The Parkland College Blog

Regional Science Olympiad Winners Advance to State Tourney

Top teams will compete April 13 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Area high school and middle school teams advance to statewide scientific competition next month after winning the recent Parkland College Regional Science Olympiad tournament.

The following top teams will compete at the April 13 Illinois Science Olympiad state tournament at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:
 
Division B (middle schools)

  • St. Matthew Catholic School (1st place)

  • Franklin STEAM Academy (2nd place)

Division C (high schools)

  • University Laboratory High School (1st place)

  • Mahomet Seymour High School (2nd place)

  • Centennial High School (3rd place)

  • Argenta-Oreana High School (4th place)

During the regional tourney in early March, 26 varsity and junior varsity teams from 17 area schools used their problem-solving skills and knowledge of scientific concepts in 40+ events throughout the day, including hands-on experiments and demonstrations. Students were tested on biology, earth science, chemistry, physics and technology concepts.

Science Olympiad is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of science education, increasing student interest in science and providing recognition for outstanding achievement in science education by both students and teachers. Last year, more than 7,400 secondary schools participated in Science Olympiad tournaments.

Artificial Intelligence Topic of April Kaler Science Lecture

UIUC professor to discuss principles, advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning

The history, principles and advancement of artificial intelligence will shape April's James B. Kaler Science Lecture at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium.

University of Illinois Assistant Professor Dr. Alexander Schwing, from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will present "Artificial Intelligence: Making a Brain out of Data and Compute," on Friday, April 5 at 7 p.m. Admission is $2 at the door with Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium admitted free of charge.

Recent advances in artificial intelligence have tempted experts to label the technology "the new electricity," in reference to transformations equaling those caused by electricity 100 years ago. In his presentation, Schwing will discuss the history of the field, explain pictorially one of the main principles in artificial intelligence and machine learning, demonstrate recent advances of the field and envision future developments.

His talk is intended to be accessible to the general public. No prior knowledge is required.

Schwing's research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign centers on machine learning and computer vision. He is particularly interested in algorithms for prediction with and learning of nonlinear, multivariate and structured distributions, and their application in numerous tasks, such as in 3D scene understanding from a single image. He completed his PhD in computer science in the Computer Vision and Geometry Group at ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

Following Schwing's talk, the planetarium will present the fulldome show, "Two Small Pieces of Glass: The Amazing Telescope" followed by a show based on Pink Floyd’s "The Wall." Tickets for regular planetarium programs range from $5 to $6. Call 217/351-2446 or visit the planetarium website for more information.

Parkland to Host Regional Science Olympiad

Area high school, middle school students to compete in science subjects

Area high school and middle school students will face off in a scientific competition at Parkland College on Saturday, March 9 during the regional Science Olympiad tournament.

The annual event, which will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. throughout the campus, will feature 26 varsity and junior varsity teams from 17 area schools. Contestants will use their problem-solving skills and knowledge of scientific concepts in over 40 events throughout the day, including hands-on experiments and demonstrations. The students, who have been preparing for this event during the school year, will be tested on biology, earth science, chemistry, physics and technology concepts.

Winning teams will receive awards at ceremonies in Miner Theatre and Dodds Athletic Center (gym) following the competition and will advance to the Illinois Science Olympiad state tournament, to be held April 13 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Science Olympiad is an international nonprofit organization devoted to improving the quality of science education, increasing student interest in science and providing recognition for outstanding achievement in science education by both students and teachers. Last year, more than 7,400 secondary schools participated in Science Olympiad tournaments.
 
For more information about the Parkland regional including volunteering opportunities, visit http://www.illinoisolympiad.org/parkland-college.html.

Kaler Science Lecture: "Central Illinois Tornado Outbreak"

Meteorologist Andrew Pritchard discusses the Dec. 1 tornado outbreak

Meteorologist Andrew Pritchard will discuss local tornadic activity during the next James B. Kaler science lecture at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium.

Pritchard's talk, "Chasing Tornadoes and the December 1st Central Illinois Tornado Outbreak," will take place Friday, March 1 at 7 p.m. Admission is $2 at the door with Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium admitted free of charge.
 
A storm chaser himself, Pritchard has dazzled audiences with tornado video footage over the last couple of years. This past December, the state of Illinois saw its largest December tornado outbreak ever, the third largest in state history. Pritchard, who had forecasted the Dec. 1 event well in advance, witnessed six different tornadoes that day, including the photogenic Beardstown tornado.  

His talk will feature firsthand commentary and video of the December tornado outbreak in central Illinois. In addition, he will talk about local tornado climatology and tornado safety. 
 
Pritchard grew up in Champaign-Urbana and was quickly "swept away" by the severe thunderstorms that strike the Midwest each year. After serving as Ed Kieser's weather office assistant at WILL Radio and TV through high school, he received his Associate of Science with a focus in Earth Sciences from Parkland College in 2009 and his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Northern Illinois University in 2012. Currently, he works full time as a meteorologist for Nutrien Ag Solutions at Research Park in Champaign, where he forecasts domestic and international weather patterns and their risk to agriculture. He also operates "Chambana Weather," a weather resource for Champaign-Urbana and surrounding communities, with his forecasts airing daily on several local media outlets.
 
Following Pritchard's talk, the Staerkel Planetarium will present "Secrets of the Sun" followed by Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon." Tickets for regular planetarium programming range from $5 to $6 and are sold at the door. For a full schedule, visit parkland.edu/planetarium or call 217/351-2446.  

PRECS: Research Opportunity for US Community College Students

Parkland, UIUC opportunity offers biology research experience, stipend 

Community college students interested in science are invited to conduct research as part of a paid 10-week biology research program at Parkland College and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Called PRECS, or Phenotypic Plasticity Research Experience for Community College Students, the program is a collaboration between Parkland and the UIUC, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. It is designed to provide community college students with authentic research experiences in phenotypic plasticity, the phenomenon of a single genotype producing multiple phenotypes depending on environment.

Parkland College is currently seeking 10 community college students to participate in PRECS, which will run May 22 to July 31, 2019. Students selected to participate in the summer program will be paired with research mentors at the University of Illinois, working on such projects as:

  • the interaction between genotype and ozone pollution on maize growth

  • the effect of environmental stress on neuroanatomy

  • the interactions of genes and environment on fish behavior

Students will earn a $5,500 stipend for their participation in PRECS. Housing and food allowances, as well as travel allowances (if needed) are also available.

Parkland College chemistry professor Dr. C. Britt Carlson and Dr. Nathan Schroeder of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign created PRECS. The program is entering its third year, with 20 students from five states having benefited from the opportunity.

"Participating in a program like PRECS is a great way for students to gain experience, create new contacts, explore future careers, and build their resumes," Carlson said.

Students interested in participating in PRECS must be attending a community college, be a US citizen or permanent resident, and have completed General Biology I (General Chemistry I is also preferred). PRECS encourages applications from students from underrepresented groups.

"PRECS gave me a true experience, exposing me to what my life would be like after graduating with my bachelor's degree," according to Aaron West, a former PRECS participant. "I feel more prepared moving forward with my education."

Applications for summer 2019 are due March 15. For more information on PRECS, please visit precs.igb.illinois.edu.

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