A Southern Illinois Adventure

May seems to be an excellent time for me to go on road trips (the past three years have consisted of road trips and other multi-country adventures). Last week I traveled to southern Illinois to work with some 7th graders down there. It was all part of our Digital Innovation Leadership Program (aka DILP). Through Extension (a department of UIUC) and 4H, the southern Illinois branch has hosted a Celebrate Youth event for 20 years. It's for all 7th graders in the five southern most counties of Illinois. The event is to expose them to new things and build self-esteem and confidence as they head into their 8th grade years. 

Our team made our way down on Monday night. We woke up early the next day, had breakfast at a classic small town diner (see tweet below), and then headed to the local community college.

The event had 7th graders attend four, 40 minute sessions. I was in a room talking all about wearable electronics (including Arduinos and digital embroidery). What are wearable electronics you might ask?

Well this video from a wearable electronic DIY company, Adafruit, does a nice job of showcasing the potential of wearables.

We also talked about digital embroidery machines and not going to lie, it's neat to watch. Our finale to our presentation was showing off our Celeste (the combo of digital embroidery and small electronics), made by CU Community Fab Lab staff. Here's a short video I had taken months before when they were showing it off at the 2014 Heartland MakerFest.

After day one (the program happens twice so all the 7th graders in the area have a chance to participate), the group had some time to spare before dinner. Myself and one other girl on the trip, Sara, ventured down the road from the cabin we were staying in to Ferne Clyffe park. It was beautiful. Sara and I did a little hiking and some reading. I had just begun Chuck Palahniuk's Invisible Monsters which is slightly terrifying but SO good (I'm a sucker for non-linear timelines).

I was struck by the geography and topography of southern Illinois. After being in the relatively flat section of Illinois, it was a treat to see rolling hills and lush green foliage. 

The days were long and we got to work with so many interesting 7th graders from the area. However, our real adventure began when we made a quick stop before heading home. We stepped out of the SUV we were driving and heard a loud hissing.

Flat tire.


Our early departure turned into a waiting game for a tow truck, a bumpy 30 minute ride to Marion, the largest town around us, chatted with our driver, a fascinating driver who had lots of stories, and then waiting for the mechanics to put on a new tire. We finally got back to Champaign-Urbana several hours after we expected, tired but happy with how the trip went.

Cue selfies (mainly of Clair and I, my work partner this summer) and other photos from this adventure...