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Evanston Public Library has been awarded a grant through the Illinois State Library’s Project Next Generation Grant. The $39,899 award will be used for programs that give local youth the opportunity to gain technology and computer skills, promote their confidence and personal growth, and help bridge the digital divide in the community.

The project, Cardboard Carnival, is a series of workshops and programs for Evanston middle-schoolers that engages youth in STEM areas including engineering design process, coding, construction, critical thinking and problem solving. Participants will learn the six-step engineering and design process taught in Evanston Township High School (ETHS) and Evanston middle schools, explore game design strategies, and develop a game of their own. In the process, students will gain experience with important math and construction skills. They will also learn about coding, programming, micro-circuit boards, motors and sensors.

The goal is to reach 90 middle-school students, especially those belonging to groups underrepresented in STEM. To date, 60 students have already participated in 14 virtual events, and events will continue through 2021, culminating in the final Cardboard Carnival challenge. The project is being executed in partnership with EvanSTEM, the McGaw YMCA-MetaMedia Center, Youth and Opportunity United (YOU), Family Focus, ETHS, Digital Divas, and Northwestern’s Office of Community Education Partnerships. 

“When we piloted this program last year it was a really successful and engaging series of activities and programs,” said Renee Neumeier, EPL’s Innovation and Digital Learning Manager. 

The program was first put together last year with EPL, EvanSTEM and MetaMedia. Organizers are looking to increase participation and transition to a virtual format with remote sessions and personal kits for participants. Any middle-schooler is welcome to participate. However, there will be workshops and sessions designed specifically to support participating Black and Latino youth and youth identifying as female. This grant is funded through the Library and Technology Services Act grant administered by the Illinois State Library, using funds provided by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. 

“This grant allows us to provide more ways to engage youth where they’re at and help them learn STEM and design thinking skills and concepts. Additionally, this provides young people with the opportunity to share their interesting, creative projects with the community,” Ms. Neumeier said.

Anyone wishing  more information about the Cardboard Carnival may contact Ms. Neumeier at rneumeier@cityofevanston.org.