Project Innovation aims to inspire students about math, science
Two Glenbard West High School students have made it their mission to show area eighth-graders all the career choices the world of STEM has to offer.
STEM -- which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- took center stage during Hadley Junior High School's recent Project Innovation program in Glen Ellyn.
The event, in only its second year, gives Hadley eighth-graders a chance to hear stories from professionals who work in a variety of fields across the STEM spectrum.
Some of the presenters represented Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, Intel, forensic science at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Carol Stream Animal Hospital.
Students also could participate in hands-on activities, such as making lotion and designing personal logos.
Glenbard students Claire Wild, 15, and Shay Kiker, 17, created the event, which is designed in part to inspire kids to pursue a career in STEM.
When Claire was younger, she says she talked with her mom about holding a STEM fair at the middle school.
"I wasn't really finding the resources for STEM that I was looking for at the eighth-grade level," Claire said.
She got in touch with Shay, a longtime family friend, as well as Glenbard West Science Department Chairman Sean Byrne, and the event became a reality.
Shay and Claire also are co-founders of West's STEM Club, which helps bring the event to Hadley.
"We really want to expose kids to the many different types of careers that are available in STEM just to show them all of the options that they have to maybe spark their interest," Claire said.
Besides showing the more conventional STEM careers, some presenters during Project Innovation are a little more unexpected.
The event, for example, included Intel's presentation on the science of how people shop, as well as a lecture from a graphic designer.
"I think there's definitely a lot of misconceptions about STEM because people just don't really know how many different careers and fields are under the umbrella," Claire said. "I know a lot of kids, when they think of a scientist or an engineer, they picture a doctor or someone in a lab coat with crazy hair."
Shay said she enjoys holding the event because it gives her the chance to give back.
"I feel so privileged living in Glen Ellyn and having all these opportunities and parents who are seeking out opportunities for me, and being able to give that to a kid is really, really cool," she said.
Katie Chism, a 14-year-old Hadley student, said she liked the event because it showed her what is possible.
"It exposes you to a lot of different things," Katie said, "and it shows you that there's a way to kind of include all of your interests in one job."
Byrne said the STEM-centered event sparks ideas.
"It allows them to see the diversity that is out there in STEM careers, that it's not just being a doctor or a nurse, that there is a STEM career that's out there for them."