NIU’s set for annual celebration of STEM

F.I.R.S.T. Robotics teams will battle their bots in the Robo Arena throughout the day at STEMfest on Saturday. (Provided photo)

STEMfest will wow spectators at the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. This annual festival introduces learners of all ages to cutting-edge technologies and intriguing science phenomena that will amaze students, parents and educators alike. The event is open to the public. Parking and admission are free. 

Hosted by NIU STEM Outreach, the event aims to educate and inspire students to pursue careers in STEM fields. More than 200 hands-on exhibits at STEMfest 2013 will include favorites such as robotics challenges, Laser Lab, the Haunted Physics Lab, cow eyeball dissections, the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology’s student-made vehicles, and the Midwest Museum of Natural History’s bone and fossil collection and creepy petting zoo. This year, more than 400 NIU students, faculty and staff volunteers will be on-hand to help with these demonstrations, explain amazing phenomena and assist visitors in their explorations.

STEM Outreach along with community and university partners also are preparing new exhibits and activities from the U.S. Navy, Rockford’s Nicholas Conservatory & Garden, ComEd, NASA Ambassadors and more. 

Organizers are especially excited to welcome the creators of MashPlant, an online workspace that makes social media and virtual collaboration safe and accessible for students and teachers. MashPlant is co-sponsoring this year’s Explain It Video Competition. Entries for the competition must be received by today. 

Visitors to the MashPlant booth can watch video submissions and vote for the Audience Choice award. Also at the MashPlant booth, visitors can see the Mobile DJ Unit from Redmoon Theater Company, a Chicago-based performance group that blends puppetry, pageantry, and gadgetry into their robust physical performances. MashPlant and Redmoon also will appear on the STEMfest Stage at 2:30 p.m.

Additionally, STEMfest’s Book Fair will host award-winning science fiction author Kat Falls. At 1 p.m. on the STEMfest Stage, Falls will discuss her books “Dark Life,” “Rip Tide” and “Inhuman,” and participate in a Q&A. She also will be available for book signings throughout the day. Kat Falls’ novels earned the designation of STEM Teen Read official selections for October. Her books and other fiction and nonfiction titles, including a large selection of books from Usborne, will be available for purchase in the Book Fair area. A portion of the proceeds will support STEM Outreach’s year-round community programs.

Also at the STEMfest Stage, visitors who want to chill out can watch STEM Outreach’s queen of cool Pettee Guerrero. Guerrero will present “Fun with Liquid Nitrogen” demonstrations throughout the day.

Visitors also can watch robots from F.I.R.S.T. Robotics fling Frisbees and climb a variety of obstacles in the STEMfest Robo Arena. The full schedule of stage presentations and robotics challenges is posted at niu.edu/stemfest.

STEM Outreach also will present awards and prizes to the STEMfest 2013 winners of the Science Fiction Writing Contest and the Explain It! Video Competition. If you haven’t entered yet, get your stories and videos ready. Entries are due today.

STEMfest is free and open to the public. The festival is supported by NIU’s Division of Outreach, Engagement, and Information Technologies; the Center for P-20 Engagement; and University Relations with additional support from 3M, Dart Foundation, and Ball Horticultural Co. Donations that support STEM Outreach’s year-round community activities will be accepted. Learn more about STEMfest at www.niu.edu/stemfest.

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