Our group recently visited Booker T. Washington STEM Academy in Champaign, Illinois to teach underrepresented fourth and fifth grade boys about protein structure and function. It was a wonderful experience to develop activities that kept school children engaged and teach them something important about the fundamental biological aspects of the research conducted in our group. In this three day activity, we covered the life cycle of a protein, starting from the basic structure of amino acids, how amino acids form peptide, how peptides fold to form proteins and then how proteins acquire shape, perform function and are eventually degraded.

ChBE department at Illinois is home to the St. Elmo Brady STEM Academy, founded by Ricky P. Greer and Dr. Jerrod A. Henderson. The Academy is named after St. Elmo Brady, the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This program was developed to expose underrepresented fourth and fifth grade boys to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (after school and on Saturdays) using an innovative approach. First, participants are engaged in hands-on STEM experiments and encouraged to learn through inquiry. Next, participants learn about STEM pioneers and inventors through weekly videos and exploration activities. They also interact with underrepresented University of Illinois graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and staff to complete experiments. Lastly, fathers, male relatives, or mentors attend a session and conduct experiments alongside participants.

We are exposing participants to positive STEM experiences and creating a community of young scientists who may one day consider STEM careers.

An exciting event with a lot of fun, science and games!