#STEMChallenge Student Showcase Highlights Internet of Things

| Shelley Stern Grach

Microsoft has been partnering with the Illinois Science and Technology Institute (ISTI) for three years on the STEM Challenge, along with our Early College STEM School, Lake View High School. This year, we added Corliss High School as a second Early College STEM School and invited Corliss to participate in the Challenge as well. Instead of being twice the work, it was twice the fun, as we engaged additional Microsoft volunteers to partner with the teachers and the students. Our Challenge this year was to have the have the students learn about the Internet of Things (IoT) and figure out how IoT can be used to address social change, and improve the lives of people in Chicago.


Our two winning teams really addressed key issues facing society today:

  1. How do you keep Seniors safe, when they are living alone?
  2. How do you help prevent hypothermia for the homeless?

The Lake View High School team included Joshua Cruz And DaFina Jones, who developed the Handy Helping Cam. The students researched and identified issues that we all will face: As we age, it becomes harder for elders to deal with issues of security, memory, and mobility.

  • 59% seniors who are victims of violent crimes are victimized at or near their home. (Bureau of Justice)
  • In a recent poll of U.S. individuals 65 years old and older who take at least five different prescription drugs regularly, 57% of those polled admit that they forget to take their medications.
  • Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.

Using the Internet of Things, Joshua and DaFina designed a camera, screen and watch that accesses IoT to keep Seniors safe.

The Corliss High School team included Connie Stewart, Dejah Winfield, Quimya Latiker, Tilithia Strong, Jaquise Green, Eric Henderson. Since this was a new program for Corliss, we were thrilled to see so many students interested and engaged and truly appreciate the support of the Corliss faculty and teachers. The Corliss team developed a prototype of a SMART Hat for the homeless to wear, which measured temperature outside, body temperature and sent a notification over IoT to First Responders when temperature become dangerous. Their research included statistics on Homelessness, how the IoT Sensors work, and how complicated building a prototype can be.

  • There are 700 homeless people suffering hypothermia during  cold winters; have been 8 cold-related deaths in 2017
  • Sensors: Challenging to interconnect sensors
  • Azure Cloud: Sending and analyzing data; data-triggered response
  • Software: Windows 10 , Visual Studio, PuTTY
  • Coding:  Language compatibility (C#, C++, Python)
  • Prototype Building: Size of the Pi and sensors; sensor placement; too many wires

Corliss designed a high tech-low tech solution to this ongoing problem, using Azure and an everyday knit cap.

Congratulations to all the students who participated in the STEM Challenge, and a special thank you to the Microsoft volunteers who assisted both schools:

  • Frank Migacz
  • Raj Das
  • Kevin Lopez
  • Peter Walke
  • Liz Abunaw
  • Larry Kuhn
  • Lynne Frankel
  • Jay Lisota

We also wanted to say a special thank you to the dedicated teachers and faculty who assisted in the Challenge:

  • Christina Franklin and Ty Graham (Lake View HS)
  • Derek Atchison, Jamie Ballard, Phylydia Hudson, David Holland, Trenton Sapp  (Corliss HS)

The #STEMChallenge Showcase was held on April 27, 2017 at Motorola Mobility Auditorium at the Merchandise Mart. More than 350 students, faculty and corporate supporters and volunteers were in attendance and the student innovation was off the charts!  The ISTI had great press coverage, including two excellent TV segments: the Fox 32 morning show,which featured three student innovations from Abbvie, ADM and Motorola Solutions; and a NBC5 Making a Difference segment, which featured a student and mentor from Takeda and mentioned Microsoft and other corporate supporters. We’re also quite fond of ChicagoInno’s article recapping the event.

Following is a complete list of all the corporate supporters and their schools. Congratulations to everyone who participated and who is using technology to make the world a better place.

Takeda Pharmaceuticals Challenge

  • Evanston Township High School
  • Phoenix Military Academy
  • Solorio Academy High School
  • Prospect High School

Loyola University Chicago

  • Nicholas Senn High School

Northrop Grumman Challenge

  • Oak Park and River Forest High School
  • Palatine High School

Illinois State University Center for Renewable Energy

  • Washington Community High School
  • Downers Grove North High School
  • ITW David Speer Academy
  • Williamsfield High School

AbbVie Foundation Challenge

  • North Chicago Community High School

Motorola Mobility Challenge

  • Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep
  • Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center

Baxter Challenge

  • Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy
  • Lindblom Math & Science Academy `
  • Muchin College Prep

Microsoft Challenge

  • Lake View High School
  • Corliss High School

Motorola Solutions

  • Chicago Vocational Career Academy

State Farm Challenge

  • Normal West High School
  • Bloomington High School
  • Normal Community High School

Horizon Pharma Challenge

  • Highland Park High School

ADM Challenge

  • MacArthur High School
  • Eisenhower High School

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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.