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posted: 6/18/2014 9:10 AM

Teen Ignite event designed to spark young minds

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  • Bill Carrier, with his daughters, Rachel, left, and Lauren, organized Teen Ignite after he had trouble finding cultural and science programming in after school activities for his daughters.

    Bill Carrier, with his daughters, Rachel, left, and Lauren, organized Teen Ignite after he had trouble finding cultural and science programming in after school activities for his daughters.
    Courtesy of Naperville Public Library

  • A Citgo refinery model will be one of the activities at Teen Ignite.

    A Citgo refinery model will be one of the activities at Teen Ignite.
    Courtesy of Naperville Public Library

By Mary Rakoczy
Naperville Public Library

Once school lets out, many students slam shut their textbooks and pedal as fast as they can to the nearest pool.

But even in the summer, curious teens still need an outlet to expand their minds.

Stop-motion animation, mapmaking, gum flavoring, Lego Mindstorms and circuit bending are all topics that might not necessarily be taught in schools. But this summer, teens can crowd Naperville Public Library for an all-day, teen-focused event that will allow like-minded peers to discover, create and connect with each other.

Teen Ignite, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 21, at 95th Street Library, 3015 Cedar Glade Drive, will be a high-energy, free event for inquisitive teens in sixth through 12th grades.

Featured presentations include Program Your Own Internet Radio, Fashion Design Meets Technology and the Science Behind Food & Flavor.

"Every session is hands-on," event organizer Bill Carrier said. "They will flavor gum, drinks, code software, write their own magazine, create maps and learn how to refine oil in a small model of a refinery."

Workshops will be led by volunteers from area businesses and organizations including Wrigley, FONA International, Citgo, Fermilab and the Museum of Science and Industry. Universities also will be represented, including Illinois Institute of Technology and Northern Illinois University.

Carrier was inspired to organize the event after his wife passed away in 2009, and he was solely responsible for raising his daughters.

"When I began scheduling their after-school activities, I was surprised by the robust infrastructure of sporting activities available in the community but was surprised by the challenge to find cultural and science programming for my daughters," Carrier said.

"The vision for Teen Ignite was to expose and inspire teens to hobbies and possible careers that they may not have been exposed to in other venues."

Poetry in motion

One special guest may incite the creative writing juices of teenage minds. Young poet Malcolm London, who is well-known throughout the area for fresh rhymes about growing up in Chicago, will perform during the event.

"Oceans of adolescents come here to receive lessons, but never learn to swim. Part like the Red Sea when the bell rings. This is a training ground," said London in a poem titled "High School Training Ground."

Circuit benders unite

Among the nearly 20 presentations scheduled at the event, one highly anticipated program, Circuit Bending -- Hacking Toys for Experimental Electronics, will feature presenter Patrick McCarthy, polymathic educator at the Museum of Science & Industry.

"Circuit bending is the creative repurposing of discarded technology, usually battery-powered children's toys, by randomly exploring the pre-existing circuits and making new connections such that the device does things it was never intended to do," McCarthy said.

"We are surrounded by technology, and yet we don't really understand it. It's important and empowering for teens and adults to feel free to tinker inside battery-powered devices."

McCarthy said circuit bending often serves as a gateway hobby to more high-tech projects like robotics, and it also allows individuals to explore experimental electronic music.

"One doesn't need to know anything about electronics at all to be a circuit bender," he said. "All one needs is a screwdriver, a sense of curiosity and a keen eye for the unexpected."

Igniting taste buds

Gwendolyn Graff, creativity fellow at the Wrigley Company, will present the program "Bustin' Flavor -- Learn the Science of Flavoring Gum."

"We are going to explore how we taste food and gum, look at our tongues to understand where our taste buds are and discuss a little about how they work," Graff said. "We are going to also delve further into other sensations that affect how we taste -- through lots of trying out of different ingredients to recreate a full-flavor experience."

From conception to planning, Carrier said the event took about three months to organize. He hopes many teens come to the event to ignite their minds.

"I hope they challenge themselves to explore something they've never thought about before," he said. "Discovery is the first goal. I would love to see girls who never thought about software programming to try it. I would love to see a musically inclined teen who may not be technical attending our session on circuit bending."

No registration is required to attend Teen Ignite. For more information, call (630) 961-4100.

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