Recognized by Forbes as one of the “Top 25 STEM Colleges 2018,” Illinois Tech is celebrating 35 years of its annual expo inspiring the next generation of STEM leaders and their families to make important connections between science, the world, and everyday life.
In conjunction with national Engineers Week, the university will host its annual DuPage Area STEM Expo at the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Campus on Saturday, February 23. Each year, volunteers from professional societies, education, business, and government donate their time to demonstrate how numerous scientific principles come to life through a series of more than 50 interactive displays, presentations, and exhibits.
Illinois Tech will feature augmented reality and voice assistant demonstrations through the School of Applied Technology. Participants can also join students from Armour College of Engineering in engaging activities across a broad range of engineering disciplines.
Jeremy Hajek, an alumnus of the School of Applied Technology who is an associate professor in the Department of Information Technology and Management, will be presenting on the topic of augmented reality at the university’s alumni event and as part of the general exhibition. His research focuses on altering what we see around us through holograms and the internet.
Hajek describes the expo as a fun learning space for children to begin exploring technology. He shares, “This day and age, we have a plethora of affordable technology and data available with all of this computing power, but how do we motivate people to want to tackle these problems?”
In addition, he says that the event is motivating for kids and also presents an exciting opportunity for fellow experts to interact with peers. “Exhibitors are eager to share their time and learnings, to discuss why things work the way that they do, and it’s amazing to see all the kids get right into it,” adds Hajek.
Interactive activities for school-age children in grades K–12 include:
- Discovering the explosive power of nitrogen and cryogenics at the “Mr. Freeze Cryogenics Show,” of Fermilab (advance tickets required)
- Seeing robots from the Chicago Area Robotics Group
- Visiting a simulated earthquake table and constructing an “earthquake-resistant” LEGO skyscraper
- Constructing structures, building cars, and learning engineering principles
- Exploring augmented reality and voice assistant demonstrations with immersive holograms, simple light demo, and voice-activated big data queries
- Becoming an engineer in real time: designing, building, and testing a model suspension bridge
- Learning what keeps airplanes flying from The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
- Experiencing a shocking and hair-raising experience with the IEEE-static electricity generator
- And more hands-on STEM exploration activities
Hajek emphasizes the ability to immerse oneself in these demonstrations and interact with experts at no cost during at the expo. “Every exhibit has an expert or two that you can easily talk to and engage in deep conversation with.” He says that kids, including his own, are able to discover what they are interested in—and children and adults can follow up with exhibitors and professional societies.
“For kids, it’s a way for us [experts] to say, ‘You can do this,’ and there are many facets you can participate in. They may think, ‘I don’t know calculus so that must mean I can’t be an engineer.’” But Hajek notes that the expo showcases how all the different STEM fields are interconnected and necessary to develop a successful product. The DuPage Area STEM Expo will be held on Saturday, February 23, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Illinois Tech’s Rice Campus, located at 201 East Loop Road in Wheaton, Illinois.