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STEMFest makes science cool

Published: Monday, Oct. 22, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Curtis Clegg –
Milani Olson, 8, of Belvidere uses an otoscope to examine the inner ear on a mannequin head at Northern Illinois University’s clinical science program table Saturday during the third annual STEMFest to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics education at the Convocation Center at NIU in DeKalb.

DeKALB – Jeremy Benson, the outreach and engagement associate for Northern Illinois University’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics outreach program, readily admits that he always has been a geek.

“I was the one getting picked on in school because I was always reading a book,” Benson recalled.

On Saturday, Benson was part of a team that hosted NIU’s third annual STEMFest at the Convocation Center in a largely hands-on effort to raise awareness about the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education and careers and to make those subjects fun, engaging and cool.

“What I have noticed in popular culture is that science is getting more popular in shows like ‘Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Mythbusters,’ ” Benson said.

“You can be a geek and be cool too,” he added.

Throughout the day, he provided demonstrations on the STEMFest stage about the fun and useful properties of liquid nitrogen.

This year’s STEMFest attracted 5,200 people to the Convocation Center to see interactive displays put on by more than 400 NIU student and faculty volunteers from 40 departments and five colleges at the university. More than a dozen regional exhibitors such as Argonne National Laboratory, Kishwaukee Community Hospital and the DeKalb County Farm Bureau also had displays.

The event attracted 3,000 people in its first year, and last year’s event attracted 4,000 people.

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