Future engineers showcase summer projects

6th and 7th grade students showcased skills learned from the ChiS&E Summer Enrichment Program at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC).


6th and 7th graders showcasing their engineering products at the 2016 ChiS&E Summer Math & Science Enrichment Program closing ceremony. Image courtesy: Joy Chang, CFE MediaA group of 6th and 7th grade students from the South and West sides of Chicago demonstrated their algebra skills and engineering projects in a room of 150 parents, teachers, and friends. These students spent their summer vacation in the Chicago Pre-College Science & Engineering Program (ChiS&E) Summer Math & Science Enrichment Program. The curriculum focused on algebra, computer science, and engineering design. Students received hands-on computer programming training and learned about advanced algebraic concepts during this 4-week program.

The summer program is designed to prepare 6th and 7th graders for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers. Kenneth Hill launched the program in 2008, and the mission of CHIS&E is to provide hands-on education and experience to increase the number of students from historically underrepresented communities to be motivated and academically competitive to pursue careers in STEM.

With growing support and donations from the industry and community, ChiS&E is planning on expanding its program further into higher grades and developing a sustainable learning path for students. ChiS&E provides free programs for Little Civil Engineers (kindergarten), Little Chemical Engineers (1st grade), Little Electrical Engineers (2nd grade), Little Mechanical Engineers (3rd grade), and Little Structural Engineers (4th grade). After 3rd grade, students participate in this Summer Math & Science Enrichment Program at the University of Chicago. The most recent evaluation determined that after 3.5 years there has been a 90% retention rate among students. 

ChiS&E students playing songs they coded on Raspberry Pi computer. Image courtesy: Joy Chang, CFE Media

Endorsement from UIC chancellor

CFE Media interviewed Michael Amiridis, the Chancellor of the University of Illinois-Chicago, on Aug. 5 about the importance of early education and the chancellor's view on the future of STEM education.

Amiridis praised the ChiS&E program for its focus on the fundamentals and on creating a path where students can keep learning K-12 and for the opportunity where parents can learn alongside the students.

"This program focuses on the right elements. First of all it really stressed the fundamentals. In order to be successful in the STEM field, you need the foundation. The second element for success is persistence. The program indeed follows students over a number of years. It's not like parachuting in and hoping to resolve the problem. This program stays with the students for a period of time. The third element that's important is the involvement of the parents. It's important for the parents to buy into the ideas and support the students," Amiridis said.

Students learned advance algebra concepts during the ChiS&E Summer Math & Science Enrichment Program. Image courtesy: Joy Chang, CFE Media

Amiridis believes working with ChiS&E to support early STEM education is beneficial for both sides. "A lot of the times, people talk about win-win situations. In reality, there are not that many win-win situations. But this [is] really one that we can both win from working together," he said.

Joy Chang, digital project manager, CFE Media, jchang@cfemedia.com. 

ONLINE extra

Learn more about Chancellor Amiridis' views on STEM education and the CHIS&E program in an article linked below.

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