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2020 Workshop Descriptions 

Science | Technology | Engineering | Art | Mathematics

Students | Teachers | Educators | Artists | Makers

Provided below is a list of presenters and workshop descriptions for the 2020 (STEAM)² Conference.

Session I (9:00 a.m. - 10:15 a.m.)

Geometry lessons using the Texas Instrument Rover

Ray Klein, T3 National Instructor, Texas Instrument

Appropriate for: 8th-12th

Areas of Focus: Geometry, Robotics, Trigonometry

A wide variety of Geometry lessons can be enriched with the use of the TI-Rover. Coding the Rover to draw certain geometric figures requires that students know a significant number of Geometry theorems. This hands-on workshop will focus on how to incorporate the use of these theorems into “Rover intensive” activities. In addition to standard topics in the curriculum, other topics that will be covered will include Transformational Geometry and Right Triangle Trigonometry.


Ray Klein is a retired math teacher with over 36 years of classroom experience. He has been a T3 instructor since 1995 and has presented at over 400 conferences and workshops. He was the recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching (Illinois, 1998).

Using Flowcharts to Develop Computational Thinking in Math Students

Anita Debarlaben, Math/Computer Science Teacher, Loyola Academy

Appropriate for: 8th-12th

Areas of Focus: Algebra & Computer Science

A flowchart is a graphical representation of steps. It is widely used in presenting the flow of algorithms in programming. Using a flowchart helps the student understand the logic and steps necessary to solve a math problem. The quadratic formula is used to visualize the algorithm for solving the formula. The objective of this presentation is to expose math students to an important concept needed for designing code and help develop their computational thinking skills. No Computer Skills needed.


Anita Debarlaben earned a BS in Electrical Engineering from Ohio State University and a Masters in Computer Science from IIT. Worked for 20 years as a Software Engineer. Switched to teaching in 2011. Teaches high school Math & Computer Science at Loyola Academy . Married for 31 years and has 3 adult children.

Aquaponics for Educators

Izzy Garcia, Education Associate & Kassie Hinrichsen, Education Manager, Plant Chicago

Appropriate for: 6th-12th

Areas of Focus: Biology, Life Science, Environmental Science, Chemistry, Engineering & Design

Join Izzy Garcia and Kassie Hinrichsen for an interactive workshop on how to introduce your students to aquaponic growing! Learn more about the science behind indoor farming systems and how to engage your students in the growing process! This workshop will cover the basics of caring for fish and plants, what types of materials are needed, and two hands on activities to complete with your students. Plant Chicago offers hands on field trips that include a visit to a working aquaponic farm!


Izzy originally hails from the city of Kankakee, and has spent the last three years working towards her BA at UIC. She is currently concentrating her studies on gender, women, and social justice. Working all over the city, she has collaborated alongside youth developing reproductive justice programming and campaigning, as well as facilitated “Know Your Rights” workshops for impacted communities. She serves as an ESL instructor for adult students in southwest Chicago. She is eager to engage with local communities in imagining, and creating a more environmentally just world.

Kassie has been involved with Plant Chicago since December 2013. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Global Studies and Environmental Science, she continued her education while traveling through South America working on permaculture farms!

Making Math Accessible for All Students

Doug O’Roark, Executive Director, Math Circles of Chicago

Appropriate for: 6th-12th

Areas of Focus: Algebra, Geometry, Problem Solving.

Experience hands on, activity based math enrichment that demonstrates how all children can access cognitively demanding, novel mathematics that builds transferable problem solving skills. In four years Math Circles of Chicago has grown from a program serving 150 children to more than 750 today. Our mission is to create opportunities for all children across Chicago to build a passion for math--learn about our program, how we share our resources, and try out some of our activities yourself!


Doug O’ Roark has served 17 years as a CPS High School Teacher, 6 as a director of the Urban Teacher Education Program at UChicago, and 4 as ED of MC2. He was a Radio Shack National Teacher of the Year, ICTM Rine Award winner, and Payton HS and the City of Chicago Math League have named many awards in his honor.

Teen STEM Cafés Exciting Teens about STEM

Judith Dymond, Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, NIU

Appropriate for: 6th-12th

Areas of Focus: STEAM focused

Teen STEM cafés develop leaders and excite teens about STEM careers. Find out how you can develop a free, fun program where teens can socialize while exploring STEM fields through activities and interaction with STEM experts. The program develops teen leaders who organize and manage all aspects of the events. Teens learn to vet the speakers, develop related activities, and ensure that the speaker shares the path to related careers.


Judith Dymond, Ed.D., Outreach & Engagement Associate for Northern Illinois University (NIU STEAM), specializes in connecting K-12 schools to the university through leading the STEM Café program, which connects adults and teens to STEM experts. She has 10 years experience as school administrator.

Building Your Curriculum

Samantha Gleisten, Director of Learner Experience, & Kevin Smith, Creative Director, Bit Space

Appropriate for: 6th – 9th

Areas of Focus: Art, Geometry, Computer Science, Engineering, English Language Arts, Environmental Science

We know that students learn best through constructivist activities that empower, learning does not occur in silos, and making connections matters, yet often our curriculum doesn’t reflect this. We will build off of lessons you teach to incorporate making, technology and projects into your curriculum. This workshop will include hands-on activities that teachers can immediately implement in their classrooms, from design thinking activities to woodshop, electronics, and 3D printing connections


Samantha Gleisten is the Director of Learner Experience at Bit Space, where she shares professional development in making and constructivist teaching with educators across the country. Sam was a teacher for 15 years and was awarded an Unsung Heroes Award for implementing problem solving curricula.


Kevin Smith, a licensed architect, joined Bit Space in 2015. As the Creative Director, Kevin oversees Bit Space’s team of guides and leads our makerspace design and build services. Prior to his role at Bit Space, Kevin led design charrettes for underserved neighborhoods and minority business owners.

Optimizing Updating Beliefs via Systems of the Brain

Matthew Graham, Associate Professor of Mathematics, NEIU

Appropriate for: 6th -12th, Administrators

Areas of Focus: All Content Areas

At the core of learning anything is the ability to update ones belief, which means that educators need to understand: how the human mind updates beliefs; what systems are in the brain; what are the obstructions to updating ones belief; and how this knowledge should inform mathematical, scientific, and educational pedagogy. Wanting to optimize this process will not only put educators on the path of Culturally Responsive Pedagogy but will give them skills to continue to tread that path well.


Dr. Matthew Graham: is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at NEIU; trains future STEM educators through the MSTQE program and the Noyce Grant at NEIU; enjoys woodworking (building tables, Murphy beds, etc.), cutting old wine bottles to reuse for candle making and various other hobbies.

Session II (10:45 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.)

Arduino: An introduction to programming

Aaron Cortes, Director of STEM initiatives

Appropriate for: 6th -12th

Areas of Focus: Engineering, Computer Programming, ALL Content 

Are you interested to incorporate computer science in your classroom but do not know where to start? Join us as we engage in a session where we will take one step at a time to implement an Arduino programming activity. We will use low cost components and technology that will be easy to replicate in any classroom and that can align to a number of content areas. *units for materials opportunity

Aaron Cortes serves as the director of STEM initiatives at the Center for College Access and Success overseeing the TRIO Upward Bound, TRIO Upward Bound Math and Science and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. In this capacity, Mr. Cortes has developed the student STEAM Conference which it's in its 9 years of implementation as well as the international STEAM Conference in its 3 years of implementation. With his work with low income and first generation college-bound and college-enrolled students, Mr. Cortes has served as president of Illinois TRIO for 2 consecutive years and currently serves as the President of the Educational Opportunity Association overseeing 10 states in the midwest and over 500 TRIO programs. He is also a national and international presenter. 

Developing Computational Thinking through the use of Micro controllers

Marcelo Caplan, Associate Professor Science & Math Department, Columbia College

Appropriate for: 6th -12th, Administrators

Areas of Focus: Physics, Engineering, Computer Science, Robotics

While it is well defined what computational thinking is, and that its application in daily life "does not require a computer", the use of microcontrollers, associated with the word "robotics", serve as a great motivator for students to get involved both emotionally and cognitively with the work in the classroom. In this workshop we will begin to discern how we can use computational thinking to solve specific problems, implementing their possible solutions through the microcontroller


In addition to teaching responsibilities Marcelo Caplan has developed programs and activities to promote STEAM in the communities, Also he has collaborate with CCAS to promote STEAM learning in their UB and UBMS programs. He is active internationally in promoting STEAM in several countries in Latin-America.

LEGO Neighborhood Air Quality Model Build

Tiffany Werner, Field Organizer, Environmental Law and Policy Center

Appropriate for: 6th-12th, Administrators

Areas of Focus: Environmental Science, Engineering and Design

Fine particles (PM2.5) pose a great threat to air quality, exacerbates asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and are especially risky to children and the elderly. Since 2017, ELPC has been collecting PM2.5 data with community partners to advocate for cleaner air practices, policies, and enforcement in neighborhoods disproportionately affected by poor air quality. Come learn how air quality effects Chicago communities by building a 3D model of mobile PM2.5 data.


Tiffany Werner is a Field Organizer working on diesel pollution reduction and clean air issues in Chicago. Ms. Werner manages Air Quality Chicago, a community science air monitoring program that enables residents to collect pollution data and advocate for cleaner air policies and enforcement.

Using Excel to engage students and teach Business problems

Charletta Guitierrez, Associate Professor of MIS, NEIU

Appropriate for:9th-12th, Administrators

Areas of Focus: Business, Computer Science, General Math & Science

I would demo how business owners can use excel to set up a small business. For the demo, I will use Excel to show how a business owner of a fruit stand can streamline the sales environment. I will take the sales for each of the customers, identify the purchases, tally the totals, compute the taxes, and provide a total for the day. This example will use advanced features, like Vlookup, naming fields, data validation, dropdown boxes, absolute referencing and using other excel functions.(Bring personal laptop, some will be provided)


Dr. Gutierrez is an Assoc Professor of MIS at NEIU. She earned her Ph.D. from the Univ of North TX in Business Computer Info Systems. Dr. Gutierrez worked in the IT industry for 30 years before earning her Ph.D., while working FT. Her research is on WebSite Accessibility & gender discrimination.

Splashdown! An out-of-this world hands-on engineering challenge

Jeremy Benson, STEAM Educator, NIU STEAM

Appropriate for: 6th-8th, STEM Enthusiast

Areas of Focus: Space Science, Engineering and Design

Developing Escape Rooms and Breakout Boxes

Samuel Watt STEAM educator, NIU

Appropriate for: 6th-12th

Area of Focus: All Content

Go ahead and try to escape this session as we delve into how STEM Outreach creates meaningful science and math challenges hidden within our homemade escape rooms. Join game enthusiast Sam Watt as he pits you and your team's logical and problem solving skills against Dr. Umbledore's Secret Lab. Following the escape room, participants will learn about the key aspects of making an escape room for their class. Time permitting; we'll also begin developing the basics for your own!


Sam Watt is a STEM Educator at Northern Illinois University STEM Outreach and a former high school and middle school science teacher. Sam has a passion for finding ways for students to connect science and math directly to their life and experiences.

Gaming 4 your class?

Edwin Gerena, Educator, Foreman Academy, Thomas Mesikapp, Computer Science GEAR UP Chicago

Appropriate for: 9th-12th, Administrators

Areas of Focus: Computer Science, Game Design, ALL Content areas

Ever thought about integrating something that is fun, relevant and engaging to your students into your existing curriculum? Come to this workshop to look into how video games can be beneficial both socially and educationally. We will be discussing how games can enhance a classroom experience, as well as looking under the hood at how you can create your own classroom gaming experience into your discipline. No gaming experience necessary.


Edwin Gerena (Mr.G) experience varies with twenty-one years in business sector, thirteen years and counting in educational setting. He has worked in multiple areas of Mathematics, English, Chemistry, Computer Science inclusion and direct instruction and mentoring students for online learning. Mr. G is a  life long learner and enjoy’s embracing challenges that take him out of his comfort zone. He runs Makerspace along with a Video Gaming console club for students. Memberships: CSTA Memeber, CS4All , Illinois Digital Educators Alliance.


Thomas Mesikapp works as a database administrator for GearUp. He has experience in many different programming languages, and over the summer has helped run a robotics program for high school students. In his free time he enjoys playing video games.

Deepening Understanding through Multimodal Learning

Max Metz, Manager of School and Teacher Programs & Alex Galassini Learning Specialist, Shedd Aquarium

Appropriate for: 6th – 12th

Areas of Focus: Art, Geometry, Biology, Life Science, Trigonometry, Environmental and Earth Science

Visual Thinking Strategies, Object-Based Learning, and Scientific Sketching are educational tools that ask learners to grapple with what they can see and feel. In this workshop, gain strategies for using discourse, tactile engagement, and targeted observation in your classroom to allow learners of all ages to gain a deeper understanding of the subject material.


Non-traditional educator focused on providing natural and developmental experiences to youth worldwide. Max Metz passion is in Natural History Interpretation and Museum Education, connecting individuals to the natural environment and cultural resources in unique and personal ways.

Arduino and Physics: Using programming to learn electricity

Aaron Cortes, Director of STEM initiatives

Appropriate for: 6th-12th

Areas of Focus: Engineering, Computer Programming, Physics

Engaging students in experimentation is one of the main needs for any Physics classrooms. In this session we will incorporate Arduinos to teach electricity concepts that will also engage students in computer programming. We will have a hands on activity to develop capacities for the instructions of introductory arduino activities as well as learn of resources for a number of activities to continue providing this cross curricular activity. *units for materials opportunity.


Aaron Cortes serves as the director of STEM initiatives at the Center for College Access and Success overseeing the TRIO Upward Bound, TRIO Upward Bound Math and Science and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. In this capacity, Mr. Cortes has developed the student STEAM Conference which it's in its 9 years of implementation as well as the international STEAM Conference in its 3 years of implementation. With his work with low income and first generation college-bound and college-enrolled students, Mr. Cortes has served as president of Illinois TRIO for 2 consecutive years and currently serves as the President of the Educational Opportunity Association overseeing 10 states in the midwest and over 500 TRIO programs. He is also a national and international presenter. 

Exploring Digital Manufacturing Careers of the Future

Michael Garamoni, Manager of Workforce development, MxD

Appropriate for: 6th-12th Administrators

Areas of Focus: ALL Content

MxD's Future Factory provides a first-hand look at the impact of Industry 4.0 in manufacturing - machines connected on the digital thread, AI-driven generative design for 3D printing, AR/VR training experiences, AGV's, and factory cyber-security. In this session, MxD will share resources for preparing the digital manufacturing workforce including research on emerging job roles, curriculum and classroom activities, and opportunities for industry connection, collaboration, and visiting MxD!


At MxD, Michael works to build and promote knowledge and training to prepare students and workers for success in manufacturing jobs of the future. Michael previously held roles in university admissions, career pathways curriculum development, and in continuing professional education.

Educating for Justice: Using Service Learning Projects in STEAM Classrooms

Michael Meadows, Math Department Chair, & Sebastian Szewczyk, Diverse Learning Educator Senn High School

Appropriate for: 6th-10th

Areas of Focus: Geometry, English, Reading, Engineering, Social Science, Trigonometry

Students should learn STEAM education in ways that empower them in their own educational experiences and encourage them to positively influence their communities through STEAM. In this session, participants will experience a service learning project as a student, develop a definition for service learning, learn a template for developing comprehensive service learning projects, and have time to collaborate with presenters and fellow participants in planning their own service learning projects.


Michael Meadows is a fourth-year math teacher at Senn High School and is currently serving his first year as the department chair. Mr. Meadows received his undergraduate degree in Mathematics-Secondary Education from Elmhurst College and is currently seeking a Master's in Literacy Education at NEIU.


Sebastian Szewczyk is a diverse learner teacher at Senn High School. He holds a B.A. in Secondary Education/History and an M.A. in TESOL from Saint Xavier University. He is also completing an M.A. in History from Pace University.

Session III (1:30 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.)

Introducing Artificial Intelligence in Your Classroom

Desmond Martin, Program Coordinator, NextWaveSTEM

Appropriate for: 6th-12th, Administrators

Areas of Focus: Computer Science

Integrating emerging technologies into the classroom will be crucial to building an effective, STEM-literate future. As students use Artificial Intelligence more constantly (both intentionally and unintentionally) it's more important than ever that they're prepared to be producers of this technology as well as consumers and users. In this session, participants will learn about skills that connect to computer science and how to train and use A.I. to enhance learning experiences for their students


Desmond Martin is the Program Coordinator of NextWaveSTEM. He takes part in building STEM curricula that expose students to emerging technologies and enhances teachers abilities to teach STEM. He loves seeing students engage STEM in brand new ways!


Brittany Pines, Project Director, NEIU

Appropriate for: 6th-12th

Areas of Focus: Geometry & Computer Science

Teachers need to understand programming to help their students learn basic computer skills so that they can be an engaging part of the 21st century workforce. In this session, learners will develop some of those skills through the utilization of Scratch, an online computer programming software that uses blocks of code. Learners in this session will explore how to draw geometric shapes programmatically, using loops and variables to streamline their code


Brittany Pines, M.A. is the project director for the U.S. DOE Title III HSI STEM grant that aims to increase the number of students that go into and successfully complete a degree in STEM. She is the former director for the MSTQE program at Northeastern Illinois University and loves math.

Create, Collaborate, Problem-Solve; D.I.Y Underwater Robotics!

Juan Madrigal & Nestor Torres, Educators, Sabin Dual Language Magnet School

Appropriate for:6th-12th

Areas of Focus: Art, biology, Engineering, Geometry, Robotics, Physics, English/Language Arts, Environmental Science

In this hands-on session, for teachers from 4th-grade to high school, teachers will make a D.I.Y Student led underwater Robot project. Teachers will learn how students used off market materials at a cost of about $10 to create an Underwater Robot! After this session, teachers will walk out with a finished product and the knowledge to implement the project at their school.


Juan M. Madrigal obtained a Masters in Mathematics from DePaul University. My interest in Robotics originates from my involvement with Gear Up Robotics Summer Academy, 2012. Since, I have taught seven summer Robotics programs and have implemented a Robotics Club at Sabin Dual Language school.


Nestor Torres has been a CPS educator for over two decades. Over the span of his career, he has worked with different grade levels. Highlights of his career include being a participant in the Power of Two Math program, joining the Robotics program, and continuing his work as a Middle School math.

Please contact Syreeta Brown (sbrown55@neiu.edu | 312.563.7135)

Attendees will work in groups and use the engineering design cycle as they compete to construct a capsule that can protect their astronaut from the hazards of reentry and splashdown. Ideas will also be discussed on how to incorporate this and similar engineering challenges into your own classroom. Participants will compete to design and create a capsule capable of protecting astronauts during reentry and splashdown. Capsules will be constructed using marshmallow astronauts and other common materials.


Jeremy has been working with NIU STEM Outreach as an informal educator for 10 years and serves as lead presenter for their school programming, as well as director for their summer STEM Camps.

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