As of January 1, 2018, stewardship of Hive Chicago will transition from Mozilla to a new local non-profit, the Chicago Learning Exchange (CLX). Hive Chicago will have a temporary home at the Chicago Community Trust until the transition to CLX is complete. The Hive is still the Hive. Read more here.

Science Leadership Corps

Empowering Youth to Lead Science Research

This program was a partnership between After School Matters (ASM) and the Adler Planetarium. In Summer 2014, ASM and Adler staff launched the Science Leadership Corps, which combined the Adler’s content expertise and ASM’s extensive programming network to reach a teen audience for the purpose of engaging students in authentic science experiences.

During Summer 2014, 12 ASM apprentices (high-school students who have successfully participated in past ASM programs) learned about near-space exploration through workshops held at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and the Adler Planetarium. Led by an instructor and undergraduate mentor, the students designed and built science experiments, including several Arduino-based experiments, that were launched on a weather balloon up to approximately 85,000 feet in altitude. The students and Adler staff tracked, located, and retrieved their near-space science experiments from a field in eastern Illinois. Later, the students analyzed the data and presented their results to peers in a shareathon session at IIT in August 2014.

Science Leadership Corps students point to the sky and celebrate a successful retrieval of their near-space science experiments on a dusty road in eastern Illinois near Kankakee. Several are holding their experiments and the payload box attached to a parachute.

Science Leadership Corps students celebrate a successful retrieval of their near-space science experiments on a dusty road in eastern Illinois near Kankakee on August 1, 2014.

Four Science Leadership Corps students prepare their near-space science experiment for launch aboard a high-altitude balloon on August 1, 2014. In the image, two students are taking data on a clipboard, and two are preparing the experiment, which involves two bottles of soda.

Four Science Leadership Corps students prepare their near-space science experiment for launch aboard a high-altitude balloon on August 1, 2014.













In the fall, the apprentices took what they learned over the summer and co-led the same type of program for other ASM student apprentices at their high schools. These subsequent student groups also developed four new science experiments to investigate the conditions in near-space. These experiments were launched aboard another Adler Planetarium weather balloon on March 21, 2015, and the results were distributed to the student teams in the following weeks.

During the program, youth were exposed to a number of digital technologies to help them achieve the goals of connecting with each other and engaging in authentic science experiences. Minigroup was utilized to ensure apprentices, STEM mentors, and instructors were able to support each other. ASM apprentices gained a working knowledge of Arduino programming and the data collection sensors currently used by the Far Horizons scientists. The SLC program also incorporated digital badges as a method for students to track their own learning pathways, connections to other disciplines, and become aware of opportunities.

This program incorporated a model for connecting Chicago youth with STEM content experts and undergraduate instructor/mentors in a very authentic science research experience setting. It also allowed for participants to choose science experiments based on their own personal interests, develop peer relationships and leadership within their ASM programs, and demonstrate increased content knowledge gain through hands-on activities. Finally, this program provided social support through Adler/ASM staff relationships for student interest-driven learning.

One very important lesson learned from this program was that, while the program demonstrated success through various evaluation methods and many, many positive responses were documented from participants and staff, the science content and layout of the program was a bit too complex to easily sustain. However, Adler staff have taken what has been learned and incorporated elements into the newly-funded Community Telescope Ambassadors program so it is expected that SLC program elements will be sustained into the future.


Lead Organization:
Adler Planetarium

Partner Organizations:
After School Matters

Project Goal:
Build the capacity of partners to support youth-led science research in after school programs
Empower 12 active apprentices of 4 ASM programs to lead activities in their Fall programs
Develop a framework for partnerships between a science-rich institution and community-based STEM programming

Project Tags:
2014 Round 1 RFP

Project Portfolio

  • sample works

    Adler Teen Programs

    What do teens do at the Adler? Find out by exploring some of our teen projects!

  • tools

    Science Leadership Corps Working Examples Page

    A collaboration between After School Matters (ASM) and the Adler Planetarium seeking to increase youth involvement in authentic STEM research experiences. ASM apprentices from across the city will be trained by Adler’s Far Horizons staff during Summer 2014 on how to design an experience for a high altitude balloon launch. During the Fall, they will lead their ASM clubs in designing new experiments to be sent into near space.

  • tools

    The Far Horizons Project

    Far Horizons is about democratizing the exploration of space. Our goal is to design, build and launch a CubeSat mission armed with help of volunteers, interns and the community. We aim to launch a satellite for the sake of science, exploration, and education. Our first cubesat proposal will be submitted to NASA in late fall 2015, with a goal of launching the satellite aboard a rocket in the next 3 to 4 years.