FAQs- Please click on a question to reveal the answer.
What does STEM stand for?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Throughout the year, NIU STEM Outreach provides STEM programs and activities to youth, families, and educators across northern Illinois. Visit STEM Outreach for information on our programs.
What is STEMfest?
STEMfest is Northern Illinois University’s largest STEM outreach event, designed to bring young people and their parents to Northern Illinois University to explore the STEM fields and consider future careers. We hope to introduce parents and teachers to our outreach opportunities and establish ongoing relationships with those interested in encouraging young people to pursue STEM careers. Explore the STEMfest website for more information on what to expect and how you can get involved.
Is there a fee?
No. STEMfest is free and open to the public. We believe in making STEMfest as accessible as possible for anyone who wants to attend. If you want to make a donation to support STEMfest and our year-round educational initiatives, there will be an opportunity to donate near the entrance.
Do we have to register ahead of time?
No advance registration is necessary for individuals or families. If you want to bring a school group or busload of students, please contact Pati Sievert at firstname.lastname@example.org or 815-753-1201 to make arrangements.
How do I get to STEMfest?
STEMfest is held in NIU’s Convocation Center on the far west edge of the Northern Illinois University campus. The entrance is on Illinois Route 38, Lincoln Highway. Click here for directions and a map.
Is STEMfest just for school children?
Although STEMfest grew out of our Haunted Physics Labs and Spooky Science events, which were for younger children, STEMfest has become an event for people of all ages. Not everyone will want to do every activity, but with a few hundred things to choose from, there will be something interesting for everyone. This year, we have made a concerted effort to add investigations for high school students.
Is STEMfest ADA compliant?
The Convocation Center rooms used for STEMfest are accessible by elevator as well as stairs. To request disability-related accommodations for this event, please contact Judith Dymond at email@example.com or (815) 753-8213. Advance notice is appreciated
Are there presentations as well as hands-on activities?
Yes, presentations are scheduled throughout the day starting at 10:15 in the Bowl of the Convocation Center. When the schedule is finalized it will appear online. It will also be posted at the STEMfest entrance and on the program.
How much is parking?
Parking this year is different: in order to park for free, you will need to print out a parking pass. You can download your parking pass here.
Do we have to stay the whole time?
STEMfest is an expo, an open-house style event. You can come at any time, but be sure to allow plenty of time to explore. Most families spend at least three hours investigating the activities.
Is there anything new this year?
Every year, we add new displays and exhibitors. We're hard at work adding new investigations and demonstrations. Check back to the Current Participants page to see what we've got lined up.
Can we drop our kids off for the afternoon?
No. STEMfest is a family event. Last year there were more than 4000 people participating; not an ideal place to leave a child alone. School groups are encouraged to bring as many parents along as possible, not just as chaperones, but because parents are important influences on their children’s career aspirations.
Can we bring a bus load of students?
We would love have your school group or bus load of students attend STEMfest. Please fill out this free registration form so that we can contact you to make arrangements and help you plan for a great day! Register your bus group.
Can we bring a snack?
No outside food or drink is allowed in the Convocation Center. The concession stand will be open from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
What can we expect to do?
Please check out last year’s photo album and the Participants and Activities pages for hints. There are many hands-on activities, research groups displaying their findings, student groups with prize winning vehicles they have constructed, two darkened rooms of interactive “Haunted Physics” displays, representatives from Admissions, and numerous outside groups such as Burpee Museum of Natural History and Cave of the Mounds. Don’t forget to check out the Competitions page to see what you can do ahead of STEMfest to win fabulous prizes.
Are there any competitions to do the day of the event?
Yes. Individual exhibitors may have games and competitions at their booths. All official STEMfest competitions persented by NIU STEM Outreach will take place prior to October 18. Winners of STEMfest competitions will be announced at STEMfest.
I see a patch for the Girl Scouts. Is there one for Cub/Boy Scouts or 4-H members?
The “Passport to my Future” patch is funded by the National Girls Collaborative Project. We also have a STEMfest patch that can be earned by any young person who completes the activities. For 2013, participants do not have to register in advanced for patch activities. Scouts and others who wish to participate can sign up just inside the entrance. Representatives from both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts will be at STEMfest with information on their STEM initiatives and information on which exhibitors might help with merit badge requirements.
How do you pay for STEMfest?
STEMfest is sponsored by NIU STEM Outreach. Additional support is provided by Kishwaukee Community Hospital, Abbott Labs, and the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. Donations by participants are an important component of our fund-raising. Please consider supporting our outreach efforts with a donation at STEMfest or by contacting us to support our programs.
How do we find out about future programs?
Sign up for our e-newsletter on the home page of www.stemfest.niu.edu. The e-newsletter is sent one to four times per month to share our programs and other exciting STEM opportunities.
How many chaperones do we need to bring with our school group?
We encourage you to make STEMfest a family event for the students you are bringing by including as many parents as you can. STEMfest is a large event with thousands of participants. Please bring an adult for every 6 middle school and every 10 high school students.
How can I bring STEM Outreach to our school?
Visit the NIU STEM Outreach website for information on our school programs. Fees for the demonstration programs are very reasonable and listed on the site. We can also bring the Haunted Physics Lab (a.k.a. Physics Phun Lab), LaserFest, or other hands-on programs to your school. Fees for these programs are determined based on our costs and vary depending on the scale of the program.
How long have you been doing this?
Our first STEMfest was in October 2010 as a satellite event for the first USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington D.C. STEMfest grew out of NIU’s Haunted Physics Labs which began in 2003.
Can teachers get CPDUs for working at STEMfest?
Yes. Please visit the Teacher Volunteer page to learn more and sign up. Teacher volunteers will receive a free T-shirt. If you register by October 6, you may choose your T-shirt size.
How can I get a STEMfest T-shirt?
This year we will have both adult and children's STEMfest t-shirts available at STEMfest! Student and teacher volunteers each receive a STEMfest t-shirt.
Can we find any career information at STEMfest?
Yes. Many of the STEM departments will be represented by faculty who can address career aspirations.
Are food and drinks available at STEMfest?
The Convocation Center Concession Stand will be open. Please do not bring outside food or drink; it is against Convocation Center rules.
How can our robotics team participate?
We are fortunate that so many regional robotics teams are eager to share their excitement. Please email Pati at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
Our high school club did a really cool STEM project. Can we display it at STEMfest?
Most likely, yes! Please email Pati at email@example.com to get involved.
Can high school students volunteer?
We encourage high school students to participate by exploring STEMfest. If they would like to volunteer in addition to exploring, please have them email Jeremy Benson at JJBenson@niu.edu.
Do you have fliers I can pass out to my students?
You can download our poster and brochure from the STEMfest homepage. To save trees, you can also use your e-newsletters and electronic communications to share information about STEMfest.
How can our organization/corporation get involved?
If your organization or corporation would like to exhibit at STEMfest, please visit the Exhibits page. We encourage exhibitors to engage participants with interactive displays. If you are interested in helping to sponsor STEMfest or other STEM outreach please contact Pati Sievert at 815-753-1201.