CPS STEM Fair at Illinois Tech Exhibits Creativity, Ingenuity of Future Scientists

March 27, 2019

Tomorrow’s scientists gathered at Illinois Institute of Technology’s Hermann Hall to share their breakthroughs during the 69th annual Exhibition of Student STEM Research science fair during this past weekend.

The exhibition, organized by Chicago Public Schools Student Science Fair, collected 218 research projects from students across Chicago in grades 7 through 12. To qualify, students must be enrolled in a Chicago Public School and have their projects selected from those submitted at their school.

“There are as many as 8,000 students participating in science fair across CPS,” says Ken Zdunek, board member of Chicago Public Schools Student Science Fair. “What we have here are some of the best projects from across CPS.”

Projects displayed at the exhibition were judged by a team of volunteers that included educators and industry leaders who chose 50 projects for the Illinois Junior Academy of Science State Fair held at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Four students from that fair will travel to Phoenix for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Projects fell into one of 16 categories from aerospace science to zoology, displaying the students’ creative and inquisitive nature through their pursuits. Kizzanna Nicholson, an eighth-grade student at Tilton Elementary School, discovered chewing gum cannot be digested in a project entitled “Don’t Swallow That Gum!”

“I was a frequent gum swallower,” Nicholson says. “I read on the internet that gum stays in your stomach for seven years, and I wanted to prove that wrong.”

Katherine Dunaway, a 10th grader at Amundsen High School, desalinated salt water to drinkable levels by boiling it, sending the steam through a copper pipe, and cooling it. Zachary Vanderslice, an 11th grader at Walter Payton College Prep High School, discovered player one in a euchre game has a slightly better chance of winning a hand by writing computer code to simulate 10,000 games.

It is the first year the exhibition was held at Illinois Tech, enabled in part by alumnus Roy Coleman (PHYS ’64, founder of the Chicago Regional and International Bridge Building Competition and recipient of the 2006 Illinois Tech Alumni Medal; the event was previously hosted by the Museum of Science and Industry. Peter Kilpatrick, Illinois Tech provost, says hosting the exhibition continues Illinois Tech’s commitment to CPS students, as the university hosts other STEM-related competitions for high school students, such as the FIRST Robotics Competition and the Chicago Regional Bridge Building Contest. Kilpatrick also noted Illinois Tech awards 28 full scholarships to CPS students annually.

The STEM exhibition concluded on Sunday with the awards ceremony. Besides the 50 students selected for the Illinois State Junior Academy of Science State Fair, an additional 68 special awards were granted, including dozens of cash awards. Students participating in the exhibition also are eligible to apply for scholarships awarded by the Chicago Public Schools Student Science Fair Scholarship Committee. Since 1956 the committee has awarded more than $3.8 million in scholarships.

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