Greetings from former program instructor, Jesse Pazmiño!!

October 8, 2013 author: No comments

Read about Jesse’s experiences, during his study abroad semester, in a letter he wrote to our scholars!


Bonjour, les élèves! (Hello students!)

It’s been one and a half months since I arrived in Paris and my classmates and I are having a great time getting to know the city and taking our classes at the studio.

As you begin or continue applying to colleges, I hope you really consider studying abroad. In fact, I’d like to share why I think you really should.

There are many reasons why studying abroad can be an important (if not the best) part of your college career, but I’ll focus on three: travel, culture, and independence.


Stepping outside the country is already a plus, but if your program allows for additional travel, this will only add to your experience. For example, studying in Europe has the advantage of hassle free travel between all EU nations. This semester, the Paris Program has traveled to the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Utretch, and Rotterdam) and will travel to Spain (Barcelona). Extending your geographical reach either for academics or leisure will amplify the next two reasons.


Unless the US and/or Chicago are foreign to you, you haven’t stepped out of your culture zone. Living within another culture makes you consider a different lifestyle and perspective you would otherwise not know existed. Culture shock and the subsequent adjustment allows you to re-examine your own lifestyle and perspective. While there may be things you don’t like about another culture, there will be many more things that you do and that you’ll want to incorporate into your own life.

A note about language…

If your goal is to master a language, you must make an educated effort to jump in and speak. No matter how many mistakes you make, speaking is the best way to learn a language. Language is more than words, however. Intonation, body language, etc. are equally important and this is the reason why learning a language is like learning how to act.



Gaining your independence is a process; it can only be done by going through it. Living by yourself in an another country is at an entirely different level than doing so in the US. There are much more unknowns that make for interesting challenges. It’s the reason why studying abroad is such a life changing experience. Living with less (as many will do) is also eye opening. Though it might sound limiting, it’s very easy and freeing not only at the practical level (cleaning is fast) but at the mental level too (peace of mind).

I hope you can see why studying abroad can become one of the best parts of going to college. Of course, there is so much more to it than just this outline. Living in another country becomes a unique experience to everybody. For example, beyond the architecture (whose history is very interesting), the most fascinating things to me are the customs and traditions that take place each and every day.

Customs and traditions are very important parts of what makes up a culture. They are marks of identity that you can begin to adopt. The Parisians have many customs and traditions that I enjoy being a part of: sitting by the canal late at night, coffee and croissants early in the morning, lining up for fresh baguettes in the afternoon, etc (do you see how all of these have to do with food?). The more involved you are in customs and traditions, the more you will blend in and feel a part of the culture.

Please consider studying abroad as you’re exploring your college options. Traveling with your class or participating in an exchange program are great choices to keep in mind. Step out of your comfort zone and learn something new. Don’t think twice to get out there and explore!


I hope you’re all having a great semester at school and beyond. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions (


Jesse Pazmino - Program Instructor

Jesse Pazmiño
Former Program Instructor

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Leadership Grant Projects launch into 2013!

August 19, 2013 author: No comments

IIT Boeing Scholars, families, and Project Mentors met at the first academic-year program event for Leadership Grant Projects this past Saturday, August 10 in the MTCC Ballroom. Thirteen LGP groups launched on Saturday, focusing on diverse and important causes around Chicago including addressing food deserts, encouraging active living and healthy lifestyles, helping LGBTQ teens, aiding students with special needs, addressing gun violence, facilitating artistic expression, promoting biking and energy, water conservation, boosting confidence in math and science skills, promoting sex education, drug abuse awareness, environmental awareness, and lowering youth drop-out rates.

Leadership Grant Project We Want a Voice to Express meeting with their mentor Stuart.

LGP group We Want a Voice to Express hear from their Project Mentor Stuart about possible approaches.

This year, we welcome seventeen Project Mentors, adult professionals from diverse fields –engineers, architects, teachers, consultants, professors, physicians and more– who are dedicated to helping our Scholars succeed in their projects and learn through doing project management, communications, teamwork, and other transferable skills. Ross Ludwig, Program Coordinator, facilitated an orientation for Project Mentors to meet each other and learn about working with diverse, high-achieving Chicago teenagers.

We kicked off the LGP Launch Workshop with an introduction of the new IIT Boeing staff team. Megan Mozina, our new Program Director, greeted Scholars, families, and Project Mentors. Ross Ludwig, our newest Program Coordinator, also introduced himself, as did Kathy Rhee, Program Coordinator, who has been with us since July 1.


Connie Ma, outgoing Program Coordinator, thanks Scholars and Project Mentors. To her right are Kathy Rhee and Ross Ludwig, Program Coordinators, and Megan Mozina, Program Director.

LGP groups got to work on many next steps of realizing their project — deciding on a single project approach, researching organizations in Chicago with similar aims, talking about a timeline and implementation, dividing up responsibilities, and agreeing on communication strategies and meeting schedules. Most groups are composed of Scholars who live all over Chicago and attend different schools.

Leadership Grant Project Just Don't Do It! meeting with their mentor Lisa.

LGP group Just Don’t Do It!, which is interested in issues of abstinence and sex education, meet with their Project Mentor Lisa.

In September, accompanied by Project Mentors, LGP groups will contact and visit a professional, organization, or business, that does work in the same area that their LGP is addressing. This will be a chance to learn about existing efforts and resources as well as to help groups clarify how a group of Chicago-area high school students view the issue and what they can bring to the table with their unique perspective.

Leadership Grant Project Enviroprint meeting with their mentor Brett.

LGP Enviroprint, in its second year, present ideas to their Project Mentor Brett.

We’re so excited about this third year of Leadership Grant Projects, which promises to be every bit as revolutionary as the projects that have come before. With Saturday’s workshop under their belt, Scholars and groups are now well on their way to making a dent in Chicago!

Leadership Grant Project You.Only.Drink.Once.(eventually). meeting with their mentor Becca.

LGP group You.Only.Drink.Once.(eventually). focusing on water conservation, meet with their Project Mentor Becca.


RossRoss Ludwig
Program Coordinator

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Upcoming Changes…and Our Growing Family

August 16, 2013 author: No comments

Dear IIT Boeing Family,

Today, we are writing to announce several recent changes at the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy.

First, the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy has a new home and office, which better fits our growing team! We are now on the second floor of IIT’s Tower (10 W. 35th St.), in Room 2D7-1. The Tower is located at the northwest corner of 35th and State St. It is just two blocks south of our original offices in Perlstein Hall. Please see this map of Main Campus if you have any questions. We are right across the street from the 35th-Bronzeville-IIT stop which currently services Green and Red Lines.

We also have a few staff changes to announce:


Founding Program Director Marya Spont (right) hands off the program to incoming Program Director Megan Mozina (left).


  • Marya Spont, who has served as Program Director since the Academy’s founding in January 2011, spent her last day with IIT this past Thursday, August 8. Starting Monday, August 12, she is working with the University of Chicago Charter Schools and the university’s Arts Incubator in Washington Park, developing community arts programming for youth as well as broader arts education strategies between the spaces. This was a very difficult decision for her to make and she is going to miss the (amazing!!!) IIT Boeing Scholars so much, but she hopes to continue her personal relationships with all of you in her new role.
  • We are very excited to announce that Megan Mozina ( has assumed the position of Program Director, effective Monday, August 12. Megan started in IIT’s Office of Student Access, Success, & Diversity Initiatives in May 2012, focusing on special initiatives and working closely with underrepresented international populations. Throughout her work in education (including secondary, non-formal adult, and higher education), Megan has always had a focus on social justice, intercultural exchange, student empowerment, and community engagement. She completed her Master’s degree in International Education with a focus on Higher Education Administration and Intercultural Training from The George Washington University and her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with concentrations in Global Cultures and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her Midwestern roots, study abroad in Spain, work experience in South Korea and Washington D.C., and Peace Corps service in Honduras all greatly inform who she is and how she engages with IIT, Chicago, and the world. She is thrilled to work more closely with the bright, hard-working, and inspirational scholars and staff of the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy!
  • Connie Ma, who joined the team as Program Coordinator in March 2012, will be departing in early September for a year of traveling in Asia and Europe before she starts graduate school in public policy in fall 2014. She will also sorely miss the IIT Boeing family, but will keep in touch and remain a life-long friend and resource for all Scholars as they explore colleges and career opportunities. Her last day at IIT will be September 5. In her last month here, she looks forward to helping the new team kick off a great academic-year session!
  • Long-time contributor Ross Ludwig ( will be taking over Connie’s responsibilities as Program Coordinator, and began as a full-time staff member on Monday, August 5. Ross is a recent graduate of IIT, where he received his degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Math and Science Education. In addition to his work with Americorps and Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development, over the last year Ross has served as Program Instructor, Intern, and Lead Instructor for the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy. We feel very fortunate to invite him to the staff full-time!
  • Katherine Rhee (, who joined the team in July, will continue to serve as Program Coordinator, overseeing college programming among other areas.

Finally, seniors who have already requested letters of recommendation for their college applications will have one added to their file before Marya and Connie’s departures; these letters from Marya and Connie can be used continuously throughout this year’s college application process. Letters for students who have not yet requested recommendations will be written by continuing staff members.

Much appreciation for all of the incredible experiences we have shared thus far, and we look forward to the many adventures we will share in the future!

The Staff of the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy


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Introductions and Serving through STEM (StS) projects (Week 3-4)!

August 14, 2013 author: No comments

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 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

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 learn from REU students about biomedical research.

Scholars show students at Chicago Park District how to play angiogenesis

Scholars show students at Chicago Park District how to play angiogenesis game.

Hacking Experiences.

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 teaching Scholars how to create with Snap Circuits.

Scholars use Aruduino to program lights for a logo design contest.

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.

Scholars dig into big data to answer questions about potholes, movement in the city, and food deserts.

Presentation of findings at IIT Sustainability Forum.

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 measure and map trees on the IIT campus.

Scholars identify tree species with help from botanists at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

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

RossRoss Ludwig
Program Coordinator

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Family Service Day on July 20 was a great success!

July 23, 2013 author: No comments

We wrapped up our third week of the summer program on a strong, meaningful, hard-working and fun-filled note—with Family Service Day on Saturday, July 20, 2013! Almost 100 Scholars, parents, siblings, and friends came out to participate in one of two service projects that morning. We had the chance to demonstrate what our IIT Boeing Scholars community is all about —everyone worked hard, cooperated, shared great ideas, got the job done and had lots of fun in the process!

Scholars Sergio and Tyler really dig working in McKinley Park!

Scholars Sergio and Tyler really dig working in McKinley Park!

Our fearless leader Marya Spont, along with Program Instructors Jesse, Jose, and Catherine, led a team of 30 to McKinley Park for a park beautification project. There they met Angela Cisneros, a wonderful staff member from Friends of the Parks, a park advocacy organization, dedicated to preserving, protecting, and improving Chicago’s parks and forest preserves for all citizens. Our volunteers’ first task in working to preserve, protect, and improve McKinley Park was learning how to mulch trees. Mulching is an important task for protecting the trees and the park environment—it conserves water, prevents soil erosion, and contributes to the health of the trees. To some this was a completely new idea and skill and to others it was a familiar task. Either way, everyone had a great time and worked hard—so hard they finished all their trees early and had extra time to spend picking up litter, including fishing trash out of the park’s lagoon! Definitely a morning to be proud of.

Scholars Ruka and Alexis take pride in their newfound mulching skills.

Scholars Ruka and Alexis take pride in their newfound mulching skills.

The group scours the park then heads to the lagoon to clean that up as well.

The group scours the park then heads to the lagoon to clean that up as well.

The remaining 60-70 volunteers stayed at IIT to work on a project supporting The Night Ministry, a Chicago-based organization that offers housing, healthcare and human connection to members of the Chicago community struggling with poverty or homelessness. Their outreach services build community by providing medical care, meals, hygiene items, and other immediate, practical resources on the ground in Chicago neighborhoods. The Scholars had been collecting donations of travel-sized hygiene items for the Night Ministry (shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, etc.) since the first week of the program. The drive was very successful, yielding many hundreds of items with a high rate of participation among our scholars and staff as well as other supportive friends around the IIT community. Thank you to everyone who donated!

Scholars and families form an assembly line to put together hygiene kits

Scholars and families form an assembly line to put together hygiene kits.

Saturday morning, we brought all the donations we received to two classrooms where volunteers sorted them into boxes. We then formed assembly lines to pack the donations into kits which the Night Ministry will distribute to its clients. Our teams took such initiative to complete our task efficiently that we assembled around 200 kits—enough for the Night Ministry to distribute on a busy night—in under an hour! That left us with time to add our own personalized touch to this project: we discussed and brainstormed brief messages to send to the Night Ministry’s clients and included one or more hand-written (and in some cases drawn) notes with each kit. This personal touch was perfectly aligned with the idea of using the kits as a way to show clients of the Night Ministry that others care about them as a person.

The group writes notes to Night MInistry clients to include with the kits--"stay fresh!"

The group writes notes to Night Ministry clients to include with the kits!

That idea of personal connection was one of the things that stood out to me the most from the presentation we heard from Aidan McCormack, the Night Ministry’s Community and Congregational Relations Coordinator, who joined us for the latter part of the morning. Aidan helped us start to dispel stereotypes and learn more about the issue of homelessness in Chicago, which led to a thoughtful discussion.

Last but not least, we had a chance for the whole group to come back together and share a meal. From what I saw, throughout the day different Scholars and their families really got a chance to get to know each other, meet new people, and have some interesting, important, surprising, productive, and thought-provoking conversations. Family Service Day was not only about serving our broader community, but also about building our own community. Thank you so much to everyone who came out and worked hard to make this day a great success!


Elizabeth Elizabeth McCreless

Program Intern

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Project Challenges!

July 21, 2013 author: No comments

Week 2 at the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy was action-packed! Full of enticing speakers, the launch of this year’s Leadership Grant Projects, an Ethics Bowl, Students’ Choice Enrichment Day field trips, and Project Challenges! Through hands-on, interdisciplinary, collaborative classroom work (which we call Project Challenges), Scholars learned about complex issues related to wind energy, electronic waste, and water treatment.

On Monday, Scholars learned some energy fundamentals, and the current state of energy production and delivery before digging into a tough challenge that required them to think critically and make some tough decisions about where to place a wind turbine. Each Scholar took on the role of a particular stakeholder that has a hand in influencing and/or making decisions about where to place wind turbines, such as politicians, engineers, and environmental scientists. Taking on a particular role and agenda helped Scholars separate the merits of the issues from their personal biases and opinions, and really challenged them to find relevant information and form arguments based on the priorities they had by the very nature of taking on a particular role. Later Scholars were challenged to build a wind turbine on a budget. Following a brief discussion about some things that may affect the performance of a wind turbine, Scholars got right back to work designing, building, and testing prototypes of wind turbine blades. To compare performance of some very different designs, Scholars learned how to calculate the efficiency of a wind turbine based on the available wind and swept area of the blades. I was blown away by the caliber of analysis, discussion, creativity, and grit that Scholars showed during this truly awesome Project Challenge!

Scholars analyze maps including data about wind availability, utility access, highways, airports, endangered species and more to choose a good location to place a wind turbine.

Scholars analyze maps including data about wind availability, utility access, highways, airports, endangered species, and more to choose a good location to place a wind turbine.

Scholars test their prototype blade design.

Scholars test their prototype blade design.

On Tuesday, Scholars learned about a striking difference between natural and manmade systems: natural systems don’t have waste! They began to think about where things come from, where they go, who makes them, who disassembles them, who is affected by hazardous materials in electronic waste, and how they are affected. During this challenge Scholars drew flow charts to keep track of how all of the components of a computer are connected, how they are connected to the stream of raw materials that make them up and how they are connected to the waste stream and the side effects of improper waste management. Scholars were also challenged to take on the role of a particular stakeholder (like an informal recycler, corporation, or NGO), do research, and work together to find common ground on which to build solutions to reduce electronic waste and ensure that it is recycled safely and responsibly. My head was spinning from all the great questions, insight, and ideas Scholars brought to this great challenge of mimicking nature, closing the loop, and turning outputs into inputs.

Scholars use historical electronics sales data to predict the amount of electronic waste that will need to be processed in 2015.

Scholars use historical electronics sales data to predict the amount of electronic waste that will need to be processed in 2015.

Scholars take on the roles of Chinese stakeholders such as manufacturers, politicians, and informal recyclers and generate ideas they all can agree on for handling electronic waste responsibly.

Scholars take on the roles of Chinese stakeholders such as manufacturers, politicians, and informal recyclers and generate ideas they all can agree on for handling electronic waste responsibly.

On Thursday, Scholars approached the question of “how clean is clean?” and learned about the local water system, some common water contaminants, and treatment processes. After getting a taste of where water comes from, how it’s treated, and where it goes, Scholars tackled the challenge of designing, building, and testing prototypes of a water treatment process. Given some truly disgusting water of various “flavors,” some plastic bottles, and just a few simple items like sand, gravel, coffee filters, and activated charcoal, this was no easy task. However, through some careful planning and management of their limited resources, courage to try something new, reflection on what did and did not work, and many iterations of designing, building, and testing, the ideas and the water became clearer. This project really made a splash and brought out new curiosity and appreciation for something that many Scholars admittedly took for granted before this challenge. Some of them got so excited about water, they will be pursuing solutions to local water issues as part of a brand new Leadership Grant Project!

Scholars design, build, and test prototypes of a treatment process to remove impurities from raw water.

Scholars design, build, and test prototypes of a treatment process to remove impurities from raw water.

It’s hard to believe that just over a month ago these projects were little more than figments of our imaginations. Informed by focus groups which our Scholars participated in and shaped by the research, knowledge, and creativity of our instructors these Project Challenges turned out to be amazing learning experiences for all Program Instructors and Scholars. I hope you all enjoyed them, and if you didn’t get to take part, I hope you enjoy the pictures!


RossRoss Ludwig
Lead Instructor

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Week 1-2 recap of our 2013 summer!

July 15, 2013 author: No comments

Hello IIT Boeing Scholars community!

I wanted to e-introduce myself as a new Program Coordinator for the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy! I previously worked for the IIT Office of Undergraduate Admission for two years as an admission counselor and am very excited to apply the knowledge that I gained there to help create access to higher education for our amazing Scholars! You can read more about me here.

The first two weeks have already been a whirlwind of activity – I cannot believe the summer program component is already half over! Here are some of the highlights from the past few weeks:

  • Design Thinking Workshop – On Days 2 and 3, Dr. David Gatchell, the Director of the Manufacturing and Design Engineering Program and Clinical Associate Professor of the Siegel Design Institute at Northwestern University, worked with our Scholars to better understand design. Many of our students learned more about the field of biomedical engineering and how this might shape their future!
  • Myers-Briggs Test – Megan Wheeler from IIT’s Leadership Academy walked the Scholars through Myers-Briggs, a personality test, to learn more about their preferences. Having never taken a Myers-Briggs test before, I learned that I am an ENFJ (one of 16 different personality types). Successful leaders have a strong understanding of themselves and the reasons behind how they interact with others. Typically successful leaders are not great at everything, but they know how to surround themselves with people that fill in their gaps.

Megan Wheeler (Leadership Academy, IIT) presents to IIT Boeing Scholars about the Myers Briggs personality test.

  • College Visit Day – On Friday, July 5th we all left bright and early to visit either University of Wisconsin – Madison or University of Notre Dame! Both visits included a wonderful campus tour, lunch in the dining halls, and presentations about admissions and STEM opportunities. This was an amazing opportunity for the students to explore college preferences. I helped chaperone the trip to Madison and was very pleased to hear that some students loved the huge campus or that some students thought Madison was too big of a school. It was great for the students to have a reference point in their minds regarding size and community. For many students, on both visits, they learned things that they didn’t expect about the different campuses.


    IIT Boeing Scholars visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

  • Energy Project Challenge – Our lovely Program Instructors taught our students about wind energy and how to build incredible wind turbines. Students were able to measure energy output and experimented with which types of blades were most efficient while having a good time.

    For our Energy Project Challenge, Jose Gibaja, Program Instructor (left), test out the prototype that Hernan, Alex, Mike, and Florencio (left to right) have come up with.


    Stuart Patterson, Faculty Program Advisor, looks on as Angel, Adam, and Janeya (from left to right) try out their turbine design.


    Jack, Marcos, and Arely demonstrate to Jesse Pazmino, Program Instructor, a detail of their design.

  • Boeing Speed Mentoring – On Tuesday and Thursday of the second week, our Scholars visited the Boeing Headquarters to learn from current employees about their career path. Boeing mentors moved from group to group answering questions about their college experiences, how they chose their major/college, what extracurricular activities they were involved in, and passing on words of wisdom about life. I was very impressed by the insightful questions that our Scholars had for the Boeing mentors and with the deep conversations that I overheard. I heard that this is a highlight for every year and this year’s event greatly exceeded my expectations.

This Monday, we held our College and Career Day, which included a Young Professionals Panel, Career Exploration Fair, presentations by the Illinois Student Assistant Commission (ISAC), and a College Fair with over 60 colleges represented. Watch for a blog post to come with details about our College and Career Day!

Even though the summer program is half over, I am so excited to work with all of the IIT Boeing Scholars over the next year (or two, for juniors) and help each and every one of them learn about the STEM fields and get into a college of best fit! I am very blessed to work with such a talented and intelligent staff but also a very brilliant and amazing group of students. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me (and any of the program staff members) with any questions.


Kathy Rhee_BiowebKatherine Rhee
Program Coordinator



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Finally — summer is here!

June 29, 2013 author: No comments

On Monday, July 1, we will welcome new and returning IIT Boeing Scholars to campus for our third (!) annual summer program, which runs through July 26! The 2013-14 class of Scholars includes 106 exceptional students — 29 seniors and 77 juniors — hailing from 58 Chicago-area high schools. These students were selected from hundreds of highly qualified applicants for their outstanding commitment to academics, promise as future leaders, and vision for positively impacting their communities and the world through STEM. Learn more about these amazing Scholars on our “People” page!

Scholars work against the clock to complete their deliverable.

A team of Scholars works against the clock to complete one of last year’s many group projects.

As you may already know, this summer program’s theme is “Challenging Our Borders, Reshaping Our World.” Whether real or imagined, natural or human-constructed, borders shape the way we think about our identity, actions, and options. But much as borders can be seen as limits or divides, they can also be seen as places of connection and exchange. The most pressing challenges facing humankind are complex and multi-faceted, and solving them will require collaboration across many different kinds of borders. Especially when we look at climate change, energy and water use, and other STEM-related problems in their broader context, there are no right or wrong answers — only more or less sustainable, ethical, or effective solutions, depending on priorities and context. Therefore, it is crucial that the next generation of STEM professionals is not only well-versed in math and science, but also possesses the creative and critical abilities to collaborate and empathize with individuals from diverse disciplines and backgrounds.

Visit our “Summer 2013″ page to learn more about why we chose this theme and what students will be doing this summer! And check out the overview calendar and detailed schedule to see what we’ll be up to in Week 1. Highlights include a design thinking workshop with Northwestern University professor Dr. David W. Gatchell, talks by Dr. Stuart Patterson of Shimer College and Mike McGee of The Starter League, trips to the University of Notre Dame and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a self-exploration activity led by Megan Wheeler of IIT’s Leadership Academy. We kick off all the fun with a “Cluster Olympics” on day 1, a great opportunity for teambuilding and friendly competition!

Welcome the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy!

Welcome home…to the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy!

During week 1, we will also be visited by individuals representing each of this summer’s Serving through STEM (StS) Projects. These are seven-day “programs-within-the-program” that give Scholars valuable experience contributing to a real-world project. Each StS Project is offered in partnership with faculty members, research centers, and organizations, and has its own unique schedule, field trips, and assignment to complete for a real stakeholder. This summer, students will choose between participating in:

More information about each Serving through STEM Project is available on our “Summer 2013″ page and in our detailed schedule (pp. 8-9).


As we make our final preparations for Monday, I find myself reflecting on how far our program has come since our launch in January 2011, and am so so proud of everyone on our multi-faceted team who has helped make this program a reality. In addition to our many incredible supporters at IIT and at the Boeing Company, this week I am especially grateful for our summer 2013 instruction team (bios online! group photo to the right!), the incoming Scholars who took part in our Ethics Bowl brainstorming and focus group on Wednesday (see blog!), and to staff member Connie, who ordered every single material, meal, and bus for this summer’s program! This program would be nothing but an idea without the hard work and dedication of each and every one of you, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And there are still opportunities for others to get involved! Adult professionals interested in helping students develop and implement their Leadership Grant Projects are encouraged to apply to be Project Mentors. Others interested in shorter-term, even one-day, involvement should consider volunteering for our mock career fair or to help seniors with their college admissions essays; check out this link for more details.

Scholars, we are psyched to see you bright and early on Monday. We hope you’re ready for a safe, fun, and challenging summer! I have no doubt that we will have an amazing time together and that all of us will be forever changed by what we learn from each other.


Marya 02aMarya Spont
Program Director






*This project is offered in collaboration with a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program funded by the National Science Foundation and IIT’s Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science and Engineering, and in collaboration with Dr. Eric Brey and Dr. Judith Zawojewski (Associate Professor Emeritus, Math and Science Education, IIT) on a NSF-funded tissue engineering project led by Dr. Ali Cinar (Professor of Chemical Engineering; Vice Provost for Research; Dean of the Graduate College; Director, Engineering Center for Diabetes Research and Education, IIT).

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Sneak peek for Summer 2013!

June 26, 2013 author: No comments

Dear 2013-14 IIT Boeing Scholars,

Elizabeth McCreless here, your new program intern for IIT Boeing Scholars Academy, to say that we are so excited to welcome you to campus on MONDAY! Our team has been hard at work putting finishing touches on the various projects we will be doing together this summer, and we absolutely cannot wait to see you, to meet you, to learn with you and work with you!

I got a first peek at the type of awesome scholars we have in our program when our Ethics Bowl focus group came in today to begin work on our annual Ethics Bowl tournament which will take place Wednesday, July 10th. This group of new and returning Scholars met with Kelly Laas of IIT’s Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions to discuss ethical issues of relevance and interest to them. Ms. Laas will use this discussion to compose cases for the tournament that address some combination of the issues Scholars identified. Huge thanks to these students (and to Ms. Laas) for taking the time to help create our curricular content!


Program Director Marya Spont (bottom left) and Program Intern Elizabeth McCreless (bottom right) with (left to right) new scholar Husam, returning scholar Jasmine, and new scholars Marcos, Yadid (bottom center), Hasani, Ruka, Kristen, and Angel — our Ethics Bowl focus group!

Keep watching your email and the blog for updates, and always feel free to get in touch with us if you have questions. And start getting excited (as though you weren’t already), because this summer is going to be awesome! I will say it again: I can’t wait to meet all of you!

ElizabethElizabeth McCreless
Project Intern

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Connect with colleges on Monday, July 15!

June 24, 2013 author: No comments

Dear Scholars, family, and friends:

We hope you are looking forward to connecting with lots of amazing colleges and each other at our annual College Day event, to be held on Monday, July 15, 3-8:30pm, in IIT’s Hermann Hall (3241 S. Federal)! This event will include presentations by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) introducing families to the college admissions and financial aid processes (3-4:30pm), dinner for parents/guardians and for Scholars (separate rooms; 4:30-5:30pm), a Q&A panel discussion with college admissions representatives (5:30-6:30pm), and a college fair featuring 50+ institutions (6:30-8:30pm)! If you are joining us beginning at 3pm, use this parking permit. If you are joining us beginning at 5pm, use this parking permit.

For the second year, we are hosting our college panel and fair in collaboration with the University of Chicago Collegiate Scholars Program, which also serves high-achieving Chicago high school students. We feel honored not only for the opportunity to collaborate with these valued partners but especially to do so in service of such inspiring students!

College fair 2012

The following 50 institutions — as well as college access organizations College Greenlight and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) — will be attending our college fair this year. Those appearing in bold are also serving on our Q&A panel about college admissions, which immediately precedes the fair.

  • Bates College
  • Brown University
  • Bucknell University
  • California State University (CSU) Engineering Studies
  • Carleton College
  • Colgate University
  • Columbia College Chicago
  • Cornell University
  • Davidson College
  • DePaul University
  • DePauw University
  • Dominican University
  • Emory University
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Indiana University-Bloomington
  • Iowa State University
  • Knox College
  • Lake Forest College
  • Luther College
  • Marquette University
  • Michigan Technological University
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • Northeastern Illinois University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • Oberlin College
  • Princeton University
  • Rice University
  • Roosevelt University
  • Rose-Hulman
  • Saint Louis University
  • Saint Mary’s College
  • Shimer College
  • Southern Illinois University Carbondale
  • Stanford University
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Evansville
  • University of Illinois-Springfield
  • University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of South Alabama
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Vanderbilt University
  • VanderCook College of Music
  • Villanova University
  • Wake Forest University
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Williams College
  • Xavier University
  • Yale University

Additionally, through their participation in our program, seniors in the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy have the opportunity to participate in the Chicago Scholars Onsite Admissions Forum. The Onsite is a live college admissions event that is designed to ensure that students are matched with a set of “good-fit” college options as they jump-start the admissions process — putting Scholars ahead of traditional admission cycles, relieving anxiety (particularly for first-generation college students), and freeing them up to concentrate on academics during their senior year. By early September, participating students submit completed applications to five “good-fit” attending colleges, and colleges come to the Onsite event in late October prepared to meet with students to discuss their applications and often to admit them onsite. More than 500 students (including 40 IIT Boeing Scholars) interviewed for admission to 70 colleges as part of the 2012 Onsite Forum. In preparation for this year’s Onsite, seniors may wish to review this list of participating colleges, several of which will also be attending our fair on July 15. Highlighted schools take the Common Application.

Finally, some day in the not-too-distant-future you dear young Scholars will all grow up and move on to attend the college of your choice. We just hope that, when you do, you still come back for alumni events, like this pizza party we held just last Thursday (one of many pictures is below)!

Alumni pizza

We can’t wait to see you all on campus one week from today for the start of our 2013 summer program — “Challenging Our Borders, Reshaping Our World” — and look forward to helping you achieve admission to the college of your dreams!


Marya 02aMarya Spont
Program Director

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