STEAMing It Up Conference

Two girls playing in the esports arena at NIU Naperville

Professional Development for Educators
Gaming, Esports and Play in the Classroom
January 16-17, 2020
NIU - Naperville
Naperville, IL 60563


Thank you to all our participants for attending STEAMing It Up 2020. See you in January 2021!


As science, technology, engineering, the arts and math become more interconnected within our schools, teachers are often left wondering how to incorporate STEAM into their classroom while still aligning lessons to state standards and preparing their students for college and careers. Illinois State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and ISTE Standards dictate that students need to be prepared for a world focused on innovation, creativity, and critical thinking. Join the NIU STEAM team, NIU faculty, experienced classroom teachers, and STEAM experts at the two-day STEAMing It Up! Conference to learn how to meet those needs. Each day, you will be inspired and learn new ideas you can implement in your classroom right-away.

What to Expect

You will experience interactive lessons, learn about aligning STEAM to standards, network and attend idea-sharing sessions; along the way, you will discover learning resources for engaging your students through STEAM. Breakfast and lunch is provided with your daily registration. Professional development hours are also available.

Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020
8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Join us at 8:30 a.m. for a continental breakfast and keynote presentation. Watch this space for our exciting keynote announcement coming soon.

In the morning and afternoon, you can attend a wide range of one-hour breakout sessions.

Full 2-Day Schedule with Descriptions

Friday, Jan. 17, 2020
8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Dig deeper on Friday with workshops throughout the morning followed by a lunch and interactive expert panel. Breakfast and networking start at 8:30 a.m. with workshops beginning at 9 a.m.

Full 2-Day Schedule with Descriptions

Thursday Speakers

Deborah Lemon

Deborah is a professor at Ohlone College, where for the past six years she's been the Renegade Esports Advisor as well as advocating for and building the Department of Esports, which launches in Spring 2020 with its first course, ESPTS 101. She recently became one of the first women to complete UC Irvine's Esports Management program and receive professional certification in Esports Management.

Deborah has also served as chair of the Ohlone College Technical Committee. She designs and teaches online/hybrid language courses built exclusively in social media platforms. Deborah has been interviewed regarding her work with Augmented and Virtual Reality; transdisciplinary transmedia projects; esports; and the future of Online and Higher Education. She has been an invited speaker at conferences including The Institute for the Future (IFTF), She's Geeky, USF Esports Summit, Augmented World Expo, Online Teaching Conference, and the National Science Foundation 2013 Radical Innovation Summit and 2015 and 2016 Language Flagship Technical Innovation Center (LFTIC) Symposia. Prior to teaching, Deborah worked in the defense industry in Technical Recruiting/Public Relations and Systems Administration in the U.S. and México. In her free time, she tinkers with stuff, reads and enjoys A/B testing. Guilty pleasure: collecting Ponytas in Pokemon Go.

Zack Gilbert

Zack earned a B.A. in History with a secondary teacher certificate from Eastern Illinois University and an M.S. in Instructional Technology and Design from Illinois State University. His master's research looked at the impact of educational games and how the knowledge gained through these games is stored into long term memory. Zack is currently teaching 5th and 6th grade social studies at Thomas Metcalf School in Normal, IL. Thomas Metcalf is the K-8 laboratory school through the College of Education at Illinois State University. Zack was the host of the EdGamer podcast, a source of cutting-edge interviews and resources on Games and Learning. He is a chapter co-author in the book "TeacherCraft: A Guide for Teaching and Learning with Minecraft."

Zack helped start and is coaching esports at University High School in Normal, IL. He is also on the esports advisory committee for the IHSA. Zack is creating and supporting safe environments for playful learning through esports and game clubs in Illinois and throughout the country. He lives his life with the belief that we learn best through play.

Will Crews

Will is a senior at Northern Illinois University studying marketing with an emphasis in digital marketing. Will was born in Ohio but grew up in Plainfield, Illinois. He does lots of freelance work with video production in order to work his way through college. Currently running and operating "Game is the Name," a local video game tournament community, Will is bringing his love for competition and esports to the people by hosting local tournament events.

Brandon Knox

Brandon is a senior at Benedictine University studying exercise and sports. Brandon was born and raised in the Shorewood/Plainfield area. He grew up constantly surrounded by sports. Playing almost every sport at some point in his life, Brandon has a strong competitive drive. Brandon teaches youth sports through Optium Sports Development, a company he started last summer. Currently, Brandon is focused on developing and building "Game is the Name".

Educator Panel: Breaking Boundaries with Play

The "S" in STEAM doesn’t have to stand for serious! Join our experts to hear how they use fun and playful approaches to learning. This interactive panel will reveal how pop culture, sports, play and games can inspire creativity, promote problem-solving and foster collaboration skills. Whether on the field or in the classroom, nothing is out of the bounds of possibility.

Anne Poulin

Anne is a retired athlete, youth coach, ambassador, facilitator, panelist, speaker, consultant and advisor.

Rebecca Thompson

Rebecca is head of the Office of Education and Public Outreach at Fermi National Accelerator Lab and author of the popular Spectra Graphic novel series.

Eric Kallenborn

Eric is “The Other Comic Book Teacher,” educator and member of Lit-X.

Araceli Ascencio

Araceli is an educator and facilitator of BLOCK Fest® for NIU STEAM.

Conner Vagle

Conner Vagle is the General Manager for the NIU Esports program.


Early bird (before Dec. 1, 2019): $250
After Dec. 1, 2019: $275
One day only: $175

Participant Online Registration

While there are no refunds for this event, substitutions are permitted. Contact Sara at for more information.


NIU STEAM invites you to be part of STEAMing It Up 2020 and showcase your programs or resources to area STEAM educators at our new Exhibit Hall.

Exhibitor Online Registration