “Engineers-in-Training” Thanks to SWE’s FKO Outreach

October 13, 2015

LaDonna Helm, kindergarten teacher at Leal School in Urbana, believes that of the 19 students in her kindergarten class…19 are potential engineers. So she brings in experts to help equip them: female engineering students from the University of Illinois who teach her students about engineering via the SWE (Society of Women Engineers) “For Kids Only” (FKO) program.

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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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POETS PI Andrew Alleyne POETS, New NSF Center at Illinois, Poised to Revolutionize Electro-Thermal Systems

October 19, 2015

"The new Center...uniting expertise across disciplines, will focus research on what truly is possible and achievable rather than working within the limitations of what currently exists. And what better place to do it than the University of Illinois?” –University of Illinois President Timothy Kileen

Marking the official beginning of the $18.5 million, NSF-funded POETS (Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems) Engineering Research Center, National Science Foundation (NSF) and University leaders, POETS collaborators, and interested members of the University community attended the October 15, 2015 “Kickoff Event.” Headed up by PI Andrew Alleyne, Ralph & Catherine Fisher Professor in Mechanical Science and Engineering, the Center’s goal is to improve the power density of next generation electro-thermal systems.
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Aeronautical Engineering freshman Katie CarrollAerospace Engineering Freshman Katie Carroll's Trek Along the STEM Pipeline

October 21, 2015

Kids tend to follow in their parents’ footsteps. Judy Garland’s daughter, Lisa Minelli, became a singer too. Goldie Hawn's daughter, Kate Hudson, became an actress. Racecar driver A.J. Foyt's son races cars. George Bush senior’s sons are all politicians. And just like Mom and Dad, Katie Carroll is studying to become an aerospace engineer. But while some might say she’s just following in her folks' footsteps, others might claim that her early and repeated exposure to STEM along the STEM Pipeline had something to do with it.
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MakerGirl Uses 3D Printing to Get Girls Interested in STEM

October 30, 2015

Local girls who participate in the MakerGirl after-school program are doing more than just 3D printing objects they’ve designed. Little do they know it, but while sitting there tinkering on kid-friendly Tinker CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software, they’re learning to think like the big girls in STEM disciplines, such as engineering, do. And if MakerGirl has its intended impact, the fun, creative STEM-related activities will, like the Pied Piper, "introduce girls to the magic of science" and lead them straight into the STEM pipeline.

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Rodriguez-OteroRodriguez-Otero Says SROP Puts a Face With an Application, Fosters Relationships

November 10, 2015

So how did Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) grad student Jannette Rodriguez-Otero from San Juan, Puerto Rico, go from studying to be a barber in a local vocational school to working on a Ph.D. in molecular sciences in MCB's Cellular Developmental Biology Department? She claims that there’s one reason she’s at Illinois: SROP.
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Mommy, Me and SWE Strives to Convince Girls That They Can Be Engineers Too

November 13, 2015

Twenty-six 4th–6th grade girls and their mothers (plus one dad) visited campus this past Saturday (November 7th, 2015) as guests of SWE (the Society of Women Engineers) to participate in the group's fall outreach event, Mommy, Me and SWE. The goal of the dozens of female engineering students who participated in the event was to pique the girls' interest in engineering and show them that, like their "big sisters," they too have what it takes to become engineers.

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Sohinee Oswal, a member of both the Innovation and Sustainability LLCs. No Longer Just for Sleeping, Illinois Residence Halls Provide Learning Via LLCs

November 13, 2015

It’s not your mother’s dorm any more. In fact, according to Alma Sealine, Director of University Housing, and Nathan Sanden, Assistant Director of Residential Life, in the university housing world, dorm is a four-letter word—and not just because of the number of letters it has.

“The 4-letter word dorm means that you only eat and sleep in that location,” explains Sealine, “whereas we like the terminology residence hall because it accounts for the living and learning that occurs, in addition to just sleeping there.” Thus, the name Living-Learning Communities, or LLCs.
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ChicTech Seeks to Foster High School Girls’ Interest in Computer Science

December 8, 2015

Why would a number of Illinois' female Computer Science (CS) students devote an entire weekend in early November hosting a group of high school girls as part of the 2015 ChicTech Retreat? Dedicated to increasing the number of women in their field, these CS students hoped many of the girls, who share their affinity for computer-related technology, might some day end up choosing CS as a career as a result of the experience.

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Bioengineering Undergrads Build Biobots in New BIOE 306 Course

December 16, 2015

Biobots. The word smacks of scientific breakthroughs in the distant future, or the subject matter of some futuristic, sci-fi movie. But Illinois researchers are currently building and studying biobots as part of their research in this emerging field. However, they're not the only ones. This past semester, Illinois' Bioengineering department piloted a brand new course, BIOE 306, BioFabrication Lab, that teaches undergraduate students how to build them too. Developed as part of the NSF-funded EBICS (Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems) Science and Technology Center, the course distilled down cutting-edge EBICS research and initiated eight Bioengineering juniors and seniors into the mysteries of building with biology. In addition, the idea for this class was developed in part due to the Illinois Innovation Prize, which emphasized the need to teach the next generation of engineers and scientists how to "build with biology."
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