Networking is the key to the success of the Homewood Science Center. Executive Director Edie Dobrez is enthusiastic about the connections the center has enabled groups, individuals and businesses to make — all in the name of sharing with others the excitement of the South Suburban Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) Network.
Networking is the key to the success of the Homewood Science Center.
Executive Director Edie Dobrez is enthusiastic about the connections the center has enabled groups, individuals and businesses to make — all in the name of sharing with others the excitement of the South Suburban Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) Network.
Dobrez, with staff members Holly Kelsven and Kate Purvis, was joined by about 70 past and current center program participants at a first anniversary party on Aug. 29 for the STEAM network.
Since the center opened about 16 months ago, Dobrez said people from zip codes in northwest Indiana to near the Wisconsin border have come to the center.
Dobrez, who has been on the job about 18 months, working with a board of directors, said the support of the community has helped her draw on the many assets that residents and businesses of Homewood and its surroundings have to share.
The science center is working in collaboration with the school districts, the libraries and the park district in Homewood and Flossmoor, and has reached out to the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois Extension Service, the museums in Chicago and businesses throughout the six-county metro area for help in developing programs and finding experts.
Melanie Mathews, a second grade teacher at Chicago City Day School, said, “Everybody I see I tell them to come and take this (math concepts) class (for teachers). It’s incredible.” Mathews took the class presented by the U of I Extension last summer.
Dobrez said that is one example of networking. She ticked off a list of others that included the first Girls STEAM Ahead luncheon in February; a summer internship for high school students interested in engineering organized by Schneider Electric; a connection developed between the Homewood-Flossmoor High School science department and a U of C professor that had his students come to H-F for two days during the last school year to teach honors biology students a lesson on nematodes.
“We plan to support everything the other institutions are doing, to set up an ecosystem for STEAM,” Dobrez said.
She said the success the past 16 months of the Pop-Up Science programs has been overwhelming. Estimates are more than 7,000 people of all ages came for the mini science classes.
“Initially, I got interested in the science center through the Pop-Up Science programs when I brought my children,” said Robin Latman of Homewood. Those visits gave her a great foundation on the work the center is doing and Latman has begun incorporating center activities into her work as director of special education in Flossmoor District 161.
Michael Pannone of Chicago Heights is interested in helping develop programs in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, his line of work. He learned about the science center when his son, Stefano, was selected for the summer engineering internship.
The science center “is a wonderful opportunity for the South Suburbs to have a place that’s going to concentrate on these STEAM subjects,” Pannone said.
“We’re just getting started,” Dobrez told the audience. The past successes “really show the need for this type of programming.”