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Getting Kids Into Science

Chicago mayor checks out Northwestern-developed out-of-school program

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Touring the Humboldt Park Branch Library last week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel got a first-hand introduction to an out-of-school program designed to pique teenagers’ interest in science, technology, engineering, arts/design and math.

Developed by Northwestern University researchers, FUSE presents middle and high school students with hands-on challenges in mobile app development, 3-D printing and design, fashion design, robotics and other areas of interest to teens.

At the Humboldt Park library, teens designed their own jewelry using SketchUp, a CAD program, and then printed their designs on a MakerBot 3-D printer. The mayor left the library with two colorful bracelets and a keychain made on a MakerBot by the FUSE team.

“In the same way that players ‘level up’ in a video game, teens can ‘level up’ through FUSE challenges, which provide an engaging way for them to tackle increasingly difficult tasks,” says Kemi Jona. Jona is director of Northwestern’s Office of STEM Education Partnerships, which connects K-12 students and their teachers with the world-class STEM resources of the University.

Jona developed FUSE with Reed Stevens, professor of learning sciences in Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy. Jona, Stevens, OSEP associate director Amy Pratt and curriculum developer Maggie Waldron were at the Humboldt Park library to answer questions from Mayor Emanuel about the program.

Soon to start up at downtown Chicago’s Harold Washington Library, FUSE already operates at Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy (one of Mayor Emanuel’s recently launched Early College STEM Schools), Neal Math and Science Academy (in North Chicago), Evanston Township and Wheeling high schools and the Teen Loft at the Evanston Public Library.