Hello IIT Boeing Scholars and friends!
I want to start by introducing myself as a new Program Coordinator for the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy. I am so excited to be able to contribute full time to what I believe to be the best STEM enrichment and leadership program in the city! I have previously contributed to the program as a Program Instructor, Program Intern, and Lead Instructor, and I hope to take all that I have learned over the last year with the program and all that I have learned teaching in schools, gifted learning programs, and service learning programs over the last five years to elevate an amazing program to the next level by continuing to develop innovative, student inspired summer programming, supporting our inspiring and transformative Leadership Grant Projects, and developing new programming to share what we have learned with teachers, researchers and other organizations who would like to learn from us about how we inspire Scholars and accelerate social change. This is going to be an exciting journey, and I feel extremely honored to be able to share it with all of you!
This summer, Scholars participated in Serving through STEM (StS) projects for the second year in a row. We began offering StS projects in Summer 2012 as a way to give students more experience in real world projects, as a stepping stone between Project Challenges and Leadership Grant Projects. In Summer 2013, beginning in Week 3 and continuing through Week 4, Scholars continued to participate in Serving through STEM projects. Each StS required Scholars to interact with experts, learn new skills, and collaborate to produce a concrete deliverable to present to real stakeholders. Scholars across the board shared that some of the most important lessons learned through completing these projects are that, “communication is key”, “teamwork is essential”, and “projects are a lot more work than expected.” With only 20 hours, Scholars contributed some amazing work to fantastic partner organizations through five vastly different projects, which are summarized below.
Engineering Public Art: Designing Water Remediation Platforms for the Chicago River
In partnership with Redmoon, a theater company that specializes in public and site specific performances, Scholars were employed as consultants to produce prototypes of floats for the upcoming Great Chicago Fire Festival. With the guidance of Redmoon and Program Instructor Jesse Pazmiño, they learned about local water issues, buoyancy, and design before researching passive remediation techniques and designing and building prototypes with certain goals in mind: unique experience, remediation, and end of life usage. As part of their fieldwork, Scholars took a canoe trip down the Chicago River, which gave them a unique view of the setting for the performance and the water problems that exist. Several prototypes mimicked nature, including such features as a lily pad platform, employed creative methods of propulsion and control, such as a dual pedal powered paddle system, and included exciting plans for reuse, such as a playground climbing feature. After constructing their prototypes, Scholars prepared for a design review with Redmoon staff, who gave Scholars feedback on their designs. Keep an eye out for the Chicago Fire Festival coming in 2014, and you may just see some elements of Scholar designs floating down the river in a blaze of glory.
Scholars canoe down the Chicago river to get familiar with the setting for the Chicago Fire Festival, coming in 2014.
Scholars present their prototype performance platform to Redmoon staff.
Exploring Hidden Sides of STEM: Modeling, Microscopy, Biomedical Engineering, and Education
In partnership with Dr. Eric Brey, IIT Professor of Biomedical Engineering, his Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) students, and Program Instructors Catherine Newman and Julia Gonzalez, Scholars investigated many facets related to biomedical engineering including the micro-scale, mathematical modeling, diabetes, and angiogenesis. Scholars did mathematical modeling activities to understand the micro-scale and how methods of solving a problem in one context may be generalized to solve other problems in other contexts, such as applying methods of measuring metal crystal density to the problem of measuring blood vessel density. In the lab, Scholars learned from REU students about microscopy and the research they are doing in biomedical engineering. Trips to McKinsey & Company and the International Museum of Surgical Science gave students an understanding of how mathematical modeling is applied in business and a historical perspective on medicine. Armed with new knowledge and the desire to share it with others, Scholars developed over a dozen activities to teach middle school students participating in a summer program with the Chicago Park District at Harrison Park. One such game required students to recreate the process of angiogenesis, to create new blood vessels to respond to distress in the body created by injury or disease.
Scholars learn from REU students about biomedical research.
Scholars show students at Chicago Park District how to play angiogenesis game.
In cooperation with MonkeyBars, a start-up founded by IIT undergraduates, Scholars learned to explore the boundaries of what technology allows us to do through running a Hackathon. Rather than being satisfied with the limitations of pre-packaged technology, Scholars learned to create their own, picking up skills building circuits, soldering, and coding before planning a 4 hour Hackathon for 40 of their peers. Scholars gained a broader understanding of what hacking is; many thought of hacking as illegal activity, but through this experience learned that hacking is at the forefront of innovation and can also be used for good. Scholars also learned just how difficult it is to plan an event, learning how to develop a theme, plan logistics, and promote their event by creating a website. During the event, 40 Scholars got to learn from their peers the same skills of building circuits, soldering, and coding to control arrays of LED lights with Arduino computers. Their final product was an etched logo, illuminated by LED lights, as part of a design contest. The event demystified hacking and gave many of the organizers and participants the confidence to explore electronics and coding further to challenge the limits of technology and become creators.
Scholars teaching Scholars how to create with Snap Circuits.
Scholars use Aruduino computers to program lights during the hackathon.
Mapping Movement In the City: Identifying Invisible Borders
Led by Dr. Megan Vincent from the University of Chicago and guided by their own research questions, Scholars learned to better understand their city by working with large data sets. Scholars learned how to analyze big data using Microsoft Excel and Google Fusion Tables. They further learned how to create powerful maps to better understand and communicate their findings. One project aimed to better understand how people move in and around the city. Scholars conducted a survey, mapped the commutes of residents, and found that many individuals cross neighborhood boundaries and interact with people from other neighborhoods daily, which Scholars found encouraging in light of data showing racial segregation of residences. Another project aimed to determine the accuracy of the 311 pothole database; Scholars visited 3 neighborhoods to check on the status of potholes reported and identify new ones. An interesting finding is that potholes are better reported on the south side and the response time is also shorter on the south side, which is the exact opposite of what Scholars expected to find. One more project asked questions about the relationship between food deserts and diabetes. It was found that food deserts are primarily located in neighborhoods with predominantly Hispanic and African American residents, who are already more likely to get diabetes. Analysis of the data showed a strong correlation between food deserts and high incident rates of diabetes. Through this StS, Scholars learned that with the right question, good data, and a few tools, they can gleam powerful insights.
Scholars dig into big data to answer questions about potholes, movement in the city, and food deserts.
Presentation of findings at IIT Sustainability Forum.
Sustainable Landscape Management and Ecological Design: Inventorying and Calculating the Water Impact of IIT’s Trees
In cooperation with the IIT Office of Sustainability, Scholars took an inventory of trees on IIT’s main campus to estimate water usage. By foot, they inventoried over 800 trees by collecting leaf samples, measuring trunk circumference, drawing the shaded area on a map, and making note of shade density, microclimate, and signs of disease. With the help of botanists at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Scholars identified the species of each tree. Using their data, Scholars calculated the water needs for each subregion of IIT campus and compared it to the baseline for the Midwestern region. Scholars found that each region of campus has different water needs and that the current irrigation plan is overwatering in some areas and underwatering in others. The data and the analysis done by Scholars may be used to adjust irrigation schedules, start a tree nursery to replace dying trees, and to select more appropriate trees for the region which may allow IIT to reduce its water usage for irrigation.
Scholars measure and map trees on the IIT campus.
Scholars identify tree species with help from botanists at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
It’s truly awesome to see what our Scholars can accomplish when given a worthy and difficult task that requires them to use their creativity, work together, and meet a deadline. I was extremely impressed with what students were able to do in such a short time and how well they were able to communicate their ideas and findings to both specific stakeholders and a diverse audience. We hope Scholars will carry their lessons learned back to their high schools later this year and inspire their peers! I look forward to an exciting year with our Scholars. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at 312.567.5193 or firstname.lastname@example.org.