Students and staff at Addams Junior High School in Schaumburg welcomed U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth on Oct. 25 as District 54 formally launched its FUSE programs in partnership with Northwestern University's Office of STEM Education Partnerships.
"Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education is so important for our young people," Duckworth said. "We need to have a trained workforce that can participate in our economy -- and it is never too early to start training. Introducing kids to STEM activities will help make them aware of opportunities and careers they might never have thought of."
FUSE engages students through hands-on, inquiry-based challenges in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas. FUSE currently has challenges related to robotics, electronics, biotechnology, graphic design and app development, and continues to develop new challenges.
"Our primary goal is to try to appeal to kids that aren't already interested in STEM," said Dr. Kemi Jona, the director and co-developer of the FUSE program. "Our number one priority is to hook kids and maintain their engagement over time."
Each challenge uses a leveling-up model, similar to the games students play. As students finish one challenge, the tasks become more difficult.
FUSE will be implemented in fifth and sixth grade at the Hoover Math and Science Academy in Schaumburg and Nerge Elementary School in Roselle. All students at these schools will participate in 90 minutes of STEM exploration weekly. District 54 will also offer FUSE as an after-school club at Addams and its four other junior high schools.
Labs at each school have computers on one side of the classroom and kits on the other side. On the computers, students will choose a challenge that interests them and learn about the challenge. Then, students will select the corresponding kit (for example the parts needed to build and program a robot).
"We are continually evaluating our instructional program to ensure we are providing our students with innovative STEM-based learning experiences," Associate Superintendent Nick Myers said. "While this work is just beginning, there are many promising opportunities that we anticipate coming from this partnership."
FUSE started two years ago and spread to high schools, middle schools and libraries throughout the greater Chicago area. District 54 is the first districtwide implementation of FUSE, with five schools implementing the program.