STEAM in the Lake Bluff Schools
STEAM is an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. The fields are deeply intertwined and students benefit from approaching them in an interdisciplinary way.

Lake Bluff students shine in STEAM competitions

In Spring 2016, Lake Bluff Middle School students showcased their knowledge and creative problem solving abilities in three major academic STEAM competitions.

March kicked off with four Lake Bluff Middle School students competing in the North Suburban Regional "You Be the Chemist" Competition. Participants from nine area middle schools competed in a game-show style event based on chemistry and other sciences. Regional, state, and national tournaments are offered by the national You Be the Chemist organization is sponsored by the Chemical Educational Foundation and leaders in the chemical industry, including Dow Chemical, BASF, Colgate-Palmolive, and Shell Chemical Company. Lake Bluff Middle School science teachers administered the qualifying exam and teacher Joe Jakcsy coordinated the event.

Next on the docket was the Lake County Regional Science Olympiad Competition in mid-March, where 15 students competed on the Lake Bluff Varsity Team and 10 students competed on the Lake Bluff JV Team. Both the Varsity and JV teams went head to head with 13 other middle schools and medaled in 11 of the 23 events. They faced a very competitive field of teams and narrowly missed the cutoff for the state tournament (last year, this score would have earned them an invitation to the state competition).

Science Olympiad

Lake Bluff students earned medals in:
  • Bio-Process Lab: 5th place
  • Bottle Rocket: 6th place
  • Crave the Wave (physics): 6th place
  • Disease Detectives: 4th place
  • Disease Detectives (JV): 4th place
  • Food Science: 6th Place
  • Green Generation: 6th place
  • Invasive Species: 5th place
  • Meteorology: 6th pace
  • Reach for the Stars (astronomy): 6th place
  • Write It Do It (technical writing): 5th place

Teachers Doreen Buksa, Brian DeYoung, Corinne Horner, and Heather Komac helped prepare, plan and supervise on the day of the event. Lake Bluff's Science Olympiad program is coordinated by Joe Jakcsy.

Later in March, 14 Lake Bluff Middle School students and their families traveled to Belleville, Illinois, a suburb of St. Louis, to compete in the State of Illinois Odyssey of the Mind competition. Odyssey of the Mind is an international organization that was founded over 25 years ago based on the principle of creative problem solving. In order to compete, teams of students select a problem and must create and present their solution through a creative performance. No adult input is allowed in the design process; the students are responsible for all ideas and all construction of props and devices.


The three Lake Bluff teams each prepared for the same problem, facing the challenge of competing against their Lake Bluff peers at the state competition. They were the only students in the state to take on this additional challenge, which ultimately led each group to push itself to its fullest potential. Each Lake Bluff team had to design, build and operate a vehicle to carry two of the students around the performance area and complete various tasks. While traveling to different "environments," the vehicles had to pick up different objects, and repurpose them for use later in the performance. The theme of the performance was to explain why the vehicle is traveling to different environments and how the items are repurposed.


The Lake Bluff teams finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. The State Champions and State Runner-Up Lake Bluff teams qualified to represent Illinois in late May at the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals at Iowa State University. They'll face thousands of students from more than 40 states and 24 nations.

Parents Kate Amaral, Andrew Bienkowski, and Janey Paglini volunteered as parent coaches, spending many weekends meeting outside of school to help students create their performances. The Lake Bluff Middle School Odyssey of the Mind program is coordinated by Joe and Sydney Jakcsy.

"We are so proud of all of our students," said Lake Bluff Schools Superintendent Dr. Jean Sophie. "They represented Lake Bluff so well, and once again demonstrated to teams from across the region and Illinois that they are creative, persistent, quick-thinking, and good natured."