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Kaneland Connection: NIU STEM Cafe headed to Kuipers

MAPLE PARK – Perhaps a night exploring science, technology, engineering and mathematics might sound a little intimidating. Instead, a night of stargazing while dining at Kuipers Family Farm would feel like a fun night out.

The Northern Illinois University STEM Cafe will feature such an opportunity from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday at the orchard at Kuipers, 1N318 Watson Road in Maple Park. It is a free event, but visitors are invited to dine for a fee. Kuipers will provide a special menu, and soft drinks, beer and wine will be available for purchase.

STEM Cafe events provide a way for those at NIU to take their message on the road and provide an educational program in a more relaxed environment. For example, STEM Cafe will have a Physics of Football event at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 17 at O’Leary’s Restaurant in DeKalb. A past event was on the topic of the Science of Beer.

Pati Sievert, the director of NIU STEM Outreach, said such events help visitors “get to know some of the researchers on campus and to understand how science, technology, engineering and math impact our lives.”

Judith Dymond, the coordinator for the NIU Center for Economic Education, said organizers are excited about Tuesday’s event. The main draw is the annual Perseid meteor shower. There will be three speakers from NIU – Daniel Strange, David Hedin and Sheldon Turner – to discuss subjects from NASA’s latest missions to the meteor shower. A question-and-answer session will follow.

Strange is the new manager of the NIU Davis Hall Observatory. He will speak on the history of unmanned spacecraft missions to comets, according to a news release.

Hedin is a board of trustees professor. He will discuss recent discoveries of exoplanets and talk about the possibility of habitable Earth-like planets in the universe, according to the release.

Turner is with NIU’s Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy. He plans to discuss why the International Astronomical Union changed the definition of a planet to exclude Pluto and created the new category of dwarf planet, the release states.

Dymond said it’s special to have the event at a place such as Kuipers, which will allow enough darkness to fully enjoy the night sky.

“We’re really excited about being there,” Dymond said. “The space is so nice.”

Sievert described the setting as picturesque. She said the event starts before dark, with presentations inside. There will be solar lights set up before the event, and after the presentations, participants will walk to a path, featuring the solar lights, that will lead to telescopes that will be set up.

The events take place regardless of the weather, but Sievert said a clear sky will make for a more enjoyable viewing experience.

“As long as the weather cooperates, there will be stargazing,” she said.

• Al Lagattolla is the news editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at alagattolla@shawmedia.com.

If You Go

An NIU STEM Cafe event is set from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday at Kuipers Family Farm, 1N318 Watson Road in Maple Park. It is a free event, but visitors are invited to dine for a fee. For information, visit www.niu.edu/stem/STEM_Cafes.

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