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COMMUNITY: Math, Science Take Center Ice at UC in STEM Showcase

Over 8,000 Chicago Public Schools students packed the United Center on Wednesday for Blackhawks practice and the second annual STEM Showcase

by Fred Mitchell /

Math and science took center ice at the United Center for some 8,500 jubilant Chicago Public School students who attended Wednesday's Blackhawks practice and the second annual STEM Showcase that followed.

The participants had taken part previously in the Blackhawks' First Stride program at the Fifth Third Arena practice facility, or the "Future Goal-Hockey Scholar" computer program.

Following Wednesday's practice, several Blackhawks players participated in skills competitions that coincided with the students' workbook studies regarding the calculations of speed, energy and angles. Blackhawks Community Liaison Jamal Mayers and U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Kendall Coyne guided the students through a series of video messages.

Tweet from @NHLBlackhawks: Surprise appearances by @KendallCoyne and @jamalmayers!#STEMShowcase

"It's really very rewarding to think that there were 8,500 kids here today, mostly CPS students," said Mayers, a former Blackhawks Stanley Cup champion. "If the Blackhawks can be that conduit to get kids interested in science, technology, math and science as it relates to hockey, it's extremely rewarding. And they had fun. They learned a lot today, I hope. And I did, too. A couple of those questions were not easy. But it's a testament now that for the second year in a row that we will be able to grow this year after year."

Some of the students had not been introduced to the game of hockey previously.

"Let's be honest, the demographics today was mostly African-American and Hispanic kids. And introducing a different segment to the sport...using education as that platform to engage them is critical," Mayers said. "If the game wants to grow, it is going to have to be more inclusive, and this is certainly a step. I think the Blackhawks are in the forefront of leading that charge. And they do a number of things within the community to help push that narrative forward. And they are intentionally targeting and making sure that they are out there engaging in the schools and people who live around the United Center. I am proud to be a part of that."

Video: DeBrincat, Gilbert on STEM Showcase

Blackhawks players were eager to share the sport they love by participating in the skills competitions.

"Obviously, it's for fun. But when you get in the competitive spirits, you want to win," said Alex DeBrincat, who outscored teammate Dylan Sikura, 23-17, in the "angles" event as they banked shots off the side boards toward the net. "The Red team took the 'W' today. It's fun."

DeBrincat knows that the fast-paced game of hockey does not provide enough time to calculate angles and speed during the course of a game.

"When you're out there you are not really thinking about that," DeBrincat said. "But you see what they are saying to the kids and it makes sense. Maybe we will start using that (calculated reasoning) in a game when we are playing. It's a cool way for (the students) to learn. And a cool way for us to participate in the community."

Tweet from @NHLBlackhawks: Brinsky vs. Sikky in the final challenge! #STEMShowcase

DeBrincat also sees the STEM Showcase as a way to attract more fans who otherwise might not be exposed to the game of hockey.

"Hopefully a few of them become lifelong fans," DeBrincat said. "It's cool that they come out to see us practice and get to do their own thing. It's a good time. It was loud out there. All of them are pretty jacked up and like to see us out there. It was pretty loud."

Blackhawks players were pleased to see a change a pace from their usual practice routine.

"It's a long season of doing the same thing over and over again. And this changes it up a little bit," DeBrincat said. "It's cool to have them out there... get some energy in practice."

Sikura was razzed by a few of his teammates after losing to DeBrincat in the skill competition.

"We're going to do some investigation on the tape measure there," SIkura joked. "Me and Brinksy have always had a little competitive edge against each other since day one. I wish I had beat him there, but I can't get 'em all."

Sikura was asked if he is surprised about the amount of math and science involved in the game of hockey.

"I went to college, so I know a little bit," Sikura said with a smile. 

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