NIU to celebrate five years of STEMfest fun Oct. 18

By Tom Parisi
NIU Media and Public Relations

DEKALB, Illinois — Northern Illinois University’s (NIU) annual STEMfest will once again wow visitors of all ages at the Convocation Center, 1525 W. Lincoln Hwy., DeKalb, Illinois, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 18. This free family event spurs students, families and educators to explore hot new technologies and cool scientific phenomena.

Exhibitors from NIU’s 25 STEM departments as well as businesses and experts from around the region will present hundreds of hands-on activities, interactive demonstrations, informative talks and even art projects that help visitors explore concepts and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.

STEMfest is hosted by NIU STEM Outreach and the P-20 Center, which strive to inspire today’s students to become the next generation of STEM experts and innovators.

The event is free and open to the public. Parking is free when visitors print and display a complimentary STEMfest parking pass available online.

Come for STEMFest, stay for the football game!

STEMfest 2014 will kick off with a special presentation from world-renowned polar scientist Richard Alley at 10:15 a.m. Alley is the author of Earth: An Operator’s Manual. In addition to his appearance at STEMfest, Alley will present “The Optimistic View of Energy and Environment” at 4 p.m., Friday, Oct. 17, in the Room 100 of Cole Hall on the NIU campus.

This year’s fest will bring back favorite exhibits such as F.I.R.S.T. Robotics competitions, the Laser Lab, the Haunted Physics Lab, cow eyeball dissections, the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology’s student-built vehicles and the Midwest Museum of Natural History’s bone and fossil collection and creepy crawly petting zoo. As always, scouting groups and other interested children can earn STEMfest patches by engaging with STEM experts throughout the day.

Organizers are excited to welcome new exhibitors such as Rico Enterprises, Inc., Chicagoland’s distributors of the BigBelly Solar Intelligent Waste and Recycling Collection System, and DeKalb’s own The Scope Shoppe, Inc., pioneers of color video microscopy technology.

Argonne National Lab will also participate this year with an interactive booth and a scientist smack-down on the STEMfest Stage. Argonne’s Energy Slam will take place at noon and will pit four alternative energy researchers against one another. Each researcher will have just 10 minutes to convince visitors that their energy is the best. Who will win? Wind? Solar? Nuclear? Biofuels? The audience will decide.

Other experts appearing on the STEMfest Stage are NASA Ambassador Joel Knapper, who will discuss animal astronauts, and STEM Outreach associates Jeremy Benson and Pettee Guererro, who will demonstrate Fun with Liquid Nitrogen. Organizers also will present awards and prizes to the winners of the STEM Read Science Fiction Contest (entries due Monday, Oct. 13) and the Explain It! Video Competition. Prizes include books, T-shirts, scholarships to STEM Outreach activities and even a STEM Outreach demonstration show.

Additionally, STEM Read’s Book Fair will host award-winning author Aaron Reynolds, creator of Carnivores, Here Comes Destructasaurus and several other books for young readers. His books and other fiction and non-fiction titles, including a large selection of books from educational publisher Usborne, will be available for purchase in the Book Fair area. A portion of the proceeds will support STEM Read’s year-round community programs.

As part of this year’s fifth anniversary celebration, a limited number of commemorative T-shirts will be available at the STEM Outreach booth for $15 each.

STEMfest is supported by NIU’s Division of Outreach, Engagement and Information Technologies, the P-20 Center and the Division of Marketing and Communications with additional support from Ideal Industries, 3M, Microsoft-Schaumburg, Ball Horticultural Company and the Research and Development STEM Learning Exchange. Media partners include Haunted Illinois and B95 WDKB FM. Donations to support STEM Outreach’s year-round community activities will be accepted.

STEMfest is not possible without the help of student and teacher volunteers. Learn more about volunteering and all the other ways to explore and interact at niu.edu/stemfest or by calling (815) 753-0533 or emailing pguerrero@niu.edu.

Posted Oct. 7, 2014

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