Lake View High School Kicks Off 2017 STEM Challenge — This Year, A Focus on Civic Engagement

 |   Shelley Stern Grach

Microsoft mentor Larry Kuhn workshops with Lake View students. Credit: ISTI

A new year usually means making lots of changes — sometimes simply for the sake of change. My view is that when you have a program that is working extraordinarily well, keep those changes to a minimum and continue the positive momentum. That is exactly what PJ Karafiol, Principal, and Tyrese Graham, Assistant Principal of Lake View High School have done with the 2017 STEM Challenge, sponsored by Microsoft and managed in partnership with the Illinois Science and Technology Institute (ISTI).

Microsoft has supported Lake View in the STEM Challenge for the past two years. As we enter into our third year of the Challenge, we decided to keep the focus on the same challenge as last year: “How can the Internet of Things (IoT) help the Lake View Community?” Since this is a broad challenge, it allows tremendous freedom for the students to look at the benefits of IoT from a physical school perspective, a community perspective, or a civic perspective (such as transportation, logistics, etc.). Similarly, Microsoft is funding the Challenge process, and is bringing in a great set of employees to be mentors during. The cycle kicked off on January 17th with an auditorium filled with students, faculty and mentors, as well as a design workshop to increase student collaboration and communications.

Lake View students workshop designs at the STEM Challenge. Credit: Shelley Stern Grach

So, what is new and different?

This year, the program will be integrated into the Civics classes. As you may know, Civics is a required class for all Illinois students, thanks to strong support from the McCormick Foundation and the State.

Bringing the STEM Challenge into the Civics classes offers the program to more students because it is a wider scope than technology. While we certainly don’t want to lose the “STEM” part of STEM Challenge, the focus is more on the civic engagement aspect of the solution — technology is a key enabler, but technology alone can’t solve a key community problem. It’s the integration of creativity, collaboration and communications with technology that will prove the most effective.

Duane Davis, ISTI’s STEM Challenge coach, gives feedback to students. Credit: ISTI

We gave the students a few more hints for success:

  1. Make the most of your time with your mentors
  2. Use the Mentor Matching Engine, designed by ISTI, frequently. The mentors love the flexibility to interact with the students on line as well as in person.
  3. As you build your solutions, in addition to the documentation, PowerPoints and verbal presentations, try to include something more physical in your design — perhaps a diorama, a model, something electronic or robotic.

It’s early in the process for this new group participating in the STEM Challenge. But if the energy and interest evident at the Kickoff is any indication, this will be the best STEM Challenge yet!

Below are some of the best tweets from the Kickoff.

 

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Shelley Stern Grach
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.