Thursday, November 27, 2014

Best STEM Gifts for Kids 2014

Look for me, Kim Moldofsky, founder of STEM Kids Chicago and The Maker Mom blog on Chicago's WGN Morning News this Friday, November 28 at around 8:40 AM Central Time as I share my top picks for this year's top STEM and tech toys for tweens and teens. No worries if you miss the actual segment. I'll post a recap on The Maker Mom and... (cue the Oprah Winfrey-style excitement), I'm giving one of each item away on The Maker Mom blog!

This is my third annual appearance on the sharing my top finds for the holidays. Because I keep my eye out for new products to showcase, it can take a year or two for some of the items to catch on in the mainstream. So while you're waiting for the 2014 list, be sure to check out The Maker Mom's top tech finds of 2013:

See the full list here.

My 2012 list included items like:

See the full list here.

Remember to pop over to The Maker Mom for more information.

There's more excitement ahead here, too. Look for a redesign and regularly scheduled content in 2015!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Scratch Day Chicago

Join in for a Scratch Day Chicago celebration this weekend, May 17 at West Ridge School on Chicago's North Side. It's ideal for tweens who want to learn to code as well as teens that are already proficient Scratchers. Parents are welcome, too.

Read more on The Maker Mom blog.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Northwestern's Center for Talent Development Conference for Gifted Kids and Families

Northwestern University's Center for Talent Development (CTD) is gearing up for their annual conference for gifted kids and their parents, Opportunities for the Future. The conference takes place on Saturday, June 28 at their Evanston campus includes tracks a for parents as well as for kids in different age tracks. Gifted Kids and Families.

Parents are welcome to attend (with out without children in tow) even if their child has not enrolled in CTD classes or testing opportunities.

Check out the session descriptions and see if it's a fit for you. Conference fees are $95 for one person,
$125 for two people, $135 for three or more people. There is a reduced price of $50 for families with proven financial need (families eligible for or that receive free or reduced lunch qualify for a reduced $50 conference fee).

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

MATE ROV Competition in Chicago April 26, 2014

MATE ROV Chicago regional competition
The Marine Advanced Technology Education Remote Operated Vehicle (MATE ROV, for short) Midwest competition will take place this weekend, April 26. It's one of 22 regional competitions taking place around the world. Students from upper elementary through college level, as well as community organizations compete in MATE ROV.

This year's challenge focuses on exploring shipwrecks, sinkholes and conservation in the Great Lakes with a focus on Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, an area nicknamed "Shipwreck Alley," where more than 50 wrecks have been discovered.

Join me on the 26th! I'll be sharing pics and notes from the competition via social media. The competition takes place from  8 - 3 at the University of Illinois at Chicago in their pool.

The national competition will take place June 26-28 at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Alpena, Michigan.

From their site:
The MATE competition requires students to think of themselves as entrepreneurs and transform their teams into companies that manufacture, market, and "sell" their ROV or the services their business provides. In addition to engineering their ROVs, the students are required to prepare technical reports, poster displays, and engineering presentations that are delivered to working professionals who serve as competition judges. 
The MATE ROV competition is about student learning. It is designed to be an event that challenges students to apply the physics, math, electronics, and engineering skills they are learning in the classroom to solving problems from the marine workplace. Mentors (teachers, parents, working professionals) are expected to limit their input to educational and inspirational roles and encouraged to focus on the benefits of the learning process and not simply on “winning” the competition

Get a mom's-eye view of MATE ROV as well as two other popular robotics competitions in the video below. (It's well-suited for listening to; there's not a whole lot to watch.)

Monday, April 21, 2014

USA Science and Engineering Festival - Chicagoland

Did you know that this Saturday, April 26, there will be a HUGE Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC? Oakton Community College is hosting a smaller Chicagoland version of the festival at their Des Plaines Campus. It promises to be family-friendly but, I'm not seeing a whole lot of family-friendly content on the flyer.  with an expo area that will delight and educate kids. They also have a series of lectures for adults who want to be in the know.

The local Festival runs from 10 - 2:30.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tech Savvy for Girls Coming to Chicago on May 10

Tech Savvy programs for girls from AAUW, the American Association for University Women
Th AAUW, American Association of University Women, offered a program for girls called Tech Savvy and it's coming to Chicago on May 10. Tech Savvy is a daylong science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career conference designed to attract girls in sixth through ninth grade to these fields. The programs also have a parent component that keeps families in the know when it comes to STEM education and careers.

The Chicago program will take place on May 10, 2014 from 8:30 - 3:30 at IIT's Rice Campus in Wheaton. There is a five dollar per person fee.
Registrations are due by May 7, 2014.
Click here to register.

From the AAUW site:

The day begins with hands-on workshops in various math and science fields. Past workshops include “Math: Exploring Complex Worlds with Simple Rules,” which combined computers with the world of mathematics. “Robotics” explored mechatronics and virtual reality, and “Re-using Your Environment,” taught girls how to help the planet through recycling.

The second portion of the day focuses on “savvy skills.” These are skills girls can use in their daily lives, such as critical thinking, sharing opinions, public speaking, and knowledge about financial literacy, negotiation, and interviewing.

The parents’ program features speakers on STEM education and careers, encouraging parents to ask questions about these fields.

During the final portion of the day, parents and girls reconvene to hear from a keynote speaker relevant to the theme of the conference. In the past, Tech Savvy has showcased speakers from IBM and other high-profile corporations. Speakers have also come from nonprofit trailblazers such as Echoing Green, an organization that provides seed money to kickstart nonprofits like Teach for America and City Year.

Monday, March 24, 2014

2014 Chicago Northside Mini-Maker Faire

Chicago Mini Maker Faire 2014 From STEM Kids ChicagoSave the date! The Chicago Northside Mini-Maker Faire is coming on May 3, 2014! It will be held once again at Schurz High School at 3601 N. Milwaukee Avenue from 10 - 4.

Admission is free, but they do ask for a donation of $10 per adult and $5 per child. The event gets more popular each year, so reserve your tickets here.

Are you a Maker? You can show off your hacks and talents for free! The Faire is looking for performers, workshop presenters and people to show and tell. Apply by April 7.

Maker Vendors are also welcome and can see the link above for more information about renting a booth.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Robocode Chicago 2014 on March 15

Robocode Chicago tournament for 5-12th graders
Late last year I wrote about Code Phreaks, the latest iteration of a youth computer programming clubhouse. The group currently meets at the Northtown Branch of the Chicago Public Library on Saturdays from 10 - Noon. After hosting a successful retro gaming tournament over winter break, the group is now hosting their second competition, Robocode Chicago 2014.

In Robocode, kids use the Java programming language to program a virtual robot that will compete against other robots based on the code that is written for it.

Kids can attend the weekly meetings (ideally with their own laptop as resources are limited) to learn the basics of Robocode. Club Founder Brian Myers is holding Robocode workshops and mini-competitions in the weeks leading up to the Big Day on March 15.

Robocode Chicago 2014 is open to students in grades 5 - 12. It will take place on March 15 from 10:00 - 2:00 at the Northtown Branch of the Chicago Public Library, 6435 N. California (near Devon and California).

Not only is it free to enter the competition, but there will be pizza, snacks and prizes!

Check the Code Phreaks site for Robocode tutorials.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Rep. Tammy Duckworth Meeting on the House App Challenge, 2/22

More STEM fun this weekend! High school students that reside within Representative Tammy Duckworth's congressional district and want to take part in the House App Contest (click for details) can attend an informational meeting this Saturday, 2/22 at the Arlington Heights Library from 2-4 PM.

The event is aimed at high school students, but parents and teachers are welcome to attend. To register, email

Chicago Public Library to Expand YOUmedia Programs

Thanks for a $2 million dollar grant from the MacArthur Foundation and another $500,000 from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's budget, the Chicago Public Library's popular program that connects teens with technology, YOUmedia," will be expanding. The program will spread to six more sites in addition to a dozen more temporary pop-up programs.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Engineer's Week Activities in DuPage County

DuPage Area Engineer's Week fun in Chicago
image via DuPage Area Engineer's Week
It's Engineer's Week and once again IIT's Rice Campus in Wheaton is the place to celebrate! Their 30th annual expo is full of STEM fun for families with kids in grades K- 8. From hands-on exhibits to opportunities to talk with real engineers about their work to robots and a cryogenics show by Mr. Freeze, this event will have something for everyone.

The event runs from 10:30 - 3:30 and while I don't see information on meals, I know from experience there's a good sushi restaurant nearby. It's also close to a dine-in movie theater if you want to make the day even more memorable for the kids.

For full details, see the DuPage Area Engineers Week site.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chicago's Shedd Aquarium: Just for Teens

Chicago's Shedd Aquarium recently opened a cool new center for teens, the Teen Learning LabThe Teen Learning Lab was created with and for teens to help them explore science, animals and the natural world. It provides a free space for teens to attend programs, collaborate on projects, get professional input on career and science projects. Staff also helps teens get involved with social media and the arts.

And when they say free, they mean free. Teens just show their high school pass and they can pass right into the Shedd's Teen Learning Lab.

How much cooler can it get? Quite a bit. Here's what their website says:
Teens can connect with Shedd Aquarium mentors; produce videos, audio, podcasts and photos; participate in social media activities; conduct scientific research; explore aquatic careers; develop and research animals, science and the natural world; lead or participate in stewardship activities; receive assistance with science fair or research projects; participate in workshops, experiences or projects to build your own academic or personal portfolio; debate environmental issues; hang out, study, read or connect with other teens.
Here, you can use our...Apple MacBook Pros and Mac Pros, podcasting equipment, iPads, scanners, iPod docking stations, printers, Smart Board and Adobe Software Suite (including Photoshop, Illustrator and iMovie). Teens will have web access and free wifi.
In February 2014 the Lab is kicking off a career series aimed at helping teens understand career paths related to STEM, conservation and marine biology, "How Do I Become A?” 

Hmmm. With all that tech gear, maybe they're looking for someone to speak about a career in social media. I know just the gal--me!