Wheeling High School's nanotechnology program is getting a big boost as the school prepares to participate in a statewide research and development pilot program.
The Research and Development for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math -- commonly known as STEM -- Learning Exchange will launch in the fall with 14 schools around the state.
The free pilot program is headed by the Illinois Science and Technology Institute, a nonprofit established by the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition. The coalition has dozens of members, including big names companies such as Google and Fermilab, as well as schools and organizations, such as Northwestern University, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Chicagoland Zoological Society.
In the program, students decide on their interests and teachers help match them up with vetted mentors in related fields. Students will also work on "global industry challenges," which could range topically from bio-technology, defense or energy, said Erin Lane, director of STEM Initiatives with the institute and coalition.
And those challenges won't be anything like those elementary "egg-drop" science projects. Lane said such generic curriculum is far too simple for the type of STEM readiness required for the future generation and lacks a "real-life" component required to teach such complicated concepts.
For example, students in the pilot may study acoustics through both music and physics or re-size dialysis machines for children.
"It's creative. It's interdisciplinary. It's tangible – those are the kinds of classes that we would like to support more students having access to," Lane said.
At Wheeling High, 900 S. Elmhurst Road, Associate Principal Erin DeLuga said the pilot will be used to highlight the school's new Introduction to Nanotechnology course.
The school is building state-of-the-art nanotechnology lab stations to study nanoparticles, which are measured in billionths of a meter. At that size, scientists have been able to manipulate properties in a new way and that's being used to create innovations in everything from medical devices to makeup.
This new nanotechnology class' curriculum will fold in the pilot's program studies for the 40 students enrolled as part of their school day. Other students will have a chance to participate in the pilot in an extracurricular activity model, which would be outside of class time.
Palatine High School, Hinsdale Central High School, Niles North High School, Oak Park and River Forest High School and Waukegan High School are also a part of the statewide program.