With the generous support of a kCura Geek Grant, last night the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy welcomed 100 students from more than 20 Chicago high schools to IIT’s campus to learn about majors and careers in technology innovation. There was great energy in the room as four amazing innovators—from diverse fields and at different stages in their careers—inspired attending students to reflect on who they are and what they, too, can do to create the future!

Andrew Sieja, Founder and CEO of kCura, kicked off the event by discussing why innovation matters and how technology—such as computer programs that are easy and even FUN to use—can make people's lives better.
John Yerger, CEO and President of Advanced Diamond Technologies, Inc., explained how science research can lead to engineering innovation and, ultimately, make the world a better place. His company turns natural gas into diamond which is then used for various industrial, electronic, and medical applications, like water purification.
Christina Yang, Software Engineer at Jellyvision Games, spoke about how she discovered her gift for math in college and changed majors on her pathway to computer science. When not designing video games for a living, she volunteers with organizations like Technovation to encourage other young women to enter technology fields.
Mae Cheri Whiteside, Principal of Cheri K. Lewis Engineers, LLC, and an IIT alumna, spoke from the heart about how she discovered her calling in civil engineering, why she decided to start her own company, and the benefits and drawbacks of being her own boss.
Attendees had the opportunity to obtain further insights and advice from speakers during a Q&A panel discussion, moderated by kCura's Andrew Sieja.
During the event's concluding reception, students got to meet and chat with our amazing speakers.
kCura's Tracy Thomas and Liz Durkin provided invaluable support behind the scenes during the event and in the weeks leading up to it (pictured here with IIT Boeing Scholars Academy Program Director Marya Spont).
At the reception, attendees also had the opportunity to learn about organizations that support students as they explore STEM, college, and careers—such as the Black Star Project, Chicago Scholars, Climate Cycle (pictured), Hackathon, and, of course, ours!


Thank you to everyone who came together to make last night’s event a huge success—our speakers, Andrew SiejaMae Cheri Whiteside, Christina Yang, and John Yerger; volunteers Liz Durkin, Sheena Enriquez, Andrés Lemus, and Tracy Thomas; and our event photographer (and Program Coordinator) Connie Ma; as well as the students, teachers, and community-based organizations who came out on a freezing January evening to attend! We hope to see many of you at future program events, such as Thursday’s information session for prospective applicants to the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy.


Marya Spont
Program Director




Technology innovators inspire 100 students at “Creating the Future”