About CoolHub


Aspiring to be the world's leading teaching and learning laboratory for imagination and inquiry, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy strives to develop innovation and entrepreneurial talent and capacity. This includes creating conditions to stimulate, support and conduct innovative pilots/prototypes that have the potential to transform STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education.

IMSA joins J. Kao (Innovation Nation, 2007) in believing that "organizations need a place where specific opportunities and projects can be explored in a freewheeling, no-intellectual-holds-barred manner. They need spaces designed to elicit questioning, discovery, experimentation and, prototype development." IMSA is developing such a place.



Started with seed funding from the Abbott Fund, Tellabs Foundation and the State of Illinois, CoolHub.IMSA connects learners of all ages and gives them tools to explore their "What if?" questions, take creative risks, develop ideas and innovate together outside traditional organizational structures. Through physical and virtual meeting spaces, CoolHub.IMSA provides opportunities and resources that accelerate research, rapid prototyping and program development. Supported by a dynamic Web platform, collaborators anywhere can self-organize and seek solutions to a wide range of real-world problems, including innovative ways to address STEM teaching and learning.

CoolHub.IMSA Design

The design of CoolHub.IMSA creates communities of innovators across Illinois, the country and the world. Traditional roles of teacher, parent, student, expert, business person, researcher and inventor blur as networks form around questions and problems of mutual interest. For example:
  • Where can teachers go to collaborate with students who are developing games that teach science?
  • How can we develop ethical leaders who find brilliant solutions to global challenges such as energy?
  • How can students create and use Web 2.0 "personal learning networks" to enhance learning?
  • What are the best ways to determine if a watershed is purifying water as it should?


Collaboration takes place online and face to face. CoolSpots—tech-enabled zones conducive for small group work—serve as pathways to a robust virtual network that supports innovation and learning through video conferencing, online forums, wikis, blogs, immersive online worlds and a searchable database of session recordings and published innovation projects. Currently, CoolSpots are located on IMSA's campus in Aurora and  and several additional sites; however, anyone with access to the Web may participate in collaborative innovation. CoolSpots serve as a protoype for the new Innovation Hub designed to be built at IMSA.

Goals and Activities

Create Structures and Processes that Support and Evaluate Collaborative Innovation Networks

  • Create an interactive Web platform (http://coolhub.imsa.edu/) with a design that aims to enhance innovation, creativity, communication, and collaboration and which builds a connected community with a vision of transforming STEM education. Through use of the Web platform, collaborative innovators post ideas, share knowledge, access resources and leverage the intellectual capital of the people in the network.
  • Design guidelines and training that provide supportive structures for idea generation, development, collaboration and evaluation. Continually measure the quality, growth and impact of facilitation, participation, infrastructure and innovative ideas through the application of these guidelines.
  • Design, equip and open CoolSpots starting at IMSA and its Field Offices.

Build Communities of Collaborators

  • Establish an advisory board of STEM practitioners in education, business and government.
  • Build networks of collaborators by recruiting students, educators, specialists, innovators and early adopters in fields such as education, energy, nanotechnology, software development and others.

Launch Collaborative STEM Projects That Address Societal Needs

  • Students, parents, alumni, and professional engineers use CoolHub.IMSA to communicate, design, vet and create innovative robots as members of IMSA's FIRST Robotics team.
  • IMSA's One Laptop Per Child Student Chapter uses CoolHub.IMSA resources to connect with people globally to support large-scale implementations in underdeveloped areas of the world. This collaborative effort connects with a strong existing network of like-minded individuals who are providing children with rugged, low-cost laptops so that they become connected "to the world and to a brighter future." (http://www.laptop.org/en/vision/index.shtml, retrieved 2/10/2009)
  • The CoolHub.IMSA infrastructure and network of real world experts and practitioners enable IMSA students in the Energy Center to design and build prototypes of continuous flow biodiesel generators.
  • Students involved in the TALENT (Total Applied Learning for ENTrepreneurs) program use CoolHub.IMSA resources to connect with research universities, national labs, state and federal government, and business groups globally in their pursuit of entrepreneurial applied science and technology projects and ideas for potential commercialization.
  • The technical and social structure of CoolHub.IMSA, in conjunction with Abbott Laboratories, supports Environmental Chemistry related projects such as improving water quality in local wetlands.

Document and Disseminate New Models for STEM Teaching and Learning

  • Showcase innovative projects and results on CoolHub.IMSA and at professional conferences and in publications.
  • Secure the expertise of curriculum development and assessment specialists to document, evaluate and disseminate innovation-centered models of STEM teaching and learning developed through CoolHub.IMSA.

Selected References

  • Gloor, P. and Cooper, C. Coolhunting, 2007.
  • Christensen, C. Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, 2008.
  • Maxwell, I. Innovation Infrastructure, 2009.
  • Kao, J. Innovation Nation, 2007.

Special thanks to our early thinking partners: IMSA alumni, students, faculty and staff, IMSA Trustees and IMSA Fund Directors, and leaders at the Thornburg Center, Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and its related foundation. We especially wish to recognize Abbott Fund and Tellabs Foundation for their generous support of CoolHub.IMSA initiatives.


For more Information

Visit CoolHub.IMSA

Contact Carl Heine (630-907-5921, heine@imsa.edu)