ISSF – International Collaboration in STEM

ISSF Opening Ceremony. Source: Chicago Tribune

Sophomores, in your short time here at IMSA, you may have heard your upperclassmen discussing a recent event at IMSA called “ISSF.”

The acronym ISSF stands for the International Student Science Fair, which IMSA hosted during the summer of 2018. The event was the brainchild of the International Science Schools Network (ISSN), a collaboration of prestigious STEM magnet schools across the globe. Each year, one member of the ISSN is chosen to host ISSF; this past year, that school was IMSA, making this the first ISSF to be hosted on U.S. soil.

This year, the event also coincided with the state bicentennial – Illinois’ 200th anniversary of being admitted to the United States (remember that fact, as it might be useful in American Studies).

The 2018 ISSF hosted nearly a hundred students from over 30 different countries. The event ran from Wednesday, June 27th through Sunday, July 1st, with the closing ceremony held at the Museum of Science and Industry on Sunday night.

ISSF brings together high-achieving STEM students from across the globe, epitomizing IMSA’s goal to encourage STEM collaboration among a diverse group of students. At STEM-themed events like ISSF, students can bond with their high-achieving international peers. Many attendees commented on the great relationships they’d built in just five days.

Major highlights:

  • Chicago Excursions: On Wednesday, Day 2 of ISSF, students went on field trips to the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and The Art Institute of Chicago. 
  • More Field Trips: A second round of field trips on Thursday (Day 3) included Argonne National Laboratory, Fermilab, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Ball Horticulture, The Plant, the Illinois American Water Wastewater Facility, and the Invenergy Renewable Energy Facility.
  • An Evening at the University of Chicago: Students toured the University of Chicago, got free UChicago T-shirts, and sat through an admissions panel.
  • The International Celebration of Awesome (as coined by ISP): Like IMSA’s many cultural shows, the international students performed various musical acts themed around each of their own unique cultures. The IMSA Student Buddies also put on their own dance performance. An ice cream social was hosted after the talent show, followed immediately by an 05 slabs party.
  • Kane County Cougars Baseball Game: Dr. Torres bought all of the students lemon ice at the game.
  • Sunday Night Closing Ceremony: IMSA reserved coaches (complete with air conditioning and free WiFi) to transport the students to the Museum of Science and Industry for the closing ceremony. The museum reserved an eating area exclusively for ISSF students. Following a gourmet Sodexo-sponsored dinner of ribeye steak, students were free to explore the museum’s gift shop and spectacular storm exhibit.

In addition to the off-campus excursions and social events, the international students had the opportunity to collaborate and apply their STEM knowledge – including a World Hunger Design Sprint, a Clean Water expert panel, and various workshops exploring possible sources of renewable energy.

The attendees also received detailed feedback on their science projects, which were all themed around the United Nations Sustainability Goals: examples include world hunger, clean water and sanitation, and sustainable worldwide energy.

Three IMSA students presented separate research at ISSF: Hanson Hao, Mia Ye, and Alice Liu.

In addition, four IMSA student committees managed different aspects of the event: the Event Heads, Logistics Heads, Student Buddy Heads, and the Social Media Team. Student co-presidents were IMSA alums Sonya Gupta (’18) and Claudia Zhu (’18).

ISP and the ISSF student social media team captured photos all throughout the week. Here’s the official ISSF Flickr album – a collection of all the ISP and social media team photos plus the photos submitted by ISSF attendees.

By the conclusion of the event, attendees had forged some great relationships, learned more about others’ cultures and traditions, and passed around their contact information to stay in touch with their international friends post-ISSF.

About the Author

Grace Yue
Grace Yue is a junior from Des Plaines, a resident of 03A for the second year running, and the Opinions editor for the 2018-19 school year. Outside of Acronym, she participates in an SIR particle physics analysis at Fermilab, is a peer tutor, and volunteers as an SCS member. You can find her in 06B-wing "studying" particle physics, or in 03C-wing writing the next installation of the How to IMSA column, which she co-authors with her friend and hallmate Mara Adams.

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