Neuqua Students Hope to Bring Fun to STEM Learners with STEM & Buds

STEM & Buds
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Top: Joel Setya, Bottom: Arnav Shandilya

Fun to STEM Learners

Two Neuqua Valley High School students wanted to teach students about STEM outside of the classroom while having fun doing it. So Joel Setya and Arnav Shandilya started the first Naperville chapter of national non-profit, STEM & Buds. The two act as regional directors.

When Setya was visiting family in Pittsburgh, where the non-profit was founded, he was inspired to start a chapter in Naperville after he and his cousin volunteered.

“We were both at home because it was COVID so I was like, you know what let me volunteer. So I volunteered as a mentor in one of their camps and I realized that even amongst the COVID pandemic they still were able to engage so many kids, the kids were absolutely loving it and they were able to learn in a completely different way,” said Setya. “Some people may zone out during a high school physics class but these guys were having fun, they were being engaged. So when I came back to Naperville I talked to Arnav about it and we decided to start it so people in our area could experience the same sort of fun while learning STEM.”

STEM & Buds

photo courtesy: Joel Setya

The two started the science communication and mentorship non-profit in the Indian Prairie School District 204 area in September 2020. The student-led organization has already grown to serve all of District 204’s elementary and middle schools – meaning a total of 11 Naperville chapters have been set up.

Around 150 students are involved in 12 virtual sessions during the school year, run by around 50 high school volunteers who are mentors.

“We teach STEM to students in a way that they normally don’t experience it in a classroom. The first few sessions are background knowledge – intro to biology, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, computer science,” said Shandilya. “And then after that we want to give them a chance to explore these applications in the real world, which they do not always get to do in school. So they start building projects and looking at problems in the world and coming up with ideas to fix them.”

photo courtesy: Joel Setya

Regional Fair

All the students have been working on projects for the last few months and will present at the virtual regional fair on May 1. Students chose different topics relating to not just STEM, but also social sciences.

The regional fair will also include an advice forum where the high schoolers will answer questions for the younger students.

“Just taking our name STEM & Buds. ‘STEM’ is one part, but the ‘Buds’ kind of [is] relationships,” said Setyel. “From the students’ perspective, not only do they get to learn, experiment, and have fun but they also get to interact very closely with high school volunteers they can learn from and envision as a role model.”

The two regional directors said they will be running STEM & Buds this coming summer and in the next school year. There’s no website for the Naperville chapter yet, so those interested in joining can find information in the District 204 e-Folder or contact the regional directors on the STEM & Buds website.

Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.