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Science rules at Clinton Rosette

December 13, 2018

DeKALB – Fifth-graders Ryan Mason, 10, and Lucas Stubblefield, 10, could hardly wait to show off their LittleBits robotic hand buzzer.

Lucas and Ryan were at the inaugural STEAM Family Night at Clinton Rosette Middle School. They rushed up to Jeremy Benson, self-dubbed the “Bill Nye of Northern Illinois University,” to show off their own creation. Benson had just finished a 45-minute science showcase, during which he explored the effects of liquid nitrogen on balloons, put on a light show and played the “Imperial March” from “Star Wars” using electricity generated from a Tesla coil.

“If you press this button, the power from this battery over here travels through [the wire] and activates this buzzer,” Lucas said, gesturing to the mechanism attached to his wrist, which he and Ryan had just built in “about a minute” in one of the eight sensory rooms on the first floor of Clinton Rosette, 650 N. First St., as part of the family night.

A collaborative partnership between NIU and Clinton Rosette, the science, technology, engineering, art and math night allowed students and their families the opportunity to wonder, try their hand at coding and learn about lights, magnets and sound waves, to name a few. Eight rooms were set up with various activities to encourage participants to get their hands dirty, figuratively speaking, and dive into the real-life applications of STEAM studies.

Benson’s presentation was the pinnacle of the evening, and filled the first floor gym with at least 300 people.

In his ninth year as STEM educator and camp director with NIU, Benson, who said he has “the best job,” travels to over 100 schools each year to get kids excited about science.

“When I was young, I was always wondering how things work,” Benson said. “My mom loves telling stories of me taking apart lamps as a child, to see what’s going on inside. I’m fascinated by how things work and sharing that excitement with other people.”

Eight-graders Emma Kraft, 13, and Blessing Coranez, 14, were inspired enough to want to participate in one of NIU’s many STEM summer camps.

“When [Benson] mentioned the light and colors, it reminded me of the lessons I learned in seventh grade, how white light absorbs all the colors of the rainbow,” Coranez said, saying she wanted to attend STEAM night out of “curiosity.”

“My favorite subject is science,” Kraft said, sharing her favorite part of the night was when Benson played Darth Vader’s theme from “Star Wars” and the theme to “Super Mario Bros.” on his Tesla coil.

Clinton Rosette Principal Tim Vincent said STEAM Family Night will be an annual event for years to come, thanks in part to the many volunteers, from teachers in the school and around the district, to high school students and NIU staff volunteering to help serve pizza.

“It’s more than just students, it’s for whole families,” Vincent said. “We hope this spurs interest in kids, being able to code at this age, play with robots, do some hands-on stuff.”