Elgin, Bartlett and Streamwood-area students and families seeking to learn more about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education can attend four informational sessions later this month and next.
Elgin Area School District U-46 will host the sessions at local libraries and a school as a kick off to its 2016 STEM Expo set for Feb. 20 at South Elgin High School.
The expo, now in its sixth year, is open to the more than 40,000 U-46 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. It gives students a chance to inquire, design and investigate the world like scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians. "The quality of the projects and the user experience has improved significantly," said Marc Hans, U-46 coordinator of kindergarten through 12th-grade science.
"We've got great feedback from parents, as well as participants. We're slowly starting to see an increase in participation. We want it to be an inclusive rather than exclusive."
Officials anticipate participation and attendance will reach 1,500 students and families this year.
At last year's expo, nearly 700 students participated, producing more than 300 projects.
"We had a lot of young girls interested in STEM," Hans said. "We see students coming back year after year."
Sometimes students improve upon the same project incorporating a higher level of thinking or investigation or build on what they have learned from year to year, he added.
At the kickoff sessions, students will get a chance to engage with cutting-edge technologies, experiment with next-generation science, examine and check out live chemistry and physics demonstrations, and explore all areas of STEM education. Students still trying to come up with STEM Expo projects also can brainstorm ideas at these events.
U-46 officials, library staff, volunteers and partner organizations will facilitate the sessions. They will run from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 30 at Gail Borden Public Library, 270 N. Grove Ave., Elgin; Dec. 3 at Gail Borden's Rakow Branch, 2751 W. Bowes Road, Elgin; Dec. 9 at Eastview Middle School, 321 N. Oak Ave., Bartlett; and Dec. 10 at Poplar Creek Library, 1405 S. Park Ave., Streamwood. STEM Expo information packets will be available and the events are open to the public.
"We expect the 2016 STEM Expo to be the best one yet as students build on the innovative ideas they've come up with in the past," Hans said. "The kickoff events will be a great opportunity for students to see how learning can happen far beyond the walls of their classrooms."
Students can enter the expo as individuals or as teams. Though juried, it is not competitive.
To register, visit U46STEMexpo.com. Registration deadline is 5 p.m. Dec. 19. Project ideas, information about expo partners and the registration packet also are available online.