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Out-of-School Program Expanding to New Sites

FUSE project presents challenges in science, technology, engineering, arts, math

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February 8, 2013 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- FUSE – an out-of-school program developed by Northwestern University researchers to ignite middle and high school students’ interest in science, technology engineering, arts-design and math (STEAM) -- launches this month in four new locations.

The program presents teens with fun, hands-on challenges in mobile apps, fashion, robotics, ringtones and other areas they are likely to find appealing. A sophisticated project website as well as facilitators, who have been trained by Northwestern researchers, are available to lend a hand if and when the students seek help with a challenge.

The interest-driven program is expanding to downtown Chicago’s Harold Washington Library, the Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy (a South Side Chicago public school), a branch library in Chicago’s Humboldt Park and Wildkit Academy (a Saturday school at Evanston Township High School). The program already operates on Saturdays at Evanston Public Library and during after school hours at Evanston Township and Wheeling high schools.

“FUSE makes use of insights we’ve gained from video games,” says Kemi Jona, director of Northwestern’s Office of STEM Partnerships (OSEP) that collaborates with schools and institutions. “Video games ask kids to ‘level up’ to challenges that increase in difficulty. FUSE challenges teens to tackle increasingly complex tasks.”

As they advance through a challenge, the teens go deeper into the subject at the challenge’s center. Or, in the words of the teens themselves, they “geek out.”

“Formal schooling doesn’t always contribute to the aptitudes that professional science, engineering and art-design require,” says Reed Stevens, co-creator of FUSE and professor of learning sciences at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy.

“In school, failing is bad, and can make students more conservative and afraid to take risks,” Stevens explains. “With FUSE, failing is a necessary step toward success. It’s an incentive for trying out new ways to solve problems and coming up with answers. Those are highly valued skill in STEAM professions.” 

The teens targeted by FUSE are those who profess to have little to no interest in STEM-related subjects. But the program’s hands-on, interest-driven approach appears to offer them a sense of intellectual and creative engagement. 

For more about FUSE, its expansion to new locations or about other Northwestern’s Office of STEM Partnerships programs, visit http://osep.northwestern.edu/, email info@fusestudio.net or call (847) 467-2195.

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