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Nicor Gas donates $5,000 to Challenger Learning Center

August 28, 2017
From L to R: Susan Evens and Stacey Shrewsbury of the CLC; Bernie Anderson, Katie Myers and Jennifer Dronenberg of Nicor Gas
From L to R: Susan Evens and Stacey Shrewsbury of the CLC; Bernie Anderson, Katie Myers and Jennifer Dronenberg of Nicor Gas

Thanks to a recent $5,000 donation from Nicor Gas, the Challenger Learning Center (CLC) at Heartland Community College will add robotics to its educational experiences.

CLC Flight Director Susan Evens says the robots will be programmable and transportable. She adds, “We want to use them to teach coding. We also want to take them out in the community and into the schools.”

The donation signifies a commitment between Nicor Gas and the CLC. The mission of the Challenger Learning Center is to engage learners with hands-on activities in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math). One of the main activities is a simulated flight to space where students work in teams to communicate effectively and solve problems. Throughout the activity, students conduct experiments, monitor the crew’s health and build a probe to launch into space.

Overall, activities at the CLC purposefully mimic the work of STEAM professionals, such as scientists and astronauts, in an effort to inspire students to pursue a career in a STEAM field.

Bernie Anderson, manager of community relations and economic development at Nicor Gas, hopes that if students decide to pursue a STEAM career, his company would be a top choice. According to him, Nicor Gas has several similarities to NASA.

“NASA plays a large part in our everyday lives,” Anderson said. “When it comes to installing gas service, we use some of the same equipment and scientific principles they do. The students coming through the CLC are learning about these things and it’s exciting to see their interest and passion develop.”

In addition to lessons on coding, the donation offers the CLC an opportunity to mimic what Nicor Gas does.

“Nicor Gas is all about natural resources and they use robots to help locate natural gas,” Evens explained. “To simulate this and the work of NASA, we’ll have students use their robot to try and locate natural resources on Earth and other planets.”

Although the program is still under development, it does have a name, Challenger STEAM on the Road: Drilling for Resources on Earth and Mars. Evens hopes to purchase the robots by the end of September and test the program by December. The goal is to offer it more widely in January.

Learn more about the Challenger Learning Center.

Written by: Becky Gropp