The IIT Boeing Scholars Academy is a year-round enrichment program, which begins with a four-week intensive summer program and continues with periodic activities throughout the academic year. The 2011 Summer Session ran weekdays from Monday, June 27, to Friday, July 22 (excluding the July 4th holiday), from 10am to 5pm each day, with programming oriented around the theme “Cities of the Future.”

Click to download an “at-a-glance” calendar of the 2011 Summer Session’s daily themes, coded to identify days on which Scholars were advised dress nicely or ready to get muddy, as well as field trips, other special occasions, and days on which parents/guardians were welcomed to join in the learning! Unless otherwise noted on the calendar, students had a “typical” day, beginning with an “Issues Forum” and concluding with a hands-on, collaborative STEM “Project Challenge” related to that day’s theme. More detailed information about our approach to STEM learning and “Cities of the Future” can be found below.



The Summer Session of the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy provides participants with an interdisciplinary, thematic program of activities focused on increasing access and exposure to STEM fields, solving real-world problems, and addressing “big ideas” of relevance to high school students in the Chicago area. Overall, during the 2011 Summer Session, students spent approximately 75% of their time engaging with STEM-related academic content related to the theme “Cities of the Future,” and the other 25% developing a toolkit of general skills for success in college, careers, and related endeavors.

We chose the theme “Cities of the Future” for a number of reasons — not least because we believe that this theme is of great importance in our historical moment and that it will be for some time. Through this theme and the collaborative, project-based structure of the program, we intend to give students a framework through which to situate and integrate their existing experiences and observations of Chicago and other urban areas, what they have already learned in school, and knowledge gleaned through participation in the program.

Each week of the “Cities of the Future” programming addressed a given sub-theme and set of related STEM issues, as did most days.

Week 1: Cities in Context: Where are we going? Where have we been?
In this week, we sought to understand the “big picture,” focusing on exploring and defining problems in context and on how issues and professions interconnect — all in relation to the theme. Some key questions included: Where do cities come from, and why do (or don’t) they persist? How does a city work — Chicago, as compared to others around the globe — and how and why do different cities work differently? What structures or frameworks do we inherit when seeking to address any city’s present or future challenges? We addressed major issues such as people, land and climate, space and place, the built environment, infrastructure, and transportation, as well as approaches to understanding and beginning to solve problems using “design thinking.”

  • Monday, June 27 — Cities and their Residents
  • Tuesday, June 28 — Design Thinking Workshop (day 1 of 2)
  • Wednesday, June 29 — Design Thinking Workshop (day 2 of 2)
  • Thursday, June 30 — Space, Place, and the Built Environment (Project Challenge: “Historic Resources: Defining Meaningful Public Space within the Community,” by Anna Kladzyk)
  • Friday, July 1 — Infrastructure and Transportation (Project Challenge: “Stormwater Management,” by Anna Kladzyk)



Week 2: Sustaining and (em)powering: What do we need to keep living?
Having established a preliminary understanding of existing structures and patterns, in this week we investigated present behaviors and questioned what we need to keep living day-to-day. Besides sharpening methods for researching and problem-solving, this week’s projects particularly engaged considerations of needs and wants, benefits and trade-offs, and challenges and tensions between established practice and innovation. We concentrated on issues related to water, food, human health, safety, housing, resource use, waste management, and energy. Throughout the entire program and especially this week we explored various possible meanings of — as well as methods of achieving — sustainability.

  • Monday, July 4 — No program, due to the Fourth of July holiday.
  • Tuesday, July 5 — Water and Sanitation (Project Challenge: “Water Quality Analysis of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan,” by Christopher Stovall)
  • Wednesday, July 6 —
    • Part I: Food and Human Health
    • Part II: Electricity and the Smart Grid (Project Challenge: “Creating an Electrical Generator,” by Sebastian Morales Prado)
  • Thursday, July 7 — Energy and Sustainability (Project Challenge: “Wind Turbines in an Urban Area,” by Clay Houser)
  • Friday, July 8 — Students’ Choice Enrichment Day



Week 3: Designing the way forward: What can we do or make to effect change?
In the third week of the Summer Session’s STEM-oriented programming — with our understanding of existing structures and the resources actually available to us — we brainstormed and moved to make adjustments to improve how we live today, in preparation for the way we hope to live tomorrow. While telescoping between industries and policies and materials and devices, we emphasized practical applications and next steps, design and innovation, project development and implementation, accessibility, and education. We also held an Ethics Bowl tournament focused on urban issues and professional ethics in STEM.

  • Monday, July 11 — Building New and/versus Adaptive Re-use (Project Challenge: “The Net Zero Project,” by Tabitha Ponte)
  • Tuesday, July 12 — Environment, Ethics, and Entrepreneurship
  • Wednesday, July 13 — Materials Innovation (Project Challenge: “Accessibility in the Modern City,” by Courtney Regis)
  • Thursday, July 14 — Information Technology and the City (Project Challenge: “Designing an Urban Evacuation System, Considering Various Natural Disasters,” by Aida Zhurgenbayeva)
  • Friday, July 15 — Education, Labor/Industry, Governance, and Society in the 21st Century


Photograph by Michael Goss.


During the fourth week of summer programming, we mediated students’ college and career planning and helped them consider how they might make an impact in their communities using what they have learned in the program:

Week 4: College and career focus: Moving forward and making your mark
At the beginning of the final week, as part of a special “college day” event for IIT Boeing Scholars, we hosted a college fair, admissions Q&A forum with college representatives, and several related seminars. We also hosted a similarly structured day with a “speed-networking”-style career exploration event and group advising seminars on how to pursue different career paths — both featuring professionals of various ages from diverse STEM areas and others. The week concluded with students’ participation in an intensive vision mapping exercise, conducted by the director of IIT’s Leadership Academy, and in the collaborative development of Leadership Grant projects, through which IIT Boeing Scholars proposed ways to share their STEM learning to create positive changes in their home communities.

  • Monday, July 18 — College Day
  • Tuesday, July 19 — Career Day
  • Wednesday, July 20 — Leadership Mapping
  • Thursday, July 21 — Leadership Grants Project Development
  • Friday, July 22 — Leadership Grants Competition



What happened each day? In addition to each week of the summer programming having a sub-theme, as described above, most days’ activities were oriented around an issue and operated using a “set-up” to “follow-up” approach. On a typical day, we began with an “Issues Forum” (an interdisciplinary panel discussion featuring 3-4 STEM faculty, professionals, and community members addressing a given issue or problem, to provide students with complex context on that topic and information about major/career/sub-field options) and ended with a “Project Challenge” (hands-on, interdisciplinary, “problem-solving” projects — many of which required Scholars and their classmates to collaborate, experiment, and innovate, before presenting and defending their work to an audience of their peers). These Project Challenges are listed above, by themed day. Activities included:

  • “Creating an Electrical Generator” — Armed with basic information about how electricity works and with almost no instructions, Scholars had to make working generators in under three hours…using K’nex, copper wire, neodymium magnets, metal bolts…and not much else.
  • “The Net Zero Project” — Springing forward in time to 2050, to a significantly and climatically changed Chicago, Scholars were challenged with accommodating a group of researchers in a new “living city.” Teams had to plan for multiple dwellings, food supply, and sustainable building systems, in order to run the living city without the help of certain current commodities, like oil.
  • “Stormwater Management” — Groups were assigned different sites on campus and tasked with completing area measurements for impervious and pervious surfaces in order to calculate the stormwater runoff for that site during a 24-hour precipitation event…and later planning Low Impact Development (LID) strategies for the sites including native landscaping, bioretention zones, cisterns, and permeable pavements.


Scholars race against the clock to prepare their team’s response during the Ethics Bowl competition, coordinated in partnership with IIT’s Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions.


Through participation in these projects and in dedicated sessions, we also devoted time to helping students develop particular, practical STEM skills that related to that day’s issue or project challenge (e.g., data analysis, how to write a college-level lab report) and/or general professional skills deemed by program organizers to be important (e.g., leadership training, project development, presentation skills).

Some days we made special visits to on-campus STEM facilities, computing labs, or architecture design/build workshops. Other days we took field trips to re-purposed industrial buildings, museums, historical sites, research facilities, and various sites in the community, as some of our daily projects involved observational or investigative “field work.”



Most importantly, every morning we greeted each IIT Boeing Scholar with a smile, a handshake, and high expectations. Our projects and seminars were fun but also rigorous, and we expected that our Scholars indeed sought such opportunities for academic, professional, personal, and social growth. Through both challenging and supporting students, we believe we can enable them to transform their futures and the futures of others for the better — and that they will continue to inspire each other, us, and others!



Summer 2011 – Faculty Advisors and Program Instruction Team


Professor Blake Davis – Faculty Program Advisor (Summer 2011)

Professor Blake Davis is an Adjunct Professor of Sustainability and Urban Agriculture in the Industrial Technology and Management Program at IIT, where he has taught for nine years. In addition to instructing sustainability courses in IIT’s School of Applied Technology, Blake facilitates undergraduate research activities through the Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) Program. His previous IPROs have included projects to re-purpose shipping containers into housing for Olympic athletes, designing inflatable greenhouses, analyzing organic recycling on IIT’s campus, and reclaiming waste heat from the Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station. Future projects include designing a “universal” car that can be produced in developing countries and modified for local conditions, as well as a project with the Canadian Space Agency and the McGill Polar Research Facility to design and install a wind generator to power a satellite data station during the arctic winter. Blake was awarded the IPRO Faculty Award in 2009, and his IPROs have won several awards on campus. His IPRO students have been instrumental in the development of Plant-Chicago — one of the first vertical farms in the world — and their work has been featured in local and national publications including the Chicago Tribune and the May Issue of Discover Magazine. Blake previously served as CEO of the International Human Powered Vehicle Association and as Economic Development Planner for the Office of Housing and Community Development for the City of Kansas City, Missouri. He currently works on an advisory committee at the Museum of Science and Industry and is past president of a homeless shelter on the west side of Chicago. He has six children and his hobbies include gardening and cycling.


Dr. David Gatchell – Faculty Program Advisor (Summer 2011)

Dr. David W. Gatchell is a Clinical Associate Professor at Northwestern University, serving within the Segal Design Institute (as of September 2011), and was formerly a senior lecturer in Biomedical Engineering at IIT. David received an AB in physics from Bowdoin College, and his PhD from Boston University in biomedical engineering. After finishing his dissertation, David spent four years as a research associate at Northwestern University as a member of the VaNTH Engineering Research Center focusing on undergraduate engineering education. In 2007, he joined the BME department at IIT, where he addressed problems associated with molecular and cellular engineering, specifically the computational modeling of cellular migration. David taught several courses within the BME department, most notably the senior design capstone sequence (BME 419 and 420) which he co-instructed with Dr. Jennifer Kang Derwent. He was also the lead instructor for IPRO 2.0, an interdisciplinary project-based course required of all undergraduates at IIT. David collaborated actively with IIT’s Entrepreneurship Academy as well as its Math and Science Education department. David is a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) and the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). During his free time, David spends time with his wife and his children. He likes to keep active (swimming, hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing) and is currently the assistant coach for his son’s t-ball team.


Ian Armstrong – Program Intern (Spring 2012), Program Assistant (Summer 2011)

As Summer Program Assistant for the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy, Ian Armstrong acts as an educational resource for the six Program Instructors and participates in the development and implementation of its interdisciplinary, project-based lessons. A Chicago Public Schools alumnus, Ian attended Lincoln Elementary before going on to earn his International Baccalaureate Diploma from Lincoln Park High School. Ian is also an alum of the City Colleges of Chicago (Truman College); DePaul University, where he received a BA in History; and Northern Illinois University, where he earned his MS Ed. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Science Education at IIT.

Prior to enrolling at IIT, Ian worked for seven years as a public school teacher in Bilingual Spanish programs ranging from Cicero, Illinois, to Mesquite, Texas. Active in STEM+ outreach, Ian has partnered with the Chinese American Service League to design and conduct an ongoing Dual Language Chinese-English Science Workshop series as well as other science education-based presentations. Ian enjoys spending time with his wife and two boys, traveling, playing guitar, sailing, martial arts, and fishing.


Clay Houser
Clay Houser – Program Instructor (Summer 2011)

Clay Houser is a fourth-year undergraduate pursuing his dual degree in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Engineering at IIT. As a high school student, Clay did not know much about STEM+ fields. It was only after attending a summer enrichment camp on a university campus that Clay decided he wanted to pursue engineering and that he wanted to share that pursuit with others. Since then, Clay has worked and volunteered at the Museum of Science and Industry, where he performed daily live science experiences — everything from eyeball dissections to presentations on the solar system — to teach museum attendees of all ages about many different concepts of science. While a student at IIT, he has been involved in the Society of Automotive Engineers, Engineers Without Borders, Student Government Association, and the Student Union Board. He is also the President of his Fraternity, Delta Tau Delta. As an instructor, Clay constantly works for students to achieve two goals: to become inspired, and to learn about what makes them excited. He believes that students excel most when they are interested in what is being taught and are having fun along the way.


Anna Kladzyk – Program Intern (Fall 2011, Spring 2012), Program Instructor (Summer 2011)
IIT junior and Civil Engineering major Anna Kladzyk prioritizes participating in community-oriented projects that are relevant to her field of study, while pursuing her educational goals. Before transferring to IIT as a Presidential Scholar, she was active in the Physical Science Department at Harold Washington City College. There, while studying Geographic Information Systems under Professor Liliana Marin, she completed an academic paper and set of maps, which analyzed a proposed city park site in Chicago.

Over the past year at IIT, Anna has dedicated a significant amount of time to community outreach projects. One of the most rewarding activities in this regard was contributing to the creation and coordination of “Explore STEM+ at IIT,” a week-long program that enabled more than 300 Chicago-area high school students and their teachers to participate in free, STEM+ educational workshops on the IIT campus. As a Program Instructor for the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy in Summer 2011, Anna collaborated with the Scholars to apply scientific solutions to the issues identified within the “Cities of The Future” theme, to address these problems both in a practical sense and as a framework for methodologies of sustainability, development, and social justice. She is excited to continue her work with the IIT Boeing Scholars as a Program Intern.


Sebastian Morales Prado – Program Instructor (Summer 2011)

Third-year student and future Mechanical Engineer Sebastian Morales Prado has many great passions in life. But there is one he would especially like to share with the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy — the drive to invent! From a very early age, he knew he wanted to be an inventor, and since then he has only been getting closer to his dream. In addition to serving as Vice President of IIT’s chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (and formerly as its Academic Chair), Sebastian is involved with IIT’s photography club, intramural soccer team, and the National Society of Black Engineers.

Sebastian sees an engineer as the perfect combination between a meticulous detective, looking for that missing piece, and a dreaming artist, imaginative and free — always committed to achieving the tasks that others may deem impossible. What brings him to the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy program? Precisely this: When he first heard about the program’s theme, “Cities of the Future,” he thought addressing this topic was an ambitious but necessary endeavor. He believes this program will be a means for something big, something great, to happen — not only for tomorrow’s cities, but also for the IIT Boeing Scholars. In his own words: “I know that together we will engender change.”


Tabitha Ponte, Assoc. AIA – Program Instructor (Summer 2011)
Tabitha Ponte, Assoc. AIA, is an emerging architect with 10 years of experience in the field, including in design, sustainable practices, and on-site construction management. An Associate member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), she was recently featured on the front page of the organization’s website in an article called “Trends: Social Media and the Design Profession.” While finalizing her Architecture License exams (now in-progress), Tabitha is a candidate for a Master’s in Construction Engineering and Management at IIT; she is also looking to seek a PhD.

A published author and natural educator, some of Tabitha’s more recent work includes 26LAB, NFP. Tabitha started this not-for-profit organization after she was given the opportunity to teach sustainable architecture with Duke University’s TIP program. While at Duke, Tabitha realized the power of young, creative, untainted minds, and was inspired by learning so much from her students!

Tabitha’s longer term goals include using her license and construction management specialization to establish a successful design/build firm, as well as expanding 26LAB. You can find her on WordPress and Twitter.


Courtney Regis – Program Instructor (Summer 2011)

Courtney Regis is a third-year undergraduate in Biomedical Engineering. Prior to enrolling at IIT, he taught high school for two years in his home country of St. Lucia, in the Caribbean, including in the areas of Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Physical Education and Sport, Integrated Science, and Mathematics. He also served as an online tutor for a company based in Trinidad and Tobago. In order for effective learning to take place in any context, Courtney feels that the energy to begin the learning process should come from the teacher. He believes that an ideal teaching/learning process involves a rigorous exchange of ideas, and that if teachers seek to influence students to be open to receiving new information they must themselves be open to opinions that contrast with their own.

Courtney is currently the president of the St. Lucian Visionaries, a student cultural organization at IIT, as well as a dedicated member of the National Society of Black Engineers. Besides engineering, his passions are music, soccer, and always helping others to learn something new!


Christopher Stovall – Program Intern (Summer 2011-Spring 2012)

Christopher Stovall is an aspiring Aerospace Engineer and a sophomore at IIT, who contributes to virtually every aspect of the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy as a Program Intern. An alumnus of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (commonly referred to as IMSA, or “home” by its students), Christopher felt well-prepared for the rigors of college-level academics when a first-year at IIT, and hopes to enable other high-achieving students to flourish and become leaders in their own niches.

During his time at IMSA, Christopher developed a knack for teaching, tutoring, and mentoring gifted students from a variety of backgrounds. Particularly while volunteering as a tutor at Hesed House, a homeless shelter located in the suburbs of Aurora, he began to realize that by teaching and giving back he can do a great service to his community. He continues to appreciate the value of this service, and sees the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy as an opportunity to engage his passion for connecting with and inspiring students.


Aida Zhurgenbayeva – Program Instructor (Summer 2011

Aida Zhurgenbayeva
is a fourth-year Mechanical Engineering student at IIT, who first came to the US as an exchange student (AFS) through a FLEX scholarship from American Councils. Sponsored by the Government of Kazakhstan as a Presidential Scholar, she is very committed to her education and to her home country.

Trilingual in Kazakh, Russian, and English, Aida’s recent teaching experience consists of preparing teenaged students for their TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), instructing younger Kazakh students in English, and tutoring both children and adults in English and Russian. She enjoys swimming, jogging, and bicycling, as well as volunteering of any type. “It makes me feel good to help people,” she says. A former professional swimmer, Aida has taught swimming to young children, including to disabled children. Currently, she volunteers with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Besides her parents, Aida’s biggest role model is Albert Einstein. Her favorite Einstein quote is, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” Aida is lively, proactive, and always on the lookout for new and exciting challenges!