Carmel students advance to  FTC Super-Regional robotics competition

Students from Carmel Catholic High School’s Varsity Robotics team (NYAN Robotics) are advancing  to the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) North Super-Regional robotics tournament March 29 - April 1 at the U.S. Cellular Center/DoubleTree Hotel & Convention Center in Cedar Rapids, IA. NYAN (Not Your Average Nerds) Robotics was part of the winning alliance that won the semifinals and finals at the Illinois state championship. They were also recipients of the coveted Connect and Control awards.

Working with their coaches and mentors, students designed and built a custom robot that uses 2 Android mobile phones as well as an array of metal parts, 3D printed parts, motors, sensors, and XBOX game controllers. The robot, which is 18 inches tall and 18 inches wide, will represent the team in the Velocity Vortex, an action-packed challenge that pits robots against one another in a test of precision, speed, and endurance.

The Super-Regional tournament follows many months of league and division robotics meets, where students work out technical bugs and perfect their robot’s mechanical, electrical, and programming operations and well as refine their technical presentation. In order to advance to the FIRST Tech Challenge North Super-Regional, a team’s robot must beat out other robots at qualifying tournaments or win a qualifying award. There are approximately 170 teams in Illinois broken down into leagues and divisions, that filter to the Illinois state championship. NYAN Is one of only nine teams from the state championship advancing to the super regional tournament.

NYAN's mission is to not only enhance their own STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) skills, but also to foster an interest in robotics and STEM within the community and at their school, and especially with youth. This season, NYAN hosted or participated in many community-based outreach programs and workshops, inspiring youth with their operational full scale BB-8 droid (made out of the same parts and brain as their competition robot), their operational Thor Hammer (“are you worthy?”), their virtual reality game they created of this year’s challenge, and their robot. They also promote themselves, Carmel Catholic, STEM, robotics, and FIRST® on their website, over social media, and in the community. Their website highlighting all of their activities can be found at


"It's so exciting to advance to super regionals this year," says Kevin Coda, captain of team NYAN. "It's a great opportunity for our team, now for the first time in our high school. We are so grateful that Carmel Catholic is now supporting NYAN as their varsity robotics team, and we are ecstatic that we are an integral part of the stout STEM program they are building."


FIRST’s mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, teamwork, communication and leadership

To view a video that explains the challenge these robots face this year, see the Velocity Vortex website::




Highland High School engineering program building analytical minds

Highland High School’s engineering open house on Oct. 17 wasn’t just a chance to show off some of the projects and presentations students had made over the past few months. Instead, the open house was an opportunity for the school and its students to trumpet one of the newest and most interesting programs to come to the school in recent memory.

In just its fifth year at HHS, the engineering program has already experienced “tremendous” successes according to engineering teacher Chris Durbin.

“It’s been spectacular,” Durbin said. “We currently have over 150 students — 15 percent of our school’s population — in either a technology or engineering class. And if we add in the industrial arts program, which is the production end of engineering, then we have over 300 (students) in the pipeline.”

The program is part of Project Lead the Way, a nationally certified engineering curriculum being taught at high school across the country. The curriculum spans a student’s four-year high school education and sometimes can even spill over into college-level education as well — after certain courses, a student can earn college credit by doing well on a placement exam. Durbin said he even had a recent graduate apply for and receive a presidential scholarship, in part because of the portfolio she had accumulated through the program.

The program begins, ideally in a student’s freshman year, with an introduction to engineering design class. After that, students move on to a principles of engineering course that gets into technology systems and engineering processes. The junior-year civil engineering and architecture class allows students to collaborate on the development of community-based building projects. And the senior-level class, engineering design and development, spends an entire year working on solving a single engineering problem.

Students aren’t just practicing engineering either, Durbin said — they’re doing it. The use of industry-standard, state-of-the-art software to design buildings is just one of the ways the program is preparing students not just for the next level but also for the careers they will pursue post-education. Durbin said all eight of last year’s graduating seniors who went through the course are now in some form of an engineering or technical program.

“We’ve got a lot of kids who have an interest in engineering, and this is a great outlet for them to explore those interests,” HHS principal Derek Hacke said.

‘It’s valuable in so many ways’

But while engineering itself nurtures a very specific set of skills, Durbin said it’s not just future engineers who benefit from the program. Durbin’s daughter, a recent HHS graduate, went through the engineering program but is not pursuing a similar degree at college.

HHS 2012 graduate Nick Daiber also took classes in the program. Daiber was the winner of Nike’s Future Sole Design Contest in 2011 and is currently studying industrial design at the University of Cincinnati. While he didn’t continue on in the engineering path — at last check, Daiber is still hoping to pursue a career in design — Durbin said the things Daiber learned in engineering courses will continue to help him in whatever he decides to do.

“The neat thing about engineering is it’s not just about wiring machines and building mechanisms, it’s about solving problems,” Durbin said. “So even students that don’t go into engineering...after having a course that teaches them how to work through problems and utilize resources, it’s valuable in so many ways.”

HHS seniors Joel Mason and Katie Brinker have been in the program since their freshman year. Mason said learning to work as a team is one of the biggest things he’s gained from the program. Brinker said her communication skills have improved through the courses.

“What they’re learning is a lot of marketable skills,” Hacke said. “Whether or not they become engineers — if they become engineers, certainly they’re gaining a lot of skills that are going to benefit them there — but even kids who aren’t destined to be engineers are growing a lot from this experience.”

Branching Out

The molding of well-rounded students was the biggest message Durbin hoped to convey through the open house. It wasn’t just demonstrating the remote-controlled car, but rather it was high school students explaining to others how the hydrogen cells used to power the car are separated from oxygen cells by a membrane powered using energy generated from solar panels.

“In addition to the kids getting an opportunity to create, the opportunity to see them in front of adults explaining their problem, explaining their reasoning for going about approaching a problem and then showing you a result or the solution, the creation they’ve made, is amazing,” Hacke said. “That process of sharing and communicating is almost as important as the design process. So I see them growing as young people as well as designers. I think they’re growing on a lot of levels by going through this.”

Hacke said he would like to see the program continue to grow as well — in popularity, at least. Budget restrictions have put a strain on the district, leaving little room for programs like the engineering program to receive more funding or offer more elective courses. Still, Durbin said he’s got hopes that the program can spread, even if it’s just throughout the hallways of HHS.

“I’d like to branch out with the other teachers so that we can continue to combine the things that are going on in the engineering classes with the things that are going on in their classrooms,” Durbin said. “There’s so much power in the kids utilizing what they learn in one class and adding it to the other.”




3 City Colleges to prepare students for jobs in growth industries

Three more City Colleges will prepare students for 80,000 jobs over the next decade in three growth industries — culinary and hospitality; information technology and advanced manufacturing — in the latest chapter of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s colleges-to-careers makeover.

Companies that specialize in those areas will help write the curriculum, teach and mentor students and, hopefully, place them in jobs when they graduate.

“I want the adults and the kids who are going to our community colleges to be able to compete and win for the jobs of tomorrow and the jobs of today,” Emanuel said.

“Too often, companies are searching for employees, employees are searching for employers and the missing ingredient has been our educational system and, in particular, our City Colleges. … That resume, that school, has got to have economic value in same as Sarah Lawrence [College] has for me.”

Earlier this year, Emanuel announced plans to build a new $251 million Malcolm X College near the United Center to create a state-of-the-art facility to train students for careers in health care.

That was followed by plans to build a new $42.2 million Transportation, Distribution and Logistics center to prepare students at Olive-Harvey for 28,000 jobs over the next decade in those fields.

Now, Daley, Wright and Kennedy-King will join the colleges-to-career makeover.

Daley will focus on advanced manufacturing with help from such private sector partners as Solo Cup, Arrow Gear, Northstar Aerospace, UPS and WaterSaver Faucet.

Advanced manufacturing students will be trained in two disciplines that rely heavily on math to direct and maintain computer-guided heavy machinery. After completing certification, they can earn anywhere from $10 to $23 an hour. Students graduating with associates of science degrees in manufacturing can reach $32 an hour.

Daley is the only school in Illinois with two high-tech welding machines that give students access to hands-on training and recently acquired another machine that allows students to practice welding virtually.

Kennedy-King College will train students for 44,000 jobs openings in the culinary and hospitality industry with help from Washburne Culinary Institute alum Jimmy Bannos, owner of Heaven-on-Seven and Purple Pig restaurants.

Other private sector partners include Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, InterContinental Chicago, Aramark and the Illinois Restaurant Association.

Wright College will train students for 24,000 job openings in the burgeoning field of information technology, with help from Motorola Solutions, Google, Cisco and Comptia.

IT students will follow three career paths: computer science/software engineering and web development; computer science/database and cloud management and networking, technology and security.

“They’ll go on, if they choose, to get another education, another degree. But, they’ll have a job while they’re doing it so they don’t have to take too much [money in] student loans out. It works out for them economically,” Emanuel said.

After joining the mayor for Wednesday’s news conference at Daley College, Bannos said he “owes everything” to the training he got at Washburne trade school.

The third-generation restaurateur said he plans to give back to the next generation of students by offering them three-to-six-month internships and chef-for-a-day experiences at Heaven-on-Seven and Purple Pig.

“My parents had diners. I brought it to a whole ‘nother level. Now, my son is bringing it to another level. That’s what you want to do: give that opportunity to young adults who need a chance. I want to teach ‘em passion because you need passion. And you can’t be afraid of hard work,” Bannos said.

That’s not always an easy sell in these days of “celebrity chefs” on shows like, “Top Chef,” Bannos said.

“We see a lot of kids trying to go into the restaurant business for the wrong reason. They see Emerill [Lagasse], Mario Batali and everybody on TV. But, they don’t understand that they worked in the trenches since youth, and they’re accomplished chefs,” Bannos said.



Takeda Partners With Museum Of Science And Industry On Education Initiatives

Takeda announced it will donate $250,000 to Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry mainly to support science teacher education programs offered through the Museum's Center for the Advancement of Science Education (CASE). Takeda's funding will be used to help train teachers who lack science credentials but teach science in high-needs areas in Lake County, Illinois, by providing lesson plans, curriculum, classroom resources and professional development credentials focused on science and health education. 

"At Takeda, our mission of striving toward better health for patients around the world extends beyond our products," said Doug Cole, president, Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A, Inc. "We recognize education – at every level – plays a critical role in helping ensure a healthier future for the world's people, and part of that future is teaching and learning in classrooms in Takeda's backyard of Lake County, Illinois. Our partnership with the Museum of Science and Industry enables us to support the educators charged with inspiring the next generation of researchers, scientists, engineers and health care providers."

Museum of Science and Industry Partnership Takeda's donation to the Museum of Science and Industry is a result of its specific interest to improve health and science education throughout the Chicago region. This interest aligns with the Museum's mission to inspire the next generation of scientists and innovators with programs that empower teachers, engage the community and excite students.

The donation supports the Museum's effort to improve the quality of science teaching by expanding its reach to allow Lake County, Illinois teachers to participate in health science courses occurring from June 2013 through July 2014.

"Our new relationship with Takeda allows us to reach potentially thousands of students in Lake County, Illinois by working with their teachers to provide inspiring, engaging, hands-on science lessons," said Andrea Ingram, vice president of education and guest services, Museum of Science and Industry. "CASE programs empower teachers by providing classroom tools, science knowledge and teaching strategies necessary to help educate and motivate students to become tomorrow's health and science-literate citizens."

CASE teacher education courses target 4th- through 8th-grade educators with limited experience teaching science and are offered at no cost to teachers selected to participate. "The courses provide a background in the science required in our middle grades classrooms, are designed in accordance with Illinois and national science education standards, and extend the content and inspiration of the Museum exhibits and resources," said Ingram.

Takeda's partnership also provides opportunities for Takeda employees to participate in volunteer activities to inspire youth, including career days and science fairs, and to support educators by serving as a lecturer or CASE workshop volunteer. 

"As a science and evidence-based company, Takeda is committed to contributing to the health of patients worldwide and supporting our local communities," said Cole. "Not only does our new partnership with the Museum support this focus, it offers our employees a wonderful opportunity to participate in furthering our health and science education and advocacy efforts."



Mayor Emanuel Launches ChicagoNEXT To Amplify City's Tech And Science Business Climate

Mayor Emanuel announced, ChicagoNEXT a World Business Chicago (WBC)-led council of technology business leaders that will promote new opportunities in three critical sectors: digital, clean technology and life sciences companies. 

“ChicagoNEXT will have a straightforward mission: to foster economic development and job growth in these vital sectors, and to attract investment needed to build technology companies,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This council will put forth plans that will ensure a vibrant business climate in Chicago, attracting high-quality jobs, talent and investment.” 

J.B. Pritzker, managing partner of The Pritzker Group and a member of the WBC Executive Committee, will chair the council. He will serve alongside WBC directors Jeff Aronin, Eric Lefkofsky and Pat Ryan Jr. 

“ChicagoNEXT is focused on making Chicago the best possible place for technology entrepreneurs,” said Pritzker. “The council will lead an innovative and aggressive effort to bring new opportunities to the area and shape the city’s business landscape for generations. I look forward to working alongside Mayor Emanuel and the other directors to achieve these goals.” 

Attracting new talent in the tech industry, engaging business leaders in both the domestic and international communities, increasing venture capital investment and creating new opportunities for entrepreneurship are the core goals of the council. WBC leads Chicago’s business retention, attraction and expansion efforts and fosters private sector growth and jobs through the advancement of a business-friendly environment. The creation of ChicagoNEXT emphasizes WBC’s further commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship and supporting Chicago’s thriving tech industry.

ChicagoNEXT will seek to create a number of innovative programs that will foster entrepreneurship in Chicago, including shared space partnerships, exchange programs for entrepreneurs, and outreach to venture capital firms and technology talent. Members of the council’s leadership recently collaborated with WBC on a tech talent recruitment mission to the University of Illinois. Mayor Emanuel led the delegation of nearly 40 company leaders to Urbana-Champaign to showcase the opportunities available in Chicago for the country’s most talented young engineers.

Since taking office, Mayor Emanuel has stood with more than 50 companies to announce more than 25,000 new jobs for Chicago, many of them in technology. WBC is focused on creating opportunity in the tech space; innovation and entrepreneurship is a key strategy of WBC’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs, produced earlier this year at Mayor Emanuel’s request.

The first ChicagoNEXT meeting will be held in mid-November.



Dryden STEM project finishes 2nd in national contest

Students and staff at Dryden Elementary in Arlington Heights are celebrating a national recognition and the $5,000 prize that came with it last week.

Fifth-grade art teacher Tricia Fuglestad and her students came in second place in the annual McGraw-Hill STEM Innovative Educator awards.

Fuglestad’s classes used iPads to draw an animated video, integrating art into the STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — curriculum. It took more than 100 students over a month to hand draw 335 images with stylus pens and iPads for the video.

Teachers entered the contest by submitting a short video that demonstrates innovative teaching methods in their STEM classrooms. Thirty finalists were selected by teachers and a panel of guest judges, and were uploaded to the STEMIE site to encourage teachers to review, share and vote on other lessons. In all, more than 22,000 votes were cast for projects from all across the country, according to McGraw-Hill.

Fuglestad also was named a Teacher of Distinction from the Golden Apple Foundation in 2012 and named 2011 Illinois Art Teacher of the Year, but she said this contest was about the students and how much they enjoyed a new type of art.

She said that if Dryden won they would spend the money on more iPads for students.



Benedictine nets $1.2 million teaching grant

Benedictine University will encourage more students to pursue careers as scientists, mathematicians and health professionals with the help of a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Grant will be used to further the U.S. goal of regaining its competitive edge in the sciences by generated more highly qualified math and science teachers.

The National Academies, a science and technology advisory organization, has warned that the U.S. will continue to risk falling behind foreign competitors unless it improves the quality of math and science education. The World Economic Forum currently ranks the nation 48th out of 133 developed and developing nations in the quality of math and science instruction.

“People are bemoaning the state of science in this country,” said Bart Ng, dean of the College of Science at Benedictine, in a news release. “Part of it is because the people who are very good at it have alternatives. Few college students who are strong in science or math go into the teaching profession. Those who do don’t stay there very long because their skills pay much more in STEM industries.”

Allison K. Wilson, professor of biological sciences at Benedictine, said that without strong teachers in those subject areas, more students will likely struggle in college and perhaps decide against pursuing careers in the sciences.

Beginning in January, the College of Science will step up recruitment efforts for students with strong backgrounds in physics, math and chemistry and who are considering teaching as a profession. Up to 110 upperclassmen, in addition to professionals seeking alternative teacher certification who show a strong interest in the program, will be eligible to receive up to $10,000 annually to apply toward tuition for a maximum of two years, provided they agree to work in a “high-needs” school for at least two years for each scholarship awarded. Well-qualified teachers of chemistry, physics and math for grades 6 through 12 are in short supply nationwide, including in the Chicago Public Schools system and suburban Cook County.

The financial awards will be made available to students for the five-year period of the grant, or until December 2017. Students will also be paired with mentor teachers at local schools, who will receive a small stipend for coaching and training graduates as they transition from student teaching to their own classrooms.

“These types of awards continue to give back several fold,” said Don Taylor, Benedictine’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “For every new pre-service teacher in science or math who is supported by scholarship funds from the grant, that teacher will have the opportunity to impact hundreds of future students in their own classrooms.”

In selecting Benedictine for the award, reviewers cited the Lisle university’s tradition of innovation in the sciences; its history of receiving grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute supporting education outreach initiatives; and its recognition by the Congressional Office of Technology and Advancement as one of the most productive undergraduate institutions in the country for the rate that its science graduates go on to earn doctoral degrees. Grant reviewers also noted the large number of undergraduates who declare science as their major, and the partnerships Benedictine has established with area elementary, middle and high schools as part of other academic initiatives.



McGraw-Hill Education Announces Winners of the 2012 STEM Innovative Educator Awards

McGraw-Hill Education today announced the winners of the Science, Technology, Engineering & Math Innovative Educator Awards (STEMIEs), a competition that honors innovative educators in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Lance Schwartz, an eighth grade technology teacher from Selinsgrove, Pa., has been named the first-prize winner. Tricia Fuglestad, a fifth grade technology teacher from Arlington Heights, Ill., and Jim Emmert, a high school technology teacher from Pella, Iowa, were awarded second and third place prizes.

Teachers entered the contest by submitting a short video that demonstrates innovative teaching methods in their STEM classrooms. Thirty finalists were selected by teachers and a panel of guest judges, and were uploaded to the STEMIE site to encourage teachers to review, share and vote on other lessons. In total, over 22,000 votes were cast for extraordinary teachers from all across the country.

"It's inspiring to see our country's great teachers in action, and we're delighted to be able to give this award to such a dynamic and captivating teacher," said Lisa O'Masta, vice president of STEM, McGraw-Hill School Education. "The energy and creativity captured in Mr. Schwartz's video entry is an inspiration to all of us in the STEM learning community, and we sincerely hope that the prize will not only help Selinsgrove Area Middle School continue to support exemplary STEM education but serve as a platform for teachers to share effective teaching strategies."

Mr. Schwartz's winning video, which can be seen at, shows how his students use STEM concepts to design, build, analyze and race CO2-powered race cars. Selinsgrove Area Middle School will receive $15,000 to further enhance classrooms for STEM learning. A total of $25,000 will be awarded to three winners and five honorable mentions throughout the country.

For more information on McGraw-Hill Education's Science, Technology, Engineering & Math Innovative Educator Awards, please visit: 




Making NASCAR Dreams Come True

Through a partnership with The NASCAR Foundation and Project Exploration, students from the Chicago area spent a day at Chicagoland Speedway focusing on the use of science and technology in NASCAR. The NASCAR Dreams experience began on their bus ride to Chicagoland Speedway with a racing vocabulary session. Upon arrival, the students were surprised with sackpacks filled with school supplies courtesy of Office Depot Foundation, hats from The NASCAR Foundation and T-shirts from the track. All of the students were eager to get in the garage and to start asking questions.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver Michael McDowell began the day’s at-track activities when he greeted the students upon their arrival to the infield and began answering technical questions about the cars. In particular, Michael explained the safety advancements that saved his life during a horrific crash car crash in 2008.

Next, NASCAR Official Jamie Dipietro shared how her experience and background with electrical engineering applies to her job duties as a NASCAR Official, while also explaining how her path through education got her where she is today. After a tour of the 21 hauler with Jamie, the students learned about the choices and adjustments a crew chief has to make throughout a race from Chris Heroy, crew chief of the #42 Earnhardt-Ganass Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team.

Scott Whitehead, team engineer for the #13 Germain Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team, engaged the students in a conversation about the different parts of a stock car and how they are built. The students were very curious about the differences in NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide series cars.

Danica Patrick ended the students’ tour through the garage by encouraging them to aim big and set high goals for themselves.

Afterwards the group headed to the stands to watch everything they had just learned be put into action during the NASCAR Nationwide Series race. As they were leaving the track one student declared, “Yup, just give me ten years and you’ll see me out here driving!”




Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Tech firms plan to add 2,000 jobs in Chicago by 2015

More than 20 Chicago-based technology companies have committed to creating more than 2,000 jobs in the city by 2015, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Monday.

The 21 companies include online food ordering service GrubHub, data firm comScore and digital marketing technology startup BrightTag.

In the case of GrubHub, which moved about 300 employees to the Burnham Center at 111 W. Washington St. several weeks ago, the company is planning to add 250 jobs by 2015, nearly doubling in size. Of that amount, 75 to 100 positions will be added by the end of next year in areas including customer service, technology and marketing.

Other companies committing to major hiring plans include educational test preparation startup BenchPrep, which is backed by local venture capital firm Lightbank and plans to add 300 jobs, and cloud-based infrastructure company SingleHop, which has also committed to 300 jobs.

KCura, which makes a Web-based platform for the legal industry to conduct electronic discovery, said it has more than 250 employees, having hired more than 100 staffers this year, and plans to add 150 to 300 jobs by 2015.

The tech jobs announcement comes on the heels of the mayor's earlier announcement to make Chicago into a highly connected city for broadband, kicking off with free Wi-Fi in Millennium Park.



Illinois State receives ‘STEM’ grant from governor’s office

Gov. Pat Quinn announced that Illinois State University will receive a one-year $50,000 grant to lead the creation of an Energy Learning Exchange.

The Exchange, a public-private partnership working toward advances in energy, will have the support of Illinois State’s Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology as well as the University’s Institute for Regulatory Policy Studies and the Center for Renewable Energy.

The grant is part of a $10.3 million effort of the Governor’s Office to better prepare thousands of Illinois students for careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.

David Loomis, director of Illinois State’s Center for Renewable Energy, joined Quinn and other leaders in Illinois business, high-tech industry and education at the innovative “1871” digital start-up center in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. Gov. Quinn announced Illinois State was one of eight organizations that will be awarded contracts to develop “STEM Learning Exchanges” that link educational opportunities with business resources to prepare students to compete in the global economy. The partnership is part the governor’s commitment to improve education in Illinois.

“Our mission is to prepare our students for the 21st Century workforce,” Gov. Quinn said. “These new Learning Exchanges will provide students with real-world experience and advanced educational opportunities to ensure they are ready to compete for the jobs of tomorrow.”

The funding package is comprised of $2.3 million in federal Race to the Top funds, which leveraged another $8 million in business resources. The eight STEM Learning Exchanges, coordinated through multiple state agencies in partnership with the Illinois Business Roundtable, will be established through contracts with the Illinois State Board of Education. Applicants were required to commit cash or in-kind donations, bringing more than $10.3 million of business resources and cash to this unique public-private partnership.

The eight learning exchange organizations were selected by an expert review committee that considered each applicant’s plan and experience in coordinating statewide public-private partnerships, and the matching or in-kind matching contribution. These statewide Learning Exchanges will work together with regional, educational and business networks to aggregate curricular resources, assessment tools, professional development systems, work-based learning opportunities and problem-based learning challenges. They will support performance evaluation across the P-20 education and workforce system, and result in better prepared students for a 21st century workforce.



Title IX: Local high schools work to bridge achievement gap

Barrington High School junior Karen Rojas isn’t yet sure what she wants to pursue as a career, but it likely will have something to do with math or science. That’s why the 16-year-old is trying to squeeze five years of science into her high school career.


“I am just trying to get a good base for my future,” said Rojas, who is part of the school’s math team and is taking accelerated math, pre-calculus and Advanced Placement physics her junior year.

She is one example of female high school students trying to break the mold and succeed in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math, collectively known as STEM, which historically have been dominated by males.

Although girls and women have made significant progress in the 40 years since the introduction of Title IX — the law that prohibits educational programs that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of sex — students and educators say more work is needed to truly level the playing field.

A Daily Herald analysis based on data from the 2011 Illinois School Report Card found that while female students at the 25 top performing high schools in suburban Chicago scored higher than their male counterparts in the reading section of the 2011 Prairie State Achievement Exam, boys continue to outperform girls in the areas of math and science.

The achievement gap in math and science is neither new nor exclusive to Illinois. Data from Illinois Interactive Report Cards between 2002 and 2011 shows that while female students performed on par with their male classmates in meeting state standards, girls are lagging behind boys in exceeding those state standards.

Test data from surrounding states also reveals a gender gap. In Iowa, the difference between male and female students who earned high results was 10.8 percentage points. Boys in Michigan outperformed girls by 2.5 percentage points in math and 4.9 percentage points in science.

Local schools are finding ways to narrow the divide. From actively encouraging girls to take on upper level math and science classes, to having female educators in leading roles, here are ways in which the highest performing schools for both boys and girls are working to close the gender gap between the sexes:

Neuqua Valley

Having a female role model gives girls the motivation to take on courses they may consider a “boys’ class,” like upper level calculus or physics, said Robert McBride, principal at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, where five out of seven physics teachers are female.

“It matters to students to see someone like them in the class,” McBride said. “They’ve got to see people like themselves in activities, whether it’s teachers or fellow students. We have robust gender balance here in our staff, and that helps.”

Students noticed the balance, too. Nandita Venkatesan, 17, a 2012 graduate of Neuqua Valley now studying computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said her teachers proved women could do it all. “There are women achieving Ph.D.’s and master’s degrees who have families. That’s encouraging.”

In addition, McBride said, teachers and guidance counselors work closely with students to determine which courses they should take in the upcoming year. That enables the district to purposefully connect with women and minority students for areas like engineering where there is a historical lack of diversity.

“We encourage students to take upper level and more challenging classes; we are purposeful about that,” McBride said. “We have learned from students that there has to be an invitation. You cannot assume that they will pick a certain course. It really matters to a kid that someone says they will be great in this class.”

Additionally, groups specifically geared toward science, math and engineering — like the ISTEM Club, JETS and Science Olympia at Neuqua Valley — are ways in which local schools are attracting more girls to STEM. School leaders also have credited the national pre-engineering curriculum, Project Lead the Way, which is aimed at giving middle and high school students the hands-on experience to determine if they are interested in an engineering career.

Neuqua Valley’s results showed the gap between boys and girls meeting and exceeding standards in math was 5.3 percentage points and in science was 2.5 percentage points. However, the divide was more pronounced among students exceeding state standards. Boys were ahead in math by 13.8 percentage points and 13.4 percentage points in science.


At Barrington High School, where 50 percent of the staff members in the math and science departments are female, a greater rate of girls than boys met or exceeded state standards in all three subject areas of the Prairie State Achievement Exam in 2011.

In math, 79.3 percent of girls met or exceeded standards, compared to 77.1 percent of boys. The gap was smaller for science with 79.8 percent of girls meeting or exceeding, compared to 79.5 percent of boys. The largest gap — 6.3 percent — was in reading scores with 80.3 percent of girls meeting or exceeding compared to 74 percent of boys.

The difference in the percentage of male and female students exceeding standards in math and science favored boys, though by the smallest margin of the 25 top schools. In science, the difference was 5.2 percentage points, while the gap in math was 0.8 of a percentage point.

Although girls at Barrington High School are setting the pace among suburban schools, Principal Steve McWilliams said educators do not actively seek out girls but encourage all students to challenge themselves.

“It is hard to believe we even need to consider Title IX anymore,” McWilliams said. “We don’t necessarily see students as boys or girls. I know that was an issue in the past, but we want to do everything we can for all of our students, and we make efforts to make sure everyone has opportunities.”

Maria Vlahos, mathematics division head at Barrington High School, said teachers do, however, recognize that boys and girls learn differently — especially in math.

“Teachers differentiate lesson plans for all students and use technology in different ways,” Vlahos said. “A lot of time is spent observing, and we focus on how the student is learning rather than how the teacher is teaching. It is more coaching and facilitating dialogue rather than a teacher imparting knowledge while standing at the front of the room.”

Vlahos said the department is trying to take away the stigma of needing to find the right answer every time in math, especially for girls. Instead, the math department is incorporating problem-based activities that teach students that there is more than one way to solve a problem.

“It takes away the aspect of wrong and right,” Vlahos said. “We want students to talk about how they got those answers and what logic they used to get there.”


While Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire does not actively seek out female teachers for math or science classes, Steve Wood, director of science, said the department is conscious of the mix.

“Half of our physics and chemistry teachers are female,” Wood said. “Women are also our science club sponsors and lead independent research for our students. When students see role models, they are drawn to that and dive right in.”

Fremd and Conant

In Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, where Palatine’s Fremd High School and Hoffman Estates’ Conant High School made the Daily Herald’s Top 25 list of schools with the narrowest achievement gap, girls in elementary school feeder programs from Palatine Township Elementary District 15 and Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 can participate in GEMS — Girls in Engineering, Math, and Science.

Theresa Busch, curriculum director in District 211, said GEMS is a conference for fifth- and sixth-grade students and their parents to learn about STEM. The gap between girls and boys who met or exceeded standards at Fremd was 1.2 percentage points in math and 2.1 percentage points in science. Results at Conant were similar with boys outperforming girls by 2.6 percentage points in math and 2 percentage points in science. In both cases, when looking only at those who exceeded state standards, male students outperformed girls by about 10 percentage points.

“I am not even sure that kids that age know what engineering is unless they have a parent or someone they know in the field,” Busch said. “We have a female engineer at Conant who talks to the girls and there are activities that are taught by women in the field. It is a way to get kids excited about science and math.”

In its first two years, the GEMS conference attracted more than 150 students each year, Busch said.

Andresse St. Rose, a senior researcher at the American Association of University Women, said girls need to foster their interest in science and math through encouragement from a role model and to see women who are succeeding in STEM.

“For girls, that external validation is key,” St. Rose said.

Some of the barriers preventing girls from performing at the same level as boys are the same ones that existed 40 years ago when Title IX was enacted, St. Rose said.

“Cultural and environmental factors could explain why we see gender gaps,” St. Rose said. “People underestimate the power of stereotypes that are prevalent from an early age and have a measurable and adverse effect on girls — especially in the areas of math and science. Girls don’t need encouragement to go into areas that are seen as female appropriate.”

St. Charles North

Participation in STEM is particularly critical for females to succeed in today’s workforce.

“That’s the future; that’s where we know where jobs are going,” said Kim Zupec, principal at St. Charles North High School. “It is also important to make female students well-rounded, which is what we want for all of our students. Liberal arts are important and the fine arts are important, but let’s make sure they have technical skills, too.”

In the view of Barrington High School Junior Karen Rojas, perceptions must be reshaped if girls are to catch up to boys in STEM, but stereotypes don’t change quickly.

“When we are being raised, girls are told that they should stay at home and that they are weaker than men,” Rojas said. “Even when you buy a girl a doll, even if it is not intentionally, you are putting in her head that she should just be a mom. I don’t like that. I want to show that we have the same abilities as men, we have just as much brainpower and are capable of the same things.”




SEAOI acknowledges efforts of future engineers at 2012 State Science Fair
CHICAGO – Representatives from the SEAOI Central Chapter Young Engineers Committee attended the Illinois State Science Fair to judge and award the efforts of the next generation of structural engineers. The state wide educational competition is sponsored by the Illinois Junior Academy of Science ( and brings together over 1000 of the top science projects prepared by students in seventh and eight grade (junior division) and high school level (senior division), hosted at the Assembly Hall on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign-Urbana.
Selection of the top projects began at the school level with students competing against their classmates. The winners of the school competition advanced to the regional level where they competed against the top students from other schools. The winners of the regional competition met for the final round of state competition on May 5, 2012.
Irvin Lopez and Dan Lutz represented SEAOI in judging projects in the Engineering category. On behalf of the Board of Directors and all members of SEAOI, they presented a Certificate of Outstanding Achievement and a $100 gift card to the top project entered in the category. In addition, one other project was awarded a Certificate of Honorable Mention and a $50 gift card. SEAOI supports and encourages these young students to continue their interest in structural engineering through the presentation of these awards and acknowledgment of the effort they put forth.
At this year’s science fair, approximately 20 projects related to structural engineering were judged. Among these projects, many focused on testing bridges to determine the most efficient bridge type for a given span length. Other projects judged included investigations of structure responses to seismic loading, the efficiency of insulating and sound proofing materials, and the effect of moisture content on soil bearing capacity.
SEAOI presented the Outstanding Achievement award to Yash Hatkar and Hebron Taylor from Twin Groves Middle School in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, for their project titled "An Unstoppable Force”. These two young men tested several different popsicle stick towers of the same mass to determine which structure stayed connected to their homemade shake table the longest. Yash and Hebron both demonstrated a remarkable understanding of the basic principles of seismic analysis and design.
The Honorable Mention awards went to Andrew Shepley of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School for his project titled “Bridging the Gap between Success and Failure”. Andrew’s project investigated the efficiency of different bridge types and while his findings were similar to several other projects, his obvious passion for the subject made him stand out from the rest of the group.


Chicago City Colleges launches new careers program
City Colleges of Chicago is launching a "College to Careers" program to ready students for fast-growing fields.
The system announced nine new or enhanced degree programs Thursday. The programs prepare students for jobs in health care, transportation and related fields.
The college system, city officials and industry leaders worked together for months to design the program, dubbed "C2C."
Courses range from a basic certificate in medical billing and coding to an advanced certificate in supply chain management.
City Colleges has partnered with the University of Illinois-Chicago to give nursing students guaranteed spots in UIC's nursing program at reduced tuition.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel launched C2C in December to close the city's "skills gap" by lining up academic programs with the needs of high-growth industries.


Illinois district buys computers foras little as $188 apiece

As small districts across the country struggle with shrinking budgets, it becomes
ever more difficult to save valuable educational resources. Administrators in small districts, faced with such challenges, often find they are forced to spend a disproportionate amount of money on basic support functions such as transportation, professional services, and supplies. This can leave a shortfall when it comes to technology budgets.
Fisher Community Unit School District 1, a unified school district located in Fisher, Illinois, is just such a small district. With one consolidated elementary and middle school, and one consolidated junior and senior high school, the district serves fewer than 700 students. And while the technology department does have a budget, it simply is not large enough for Scott Williams, the district’s technology director, to purchase brand-new, full-price computers. At the same time, the computers at the two schools were aging: Many were nine years old or older and were beginning to break down. Somehow, Williams needed to be able to provide working computers for the schools’ students and staff.
“When I got to the district, I was like a first-year basketball coach. I came in and needed to pump up the team, bring in some strong players,” says Williams. “I needed an influx of much higher-quality computers, but at an affordable price.” Purchasing less expensive machines from CDI Computers, the largest North American distributor of refurbished and recertified computers, was the obvious answer.
Using another analogy, Williams says, “CDI has the ability to sell me units with zero miles on them, but they’ve been driven off the lot. For example, a city buys a bunch of [devices] from Dell, it turns out they’re not what they wanted. Dell can’t put them back on the shelf, so they remarket to people like CDI. I can buy them like new, complete with a warranty.” Some units he has purchased have cost as little as $188, he says.
Since coming to Fisher Community Unit School District 1, Williams rarely buys anything but recertified computers anymore. “I buy them in packs of 20 or 30 at a time,” he says. Williams says he saves as much as $300 per device. This comes to a total savings of about $70,000 over the past six years.
The first CDI computers Williams purchased were used to replace old machines in computer labs. “When you bring 25 kids into a 25-unit lab, it’s very upsetting when two of the computers don’t work, but that was the norm when I had those old machines in there. It’s a lot easier to bring in something that’s three years old and to keep those running, than to keep 25 computers running that are nine years old.”
He adds, “I try to circumvent having a computer wear out, because that’s a pain to me. So I swap out anything that’s old and buy a three-year-old computer with a three-year warranty. I don’t think twice.”
Another benefit Williams gets from purchasing from CDI is that all the computers are identical. In a lab, you want all the computers to be the same because the students need consistency across the machines, and because it’s difficult to maintain a variety of different devices. “But if you buy new with Dell, every six months there’s a new model out, so soon I have all these different models with all different problems, because they’re all built differently,” explains William. “With CDI, I have a window of time where I can buy a bunch of a single type of computer, which helps with maintenance and diagnostics on my end.”
In addition to purchasing CDI computers for labs, Williams has purchased omputers so that each classroom can have a “mini-lab” of four or five devices. Students use the computers for internet access, Microsoft Word, science lab programs— “you name it,” he says.
CDI’s commitment to high-quality service makes purchasing recertified computers a slam-dunk as well. When you work with CDI, “you work with a single sales person,” Williams explains. “I’d rather not call Dell, because sometimes you get India. From CDI, I get my own sales rep who I know.” On the other hand, he says, he has only needed to talk to his service rep “maybe three times in six years.” If there is a problem, his service rep asks for the unit’s serial number, then immediately sends a new unit. “I swap the old one into the box, the new one comes out of the box, it looks brand new. And that doesn’t happen too often,” Williams says.
CDI has made it possible for Williams to provide Fisher Community schools with working computer labs. “I simply could not afford to go buy 30 computers, a whole computer lab. I simply couldn’t do it. If I had to buy new, I’d be crippled,” Williams says. “There are a lot of schools in our situation, a lot of schools that haven’t considered refurbished computers until we bring it up to them.” Once these schools do make an initial purchase of recertified computers, they are impressed, among other things, with the cleanliness of the devices and the quality of CDI’s service.
Not only has Williams been able to provide the schools with computers that would otherwise have been impossible to afford, the savings has allowed him to purchase other hardware that the schools might need, such as interactive whiteboards and projectors. “You name it, the money goes back into my budget so I can spend it on anything else,” Williams says.

University of Illinois will try free web courses
The University of Illinois (UI) will give online learning another shot.
By teaming up with Coursera, one of several new online education companies, the university will dip a toe into a fast-growing trend in higher education to offer free courses to an unlimited number of students. It’s a low-risk venture compared with the UI’s failed and expensive Global Campus online initiative from several years ago.
The Urbana-Champaign campus is one of a dozen universities that on July 17 announced partnerships with California-based Coursera, joining Princeton University, Stanford University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania, which joined earlier this year.
“As the only land-grant university on the list, we have expertise in areas that others don’t. We will be able to offer courses that no other university has in their repertoire,” said Phyllis Wise, chancellor of the Urbana-Champaign campus.
The courses won’t count toward a degree, however.
And the university may be able to make money off the venture, either through a fee for course-completion certificates or the sale of students’ names to potential employers.
The first UI courses — in subjects including organic chemistry, microeconomics and programming for smartphones — will begin this fall. Future online classes could include veterinary medicine and agriculture.
“I would love to see a future where UIUC is teaching not just thousands of students, but millions,” said Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng, a Stanford computer science professor who started the company last year after an online course he taught drew more than 100,000 students worldwide.
While the Coursera-hosted courses are free, the UI’s may charge students $30 to $80 for a certificate showing they successfully completed the course. Ng said the UI’s would get some of that revenue.
He said the company also is working on an arrangement where employers could pay to receive the names of high-achieving students who opt-in to share their information. Universities also would get a portion of that revenue.
Wise said UI’s approached Coursera because it was eager to join what some are calling a revolution in higher education. Coursera, founded last year by Ng and another Stanford professor, has offered 43 courses since April.
The online courses include lecture video clips that can be as short as 15 minutes and auto-graded quizzes. A computer science class may include programming homework, while a poetry course could have peer-reviewed assessments. Students can post questions and answers in a discussion forum.
With the 12 new universities, Coursera expects to host about 125 classes between now and January. Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also recently announced plans to offer Massive Online Open Courses, known as MOOCs.
Wise said she’s not concerned about free online classes replacing the on-campus experience, where students can interact with faculty and students and learn life skills outside the classroom. The university’s Springfield campus was at the forefront of online education and is considered a leader in the field.
“There is nothing that replaces a real campus experience for most of the students,” Wise said, “and we will continue to serve those students the best way we can.”
Officials from Rice University, among the schools that partnered with Coursera this week, said joining the MOOC movement would be vital for universities committed to expanding online course options.
“We’re very excited to be on the ground floor of this,” said Rice President David Leebron. “The landscape of higher education is changing dramatically. First, more people are seeking low-cost and free access and, at the same time, we see ways modern technology can enhance the educational experience for our students.” 



Motorola Solutions Foundation Reaches $30 Million in Science and Engineering Education Support Since 2007

2012 grants will impact more than 178,000 students and teachers, providing nearly 18 million hours of STEM learning for the 2012-2013 grant year
The Motorola Solutions Foundation, the charitable arm of Motorola Solutions, Inc. announced the recipients of its 2012 Innovation Generation grants. Since 2007, the program has provided $30 million in support of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs, supporting more than 300 school, museum and nonprofit programs across the United States. The Innovation Generation grants program funds organizations that ignite passion and interest in STEM subjects and careers for teachers and U.S. preschool through university students – especially girls and underrepresented minorities.
This year, the foundation provided $4.9 million in grants to 87 organizations across the United States. The 2012 grants will affect more than 178,000 students and teachers, providing nearly 18 million hours of science experiences for the 2012-2013 grant year.
The grants were awarded in two categories:
Local Impact Grants target innovative, hands-on STEM education programs for U.S. elementary through university students and teachers, such as the Chicago Conservation Corps Club Action Projects, which support student-led environmental/sustainability improvements on school grounds through investigation, implementation of quantitative audits, and research focused on environmental best practices.  
                                National Partnership Grants support large-scale, multi-regional STEM education programs that impact at least 150 primary participants, such as the American Society for Engineering Education, which will distribute 1,000 “Engineering Go For It” teacher kits to 60 schools in communities nationwide.
 In a recent graduation speech, President Barack Obama said, “The nation that excels in science and math and technology… is going to be the nation that rises to the top in the 21st century.” Together with its network of Innovation Generation grantees, the Motorola Solutions Foundation helps provide an environment for students to excel in STEM through hands-on, interactive experiences.
In an effort to target girls and young women, a group often underrepresented in STEM careers, 22 percent of the grants will support girls-only programming, such as the Girl Scouts of the USA’s after-school robotics program.
Most grant programs will take place in communities where Motorola Solutions has facilities (Illinois, Florida, New York, Texas and California). However, 23 percent of the grants will support nationwide programs that have the capability of reaching almost anywhere in the United States, such as the Great Minds in STEM, Viva Technology Program, which will engage approximately 12,000 underrepresented and underserved K-12 students, teachers and parents this coming year.
Matt Blakely, director, Motorola Solutions Foundation said “Each year, I am truly amazed by the ground-breaking work our grant recipients accomplish through the Innovation Generation program. These organizations are playing an active role in developing the future generation of scientists, engineers and innovators in the United States. As a company that’s dedicated to helping people be their best in the moments that matter, we could not be more honored to support such a worthy group of grantees.”



DePue teachers to learn through John Deere, NASA


Four DePue teachers will spend their summer learning new information from big companies and agencies such as John Deere and NASA that they will incorporate into lesson plans for students. 


“They will help teachers prepare lessons that they can utilize in the classroom to spark interest and hands-on activities with students,” said junior high math teacher Rose Goossens. 


The program is through math and science partnership grants that came in through the regional office of education. Fifty teachers from the Bureau, Stark and Henry county region will participate in the pilot program. They will utilize the information taught in the courses, incorporate it in their classrooms and give feedback to the regional office on what worked for students and what needs to be tweaked. 


Goossens, along with high school math teacher Gabriel Larios, will work with John Deere at Western Illinois University and focus on robotics and the Common Core, which are set standards that Illinois has adopted to help students understand and master basic concepts. 


High school science teacher Felicia Coster and math teacher Maricille Ellena will work with NASA at Illinois State University and focus on STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.


“STEM is an initiative to get students to realize how they relate and how they can be used in the job field,” explained Goossens. 


She said building content knowledge is what makes good teachers. 


“This is what the class will do over the summer. It’s going to build our knowledge so we can teach it better in the classroom,” she said. 


Although the teachers are unsure what’s entirely in store for them this summer, Goossens and Larios know they will be working with robotic LEGOs, and Coster and Ellena will study how math concepts are connected to things like black holes and MRI scans. 


Ellena said the information they bring back for students will be more applicable to real life. 


“We are going to be able to bring real life examples into the classroom and introduce it to them at their level,” she said. 


A perk for the teachers is that they will be given “hands-on manipulatives like robotic LEGOs and graphing calculators.”


The teachers also received free iPads, which they will learn to incorporate into class work. 


Ellena said her first homework assignment was to find math and science apps for teachers and students. 


“I’m new to how iPads can be used in the classroom, so it’s definitely going to be a learning experience,” she said. 


Larios anticipates seeing the technology teachers will receive. 


“They have given us netbooks, graphing calculators, a bunch of different probes and sensors. They are giving us an iPad, too. Can’t wait,” he said.




Northrop Grumman Awards $4,500 in School Grants to Promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NOC) has awarded a total of $4,500 in grants to 15 local area schools to promote education in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

The Northrop Grumman Engineers Week STEM grants provide teachers with funding for projects that increase student awareness of the excitement and opportunity to be found in the STEM fields. Each grant of $300 was given to a school for use by a specific teacher based on grant proposals submitted by the school. Projects must be STEM related. Grants may be used to purchase equipment, supplies, publications or transportation related to the project.

"Northrop Grumman recognizes the importance of reaching out into our local communities to support education, especially in the areas of math and science," said Jeff Palombo, sector vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman's Land and Self Protection Systems division. "This grant will help these teachers provide programs that spark interest in the creative and challenging world of engineering."

The program was kicked off in February during National Engineers Week, which is a nationwide event dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers.

Any public or charter school with an open enrollment policy was eligible to apply. The winners include elementary, middle and high schools, as well as charter and magnet schools. Grant applications were reviewed by employees at each Northrop Grumman campus. The following are the 15 Chicago-area teachers who received STEM grants:

Kathleen Styzek, Frederick Funston Elementary
Cynthia House, Olive-Mary Stitt School
Robert Lang, Glenbard South High School
Katie Bulman, Crystal Lake South High School
Scott Duensing, Lemont High School
Julie Slade, Owen Elementary School
Elin Anderson, Washington Academy
Anne Burns, Chesak Elementary
Michele Vogt-Schuller, Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy
Donald Peet, Lake Zurich High School
JulieAnn Villa, Niles West High School
Wayne Oras, Hoffman Estates High School
Mark Ailes, Addison Trail High School
Patrick Feulner, Metea Valley High School
Krystian Weglarz, Gage Park High School

The National Engineers Week STEM grants program is one of several Northrop Grumman community service efforts designed to promote STEM education in the United States. Other programs include Discover "E," Teachers and Engineers for Academic Achievement (TEAACH) and Worthwhile to Help High School Youth (WORTHY), a Northrop Grumman High School Involvement Partnership (HIP) program.



Math Teacher Institute

This summer and next, middle and high school math teachers in McDonough, Hancock, Fulton, Schuyler, Adams, Pike, Brown, Cass, Morgan and Scott counties will be able strengthen their subject-matter knowledge and skills via the Western Illinois Mathematics Teacher Transformation Institute (WI-MTTI). 

Made possible by a grant funded through the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and developed and organized by Western Illinois University Department of Curriculum and Instruction Assistant Professor and WI-MTTI Project Director Sebastian Szyjka and WIU Department of Mathematics Professor and WI-MTTI Lead Program Facilitator Jim Olsen, the project will help West Central Illinois 8th-12th grade teachers prepare to transition to the new Illinois Learning Standards that incorporate Common Core Standards for Mathematics.

The 2012 WI-MTTI will run from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, July 9-13, and again from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, July 16-20, as well as two weeks during the summer months of 2013. A 5-8 p.m. Tuesday, June 5 mandatory orientation meeting for all participating teachers will be held in Morgan Hall, room 224, on Western's Macomb campus.

"In the institute, we will use an interdisciplinary STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] approach in applying mathematics for real-world situations," Szyjka said. "We will provide teachers with skills and to show their students how to apply mathematics to real-world problems, integrating math and science."

Although most of the 25 slots for the WI-MTTI are filled, Szyjka said there are five openings remaining for interested teachers in the applicable Illinois counties. He added that math teachers will receive a $100 stipend per day for the 10-day training in 2012 and for the 10-day training in 2013, and they will also be able to earn 130 continuing professional-development units (CPDUs) in year one of the program.

Szyjka also noted that participating teachers will receive a class set of student-response systems from Turning Technologies, a TI-Nspire CX color graphing calculator, as well as data-collection probe ware and resources from Vernier Techology.

"A secondary objective of the institute is to provide teacher training for formative assessment, including the use of the student-response systems and related STEM technologies. During the 2012-13 school year, each teacher in the program will participate in our 'Effective Formative Assessment for Students and Teachers' professional development program, in collaboration with Western and the Illinois State Board of Education," Szyjka added. "Teachers will conduct action research projects and enroll in online professional-development modules through the Illinois Virtual Classroom portal."

The WI-MTTI is funded through a $280,000 ISBE "Illinois Mathematics and Science Partnerships Program" grant ($140,000 per year for each of year of the two-year project) and was developed with help from Southern Illinois University Carbondale's faculty member Frackson Mumba, a professor in SIUC's curriculum and instruction department, and a co-principal investigator responsible for the program's math and science integration. Abha Singh, assistant professor in curriculum and instruction at WIU, is the WI-MTTI project manager.

A principal's commitment form, along with the teacher application form, and program information, can be found at

Interested teachers can also contact Project Coordinator Susan Owens at the Regional Office of Education #26 (McDonough and Hancock County) at (309) 837-4821 or via email at 



Academic Spotlight: Helping youngsters learn math

Alex Kampf of Naperville, a junior at Purdue University, earned top honors last month in the 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge, an annual competition where students design video games that promote an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) among America’s young people.

“From the beginning, just the thrill of (the) competition was a big factor,” said Kampf, a 2010 graduate of Waubonsie Valley High School. “We love to make apps for iPhone and iPad, and we wanted to be a part of something that was fun for us, fun for kids and highly beneficial to education.”

Kampf, 20, along with teammates and Purdue classmates Levi Miller, Stephen Shaefer and Stephen Zabrecky won in the collegiate category for “Speedy Math Train,” an educational game aimed at children ages 4 to 8.

The Naperville resident said the idea for the app “Speedy Math Train” took just a day, but it took several months of development.

“(Apple operating system) development is a hobby of ours, and this was a great chance to have some fun with it,” Kampf said. “We took the entire process as we would an engineering project for class; we had an idea, we created it, and after evaluating it, we basically went back and changed it until we had our refined final product.”

The National STEM Video Game Challenge is organized by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, a nonprofit research center that fosters innovation in children’s learning through digital media. This year, more than 3,700 entries were received from around the country. Kampf’s team was one of only two college-level entries recognized.

“Well-designed video games can help students excel in STEM and have fun doing it,” said Tom Kalil, deputy director for policy in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “I want to thank the sponsors of the National STEM Video Game Challenge, and congratulate the students and teachers for the remarkable games they have developed.”

In addition to a trip to Washington, D.C., in May, Kampf and his teammates split a $10,000 cash prize. “Speedy Math Train” is available on iTunes.

“This competition was incredible because it engaged and challenged great minds to create learning tools in the form of a game,” Kampf said. “Winning meant that hard work paid off and people liked it. The value in encouraging students to create educational games for other students is golden.” 




Grades 9 Through 14 School Model Strengthens Education-to-Work System


Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.—John Dewey


Only since the end of World War II has high school attendance been mandatory. Back in 1945, we understood that while college could be important, finishing high school wasn't optional—it was essential. But in 2012, the stakes and requirements are much higher. To gain access to 21st century careers, workers must be significantly better educated than in generations past. And to prepare our children to participate in the global economy, our schools must do a better job of connecting education to employment.

Sixty-three percent of American jobs will require postsecondary training by 2018, and our economy will create more than 14 million new jobs over the next 10 years for people with at least a community college degree. Workers with postsecondary training already out-earn high school graduates by 84 percent. Despite this, a startlingly low percentage of college students—30 percent at four-year colleges, and only about one in four at two-year colleges—finish their degrees. Lack of finances certainly can limit opportunities, but the biggest problems are inadequate academic preparation and the absence of a clearly delineated pathway from education to career.

Forward-thinking mayors like New York's Michael Bloomberg and Chicago's Rahm Emanuel understand this problem, and are exerting leadership to correct it. Starting this September, the City of Chicago will open five grades nine through 14 schools that will confer both a high school diploma and an associate degree. Each school will operate as a public-private partnership among the school system, the community college system, and a corporate employer. Students will be exposed to innovative curricula that include the development of workplace skills and will be prepared for entry-level positions in high technology and other growth industries. Upon obtaining their degrees, graduates will be first in line for jobs with their schools' corporate partners. It's a smarter approach to education, to strengthening the American economy, and to making our cities better places to live and work.

Chicago's initiative to connect education to employment is based on the Roadmap for Career and Technical Education created by IBM technical experts as part of A Smarter Cities Challenge grant, and on the STEM Pathways to College and Careers School Guide—developed after the opening of the Pathways to Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, in Brooklyn, N.Y. With no special admissions requirements, the P-TECH grades nine through 14 model represents a new paradigm for public institutions that connect education to jobs.

As announced a few weeks ago, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has identified a need for four million STEM graduates over the next 10 years. Accordingly, President Obama's budget called for more than $100 million to prepare 100,000 new science, technology, engineering, and math teachers to help fill the STEM pipeline. And Congress has held several bipartisan hearings exploring how to more effectively prepare our students in STEM fields.

Praised by President Obama at a town hall meeting last September, the grades nine through 14 model launched by the New York City Department of Education, the City University of New York, and IBM works within existing budgets in any locale where parents, students, and the public and private sectors are open to an innovative approach to improving education and strengthening the economy. As Chicago announces its plans for five grades nine through 14 schools based on the P-TECH model, New York City is tripling down with three additional schools because of the success of the first one.

The next chapter in the success story of American education will be written when many more companies heed the calls of progressive civic and education leaders to strengthen our schools by connecting education to good-paying jobs. Companies should have strong incentives to participate, because strong schools make strong communities and businesses. But there are even more benefits, as companies that partner with public education will realize considerable business value from their collaborations. The reasons are clear: While students get the skills required to connect the dots between education and professional success, corporate partners get the talent pool they desperately need to stay competitive and grow.


With the grades nine through 14 schools model, we now have a proven method for increasing community college graduation rates, increasing wages and tax revenues, and building stable and successful communities. If the public and private sectors can work together in innovative ways to establish and maintain a new, more relevant, and more effective standard for American education, we can jumpstart our global competitiveness and look forward to across-the-board improvements in our schools, in our cities, and in our communities. The time to act is now.



Illinois Pathways Launch

On February 9th, Governor Quinn launched Illinois Pathways, a state-led Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education initiative designed to support college and career readiness for all Illinois students.

Illinois Pathways consists of two key components: STEM programs of study that target nine industry sectors and STEM learning exchanges, which are public private networks of educators, businesses, and workforce development stakeholders.

The P-20 STEM programs of study will align education and career planning to academic and career interests; provide access to work-based learning opportunities; provide college & career assessment; offer orientation courses that provide common foundational skills across clusters, called “orientation” at high school and “bridge” as an on-ramp for adults; offer common pathways skills and reduced switching costs; offer dual credit in “gateway” courses to improve transfer and reduce costs; and build program capacity through academic core, CTE courses, electives, regional centers, virtual courses, and college courses.

The STEM Learning Exchanges will provide curriculum resources; expand access to classroom and laboratory space, equipment, and related educational resources; support student organizations and their major activities; provide internships and other work‐based learning opportunities; sponsor challenges and provide project management resources; provide professional development resources for teachers and school administrators; provide career development and outreach resources; review P‐20 Program of Study model and transitions to post‐secondary academic and training programs;  and review talent pipeline performance.

Click here for more information on Illinois Pathways and here for links to videos of the initiative’s launch event.


Governor Quinn Teams with US Cultural Ambassador Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Support STEM Education





CHICAGO – March 18, 2012. With March Madness in full swing, Governor Pat Quinn today teamed up with the NBA’s All-Time Leading Scorer and U.S. Global Cultural Ambassador Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to encourage children to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) learning in Illinois. Studies show STEM education helps close the achievement gap and better prepares students for success in college and their careers, which are key parts of Governor Quinn’s agenda to improve education in Illinois. Abdul-Jabbar, a New York Times best-selling author, co-wrote the children’s book “What Color is my World? - The Lost History of African American Inventors” which promotes STEM innovation and learning among children.


“Our schools and education systems must always put our children first,” Governor Quinn said. “STEM gives students in Illinois and throughout the United States the tools they need to be competitive in the global economy of today and tomorrow.”


“If America is to maintain our high standard of living, we must continue to innovate,” said Abdul-Jabbar. “We are competing with nations many times our size and STEM learning represents the engines of innovation. With these engines we can lead the world, because knowledge is real power.”


Several heads of Illinois-based corporations joined Abdul-Jabbar and Governor Quinn at Martin Luther King, Jr. College Preparatory High School to participate in a public dialogue with students about the important roles education and perseverance play in their future. They also presented the school with a $5,000 grant for new textbooks, ensuring that these students have the resources they need to succeed.


“The importance of attracting our young people to science, technology, engineering and math is undeniable as companies such as Navistar seek the talent needed to grow and prosper,” said Greg Elliott, Navistar senior vice president of HR and Administration. “Navistar’s decision to expand in Illinois was rooted in our belief that we have great talent in this state, and today’s event is evidence of the collective commitment to Illinois’ education.”


“When I’m hiring, one of the most important things I look for is a good education,” said John Griffin Jr., President of AGB Investigative Services, one of the Midwest’s leading minority-owned cyber security firms. “Students who learn about information technology and computers at an earlier age have a leg up because the skills they have are what companies need to compete in today’s economy.”


"A. Finkl & Sons is pleased to participate in the Governor's initiative to encourage the study of science, technology, engineering and math in our schools. Encouraging students at an early age makes a huge difference, and teachers can use more tools that engage our children, such as Kareem Abdul-Jabar's book," said Bruce Liimatainen, Chairman and CEO.


Academic focus in STEM areas have proven to foster innovation and provide students with the building blocks to succeed scholastically and professionally. The solution for long term economic growth points to a strong STEM workforce. Increased proficiency in these realms gives students an advantage in the 21stcentury global marketplace.


Under Governor Quinn’s leadership, state officials have begun to implement a statewide initiative known as the STEM Learning Exchange to focus on educating and training students in nine key career fields, including: health science, agriculture, food and natural resources, information technology, finance, architecture and construction, transportation, distribution and logistics, manufacturing, research and developmental energy.


The program involves strong collaboration between pre-K-12 schools, colleges and professionals in each of the nine STEM fields to provide students with targeted resources such as internships and other work-based learning opportunities. Students also can also connect with adult mentors and apply what they learn in the classroom to a career. The program will launch in fall of 2012, and is funded through federal Race to the Top education funds.




The SME Education Foundation has selected Wheeling High School, Wheeling, Ill., as an exemplary school, one of six schools in six states where partnerships are fueling a comprehensive community-based approach to manufacturing education.


The SME Education Foundation is taking a community-based approach to manufacturing education and creating strong partnerships between organizations, businesses and exemplary schools. Wheeling High School, Wheeling, Ill., a U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School, is one of six exemplary schools selected for the first phase of a new Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education ( PRIME) program launched in fall 2011.


Other PRIME exemplary schools include: Kettering Fairmont High School, Dayton, Ohio; Walker Career Center, Indianapolis, Ind.; Summit Technology Academy, Kansas City, Mo.; Hawthorne High School, Los Angeles, Calif., and Francis Tuttle Technology Center, Oklahoma City, Okla.


“PRIME is our response to industry’s demand for technically skilled workers as they maintain and grow advanced manufacturing processes,” says Bart A. Aslin, chief executive officer, SME Education Foundation.” This comprehensive, community-based approach to manufacturing education allows for the more immediate and hands-on involvement of business and industry.”


Wheeling High School has been grant-funded $26,000 by the SME Education Foundation which includes: $10,000 to update equipment, software, and/or professional development; $1,000 to support their involvement in technology-based competitions tied to organizations such as Skills USA and/or FIRST Robotics; $5,000 toward their Gateway Academy technology-based summer camp, and $10,000 to support scholarships.


PRIME builds on the SME Education Foundation’s $5.2 million investment in STEM-based education. This effort targets three critical issues: transforming manufacturing education, changing public perception of manufacturing, and addressing the shortage of manufacturing and technical talent in the United States.


Wheeling High School is a comprehensive mid-sized, suburban high school with a focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education for its 1,800 students. Wheeling was selected based on their exemplary manufacturing curriculum, technology-based courses developed by Project Lead The Way (PLTW) which include Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM); skilled and dedicated instructors, engaged and active students, strong corporate or administrative support from the manufacturing community, and having SME member involvement, including SME local chapters.


Michael Geist, a Project Lead The Way (PLTW) instructor who teaches CIM at Wheeling had this to say about the SME Education Foundation PRIME partnership: “Wheeling High School is very proud to have been this year’s PRIME site recipient. Our school places a very high value on our industrial partnerships as they have paved ways toward student internships, scholarships, and opportunities to network.”


Wheeling High School’s STEM-based approach has technology embedded throughout all student experiences including arts, languages and humanities alongside a focus on career certifications, college partnerships, and technology to prepare students for post-secondary opportunities. There are 15 computer labs, over 450 computers, laptop loaners, Smart Boards, media projectors in every classroom, and technology resources available throughout the building. The school extends this access to technology into students’ homes with a desktop loaner program for needy families and the extensive use of online learning resources.


Designed in cooperation with industry partners, a new state-of-the-art prototyping fabrication lab includes the latest advanced manufacturing technology with a 3-D printer for rapid prototyping, HAAS CNC lathes and mill, CNC Plasma Cutter, CNC training stations, robotic work station, surface grinder and more. This new facility provides students interested in engineering, architecture, and manufacturing with hands-on design experience and a competitive edge for work or degree programs after high school.


Reaching young people at an early age is critical to advanced manufacturers. Wheeling High School offers the Gateway Academy, a summer day camp for 1st through 8th graders, boys and girls, which introduces them to drafting and graphic design and allows them to use real lab equipment in a team environment. Funded by the SME Education Foundation, nearly 4,200 students attended Gateway camps in 34 states in 2010.


The Gateway to Technology (GTT) program for sixth, seventh, and eighth graders focuses on showing, not telling, students how engineers use technology to solve everyday problems. GTT at Wheeling High School has three PLTW courses: Design and Modeling, Magic of Electrons and Automation and Robotics, which are taught throughout the school year and summer.


A major strength of the PRIME initiative is the connections it creates between schools, local manufacturing industry, and SME membership groups. Local SME chapter members are excited about mentoring future engineers and technologists.


Says Chairman Bob Iossi, SME Chapter 5, Chicagoland, “It has been a tremendous experience for us to work with Wheeling High School. You can feel the passion of educators that truly get it, starting with the instructors and their students, the department chair, their Principal, Dr. Lazaro Lopez and Jeff Jerdee, District Representative, for the Board of Education District 214. Dr. Lopez and his Industrial Team fought to keep the programs alive through these tough times and manufacturing downturn. When other people said “No,” they said “Yes,” and put their careers on the line.”


The Wheeling High School PRIME partnership team will include a manufacturing business to facilitate mentoring, tours of their local businesses, and job shadowing. Students and their instructors will be provided access to a new website,, funded by the SME Education Foundation. The site provides links to advanced manufacturing companies and access to real-world professionals, their job descriptions and skill requirements.


About Community Partnerships:
Wheeling High School has created strong partnerships within the community which are critical to job creation. These include: Bill Stasek Chevrolet; CarQuest Automotive Parts – Wheeling; Chicago Automobile Trade Association; Crown Industrial Supply; Dakota K Automotive Repair; DynoMax, Inc.; Haas Factory Outlet of Chicago; Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Development; Iverson & Company; Knauz Motors; Littelfuse; National Tutoring Association; National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology (NCSSSMST); Northrup Grumman; Northwestern University Office of STEM; Numerical Precision; NyproMold, Inc.; Rexam; S&S Automotive Suppliers; Sandvik; Society of American Military Engineers; Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) Chapter 5 Chicagoland; Swiss Precision Machining; Sullivan Pontiac, Buick & GMC; Tooling & Manufacturing Association, Waltz Brothers, Inc., and Village of Wheeling.

About Wheeling High School:
Wheeling High School, Wheeling, Ill., is a public, culturally diverse, four-year comprehensive high school with a STEM focus (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Established in 1964, the school is one of six schools in Township High District 214. Course offerings and content are grounded in relevance to the new economy and industries being served providing college credit bearing courses and entry level career certifications including information technology, engineering, architecture and advanced manufacturing. A network of industry professionals from a wide array of fields provides guidance and support. Visit

About the SME Education Foundation:
The SME Education Foundation is committed to inspiring, supporting and preparing the next generation of manufacturing engineers and technologists in the advancement of manufacturing education. Created by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers in 1979, the SME Education Foundation has provided more than $31 million since 1980 in grants, scholarships and awards through its partnerships with corporations, organizations, foundations, and individual donors. Visit the SME Education Foundation at Also visit our award-winning website for young people at, and for information on advanced manufacturing careers.

Media Contacts: Bart A. Aslin, chief executive officer, SME Education Foundation, 313.425-3302,;

By the year 2018 there will be more than 1.5 million jobs in Illinois alone in occupations using science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), according to an analysis by state from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Those jobs will be in the areas of financial management, computer and math science, architecture, engineering, life, physical and social science, education and even the food industry.

Unfortunately for America’s middle school students who will be entering the workforce around that time, the United States ranks 21st in science and 25th in math compared to their peers around the world, reported President Barack Obama in November of 2009.

But thanks to organizations like Three Rivers Education Partnership and sponsorships from local industry, middle school students will be much better prepared for job opportunities that require STEM education.

Three Rivers is working with 18 teachers from 14 area middle schools providing the award-winning JASON Project program, which gets students enthused and keeps them interested in those key areas.

“Young kids show an interest in science when they are little, but then something happens,” said Laura Price, program manager. “JASON Project is making sure they are motivated about and enjoy it, too.”

Volunteer training

The fifth- through eighth-grade teachers volunteered to spend some evenings over the course of the school year receiving training on this year’s program, “Operation: Terminal Velocity — Investigating Forces and Motion in Our Universe.”

The teachers get the training through Three Rivers and then bring it back to their classrooms for the students to learn.

“(The training) walks us through different types of websites and provides us with hands-on materials,” said Stacy Faletti, South Wilmington Grade School science teacher. “This year (the program) is physical science. JASON uses inquiry-based programs to supplement what we are using in our district.”

What’s different and exciting about the JASON Project is that it uses telepresence to create the feeling of working alongside the scientists.

Through videos, podcasts, webcasts, live chat sessions and interactive computer simulations, students are virtually “right there,” digging up fossils or watching a volcano erupt.

“It allows a connection for the student with the scientist,” Faletti said. “They love being able to connect with the scientists and do the things they are learning.”

The teachers bring all sorts of supplemental learning aides from the training back to the classroom.

Besides websites and podcasts, students will do science projects in their school’s lab.

There are even computer games that require the scientific and mathematical skills students are learning.

“They try to determine fossil types or take a trip to a site where they find dinosaur bones,” said Faletti. “(The program) virtually takes them there through websites.”

A great opportunity

The key to keeping students interested in science and math is to make it interesting in a way they can relate to, Faletti said.

“They are able to see how science and matter are related to their everyday lives.”

Another plus for the teachers who attend the training is being able to keep in touch with each other on a regular basis.

Through an ongoing dialogue via a website, the teachers share lesson plans, what works and what doesn’t and how a teacher with 34 students handles the program compared to one with 20 or less students, Faletti said.

“It’s an awesome opportunity,” she said.

This year’s JASON Project is available thanks to corporate sponsors Caterpillar Inc., CITGO Lemont Refinery, Oxbow Midwest Calcining, Rhodia, Reichhold and SGS, Price said.

She hopes that more sponsors will step forward so the program can be opened up to more educators.

“We would very much like to grow this program,” Price said.

“The size is held down due to the funding I get from the corporate sponsors. Everything I get I turn around and give it to my teachers.”

The teachers who participate in the yearly programs — TREP is in its seventh year of offering JASON Project training and each year is a different curriculum — are those who are very dedicated to learning something new, Price said.

“These are teachers who are passionate about what they do,” said Price. “They take their spare time to learn about new curriculums and share it with their students.”


Statement from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Illinois Education Bill


"Illinois has done something truly remarkable, and every state committed to education reform should take notice. Business, unions, educators, advocates and elected officials all came together around a plan that puts children ahead of adults and paves the way for meaningful education reform. For some time now I have been saying that tough-minded collaboration is more productive than confrontation, and this is the proof. I respectfully urge Governor Quinn to sign this quickly so that Illinois can put these landmark reforms to work in the classroom."


Download Free Resources to Create Career Pathways and Postsecondary Transitions
The Illinois Community College Board has released a step-by-step guide, How to Build Bridge Programs That Fit Into a Career Pathway, which provides information on how to develop successful bridge programs to tap the talents of low-skilled adults. The guide is based on the achievements of Carreras en Salud, a health care bridge program created by Chicago’s Instituto del Progreso Latino and its partners, the National Council of La Raza, Association House of Chicago, and Humboldt Park Vocational Education Center of Wilbur Wright College. This partnership was supported by the Illinois Community College Board, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and the Joyce Foundation as part of its multi-year, multi-million dollar state policy initiative, Shifting Gears. That initiative is re-engineering adult education, workforce development and postsecondary education policies to expand job opportunities for low-skilled workers in six Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin). Meanwhile, Jobs for the Future (JFF) is distributing its recent The Breaking Through Practice Guide. Breaking Through is a collaboration between Jobs for the Future and the National Council for Workforce Education. The practice guide highlights innovations from Breaking Through between 2005 and 2009. Each of its four components offers a “high-leverage strategy” to increase success with low-skilled younger and older adults. The practice guide also contains a contextualization toolkit and supplementary materials, including information about JFF's advisor training materials.