The STEM Challenge is “Coming of age” at Lake View High School

| Shelley Stern Grach

R&D STEM Learning Exchange Challenges

A 2016 series on innovative programs that help STEM/STEAM come alive for Chicago’s students, in partnership with Lake View High School, an Early College STEM School.

com·ing of age


  1. the reaching of the official age of adulthood and legal responsibility
  2. the reaching of an advanced stage of development

Last year, we wrote about the wonderful partnership Microsoft enjoys with the Illinois Science & Technology Institute (ISTI). Microsoft and Lake View High School participated in the Second Annual R&D STEM Learning Exchange Challenges Student Showcase on May 20, 2015. This was a terrific program and our first time working with the teachers and students at Lake View High School on this state-wide Student Challenge. Microsoft is again supporting the ISTI and Lake View High School in 2016 for the Third Annual R&D STEM Challenge.

This trailblazing, public-private effort connects students to future STEM careers. This school year, through STEM Challenges and the Mentor Matching Engine (MME), the R&D STEM Learning Exchange will reach more than 1,200 students at 29 Illinois high schools. The Exchange promotes inquiry-based learning, builds critical thinking skills and provides perspective on R&D applications for participating students. This ultimately helps strengthen Illinois’ industry by enriching its talent pipeline.

“The mission is to spark interest, preparing students for R&D careers here in Illinois. When we build a pipeline of young professionals, we invest in Illinois’ future innovators. The continued growth of this program and our strong public-private coalition of committed high schools, industry and academic partners demonstrates the deep need for and interest in these learning opportunities,” says Mark Harris, President & CEO of ISTI.

The STEM Challenge program matches participating schools with leading corporations and research institutions. From January through May 2016, students will work alongside experts from Illinois’ top companies and together spur real-world innovation. Their work will be showcased May 19, 2016 and we expect our Lake View High School team to be leading the way in the Challenge!

Let’s take a look at why this kind of continuous investment is so important in Chicago! “The Challenge requires students to utilize the STEM principles of creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking to problem solve and generate viable solutions,” says Angela D. Newton, Assistant Principal and STEM Coordinator.

*2014 Karen Mossberger research (using 2013 survey data).
*2014 Karen Mossberger research (using 2013 survey data).
  • In Chicago, approximately 30% of households have no internet subscription and about 20% have no computer. What is important behind the statistics, is that lack of skills, cost and interest are the most cited reasons adults give for not getting online.
  • Yet, it’s clear that digital skills are vital to success in seeking jobs. You need to be able to search online for jobs, fill out a resume online and demonstrate your online skills, credentials and certifications.
  • In Chicago, the demand for digital learning opportunities continue to increase, as evidenced at Chicago Public Library, at LISC Chicago Financial Opportunity Centers and at dozens of other community and entrepreneurial centers throughout the city.
  • More advanced STEM skills will result in better educational opportunities, more creativity to start new STEM related business and overall drive positive economic growth.

For 2016, we are looking to enhance our partnership with ISTI and Lake View High School students in the following ways:

  • Focus our 2016 STEM Challenge on  one of the hottest STEM topics today-the Internet of Things (IoT).
  • Bring in more Microsoft employees as mentors and participate through the Mentor Matching Engine (MME)
  • Increase the integration of the Challenge more broadly into the curriculum
  • Increase the length of time the students have to work on the Challenge
  • Elevate the professionalism of the Students’ presentations

We held our first kickoff event on this year’s Challenge at Lake View on December 1st.

We have seen tremendous support from the teachers at Lake View this year. They are excited to continue the “coming of age” of STEM and STEAM skills. “The MSFT Challenge requires students to become partners on a mission to plan and shape their reality, their STEM infused world; using the rising future infrastructure of the Internet of Things and their limitless imagination,” says teacher Bernardo Juarez.

Join us as we update you throughout the Spring on the STEM Challenge at Lake View High School and how our students are gaining knowledge in STEM/STEAM, how the Internet of Things impacts their lives, as well as those critical “soft skills” of collaboration, communications and critical thinking.

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Shelley Stern Grach

They say that great work stems from a combination of passion and commitment, something that Shelley certainly possesses when it comes to her life and career. She currently serves on the boards of the Women’s Business Development Center, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Thrive Chicago, Year Up and LISC Chicago. At Microsoft Chicago, she’s the Director of Civic Engagement, working at the intersection of computing and community, promoting STEM programs and using Microsoft technology to spur growth in the community. So no matter if it's work, play, or giving back, Shelley always makes sure her drive and professionalism help her complete her life's goals.