Chicago Tech Academy Students Visit QuesTek for 3rd Annual STEAM Day

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QuesTek Innovations recently held its third annual STEAM Community Outreach Day, welcoming sophomores and juniors from Chicago Tech Academy High School (ChiTech) for a hands-on materials science experience in Evanston. 

Located in Pilsen, ChiTech uses project-based learning, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education, real world experience with Chicago companies, and entrepreneurial principles to shape a diverse next generation of leaders and innovative thinkers. 

A group of 21 students rotated through QuesTek’s headquarters to experience and learn about different aspects of materials engineering. The session included discussions on the nuts and bolts of materials science, advice on careers in engineering, and hands-on workshops in QuesTek’s in-house laboratory: 

Arc Melting — Students witnessed a live demo of prototyping novel materials and learned about the time and cost efficiencies associated with producing at small scale before making larger quantities of material. 

Light Optical Microscope — Students observed the microstructures of different materials and how manufacturing processes such as casting, AM printing, forging, pressing, stamping and more affect these microstructures and subsequent properties. 

Cold Drawing — Students learned to differentiate between manufacturing processes for a given part such as casting, forging, rolling and drawing. Cold drawing, in which metal is stretched at room temperature, was demonstrated as students explored the effects of temperature on material properties. 

Students were also able to get an extreme close-up look at material properties using QuesTek’s scanning electron microscope (SEM). The SEM is one of the most powerful microscopes in the country. 

“The students get to see how small things matter on a bigger scale,” says LaTrease Davenport, ChiTech’s Corporate Engagement and Volunteer Manager. “It’s so hands-on with labs, panels and interactive experiences. In addition to the science, QuesTek does a great job of integrating the business and financial aspects of materials engineering as well, such as IT and security.” 

After spending the morning at QuesTek, students moved to Northwestern University’s Materials Research Center for the afternoon. ChiTech students toured materials engineering laboratories and explored analytic equipment for studying and characterizing materials. They also attended a panel discussion featuring graduate students from a range of backgrounds and disciplines. 

“One of the great things about having a small group of highly engaged students like this is that it takes on the atmosphere of an open forum,” says Jason Sebastian, QuesTek President. “Students were able to express their specific interests and questions and receive encouragement and guidance from QuesTek leaders on how to approach their studies. 

“Materials engineering is a growing field and Evanston is a hub for it,” says Sebastian. “It’s important for organizations like QuesTek to connect with local STEAM-minded students like those at ChiTech to draw young talent into our field. Many seemed excited to learn they can pursue a top-notch education in this industry and find cutting-edge job opportunities right here in their local area.”