Highlights from the 2022 Illinois State Fair STEAM Expo

30 Aug 2022 4 min read
Mindy Fiscus
Mindy Fiscus
Director of Government Affairs, Learning Technology Center
Sam Fishel
Sam Fishel
Digital Content Specialist, Learning Technology Center

The rides have shut down, the funnel cake vendors have packed up, and the main stage lights have gone dark. The 2022 Illinois State Fair is over, but we had such a great time participating in this year’s celebration of everything that makes the Land of Lincoln great.

This year’s Tech Prairie STEAM Expo was a particular hit with learners of all ages. Over our four days at the fair, hundreds of students and fair-goers from across the state visited the Orr Building to play with programmable robots, participate in an esports tournament, and take home a 3D printed butter cow as a souvenir.

Here are a few highlights from this year’s STEAM Expo:

By the Numbers

    • 450+ visitors
    • 220 middle and high schools students from Riverton School District 
    • Dozens of special guests, including the Illinois Director of Agriculture, Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology CIO, and representatives from the Governor’s Office.
    • 10 STEM fair stations, where young learners could get hands on with educational bots, VR headsets, and coding
    • ~500 3D printed sculptures of the butter cow, designed and printed by the LTC’s Joe Cipfl

Highlights from the STEAM Expo

In partnership with the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), the LTC hosted a STEM Playground at this year’s State Fair. The four-day event within the Tech Prairie STEAM Expo offered families and students the opportunity to get hands-on with STEM learning, with interactive stations and a model makerspace.

This year’s STEM Playground was alive with activity every day. Several of the most popular stations included Sphero bowling, Makey Makey virtual river rafting, and cardboard Dance Dance Revolution. The live 3D printing demonstration also attracted a crowd, with each unit producing six precisely rendered plastic figurines per hour right in front of attendees eyes.

A Herd of (3D-Printed) Butter Cows

Speaking of 3D printing, it wouldn’t be the state fair without a butter cow. That’s why we created our own take on the iconic bovine using 3D printing technology (pictured below). Participants could take one home after visiting four STEM Playground stations and filling out a special passport.

One 3D printed butter cow even trekked across the fair grounds to visit its full-sized inspiration in its freezer-cooled home. Watch its journey here!

Getting Competitive

This year’s STEAM Expo wasn’t all fun and games. It also highlighted sportsmanship and friendly digital competition during two center-piece events.

Over at the Fair Arena, the Expo hosted a drone racing competition in partnership with the Central Illinois Drone Racers Association. 20+ professional entrants participated in successive heats through varying obstacle courses, culminating in a final and a $5,000 prize.

Then on Saturday, back at the Orr Building, 50+ middle and high school students picked up their controllers and competed in an open esports competition. Hosted by Illini Esports, participants competed in several popular game formats, including 3v3 Rocket League, 1v1 Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and Fortnite. New controllers, gaming chairs, and a Quest VR headset were all handed out as prizes to individual champions, helping those young athletes take their game to the next level.

Ready for State Fair 2023!

“This year’s Expo was a great success,” according to Mindy Fiscus, a member of the STEAM Expo planning committee. “Every day, we had students stopping in and learning about STEM ideas outside the traditional classroom. Some students even recognized devices from their own school, which was pretty exciting to see.”

Mindy also highlighted the several field trip groups that stopped in at the STEM Playground. “We’d love to see even more field trip groups next year. This really is a unique opportunity for both teachers and students to see the possibilities of interactive STEM learning in action.”

Already, the LTC is looking forward to participating in the 2023 Illinois State Fair. Keep an eye on our Community Engagement hub for the latest updates about plans for next year’s STEM Playground and STEAM Expo.

Mindy Fiscus
Mindy Fiscus
Director of Government Affairs, Learning Technology Center

Mindy provides leadership, expertise, and support related to broadband connectivity, equipment and device access, and funding sources, including E-Rate.

Sam Fishel
Sam Fishel
Digital Content Specialist, Learning Technology Center

Sam supports the execution and growth of LTC services through the development and creation of innovative, impactful, and timely digital content.