Students working in FUSE Studio

How FUSE Started

FUSE was founded in 2011 by Reed Stevens, Professor of Learning Sciences at Northwestern University, with a goal to reinvent STEAM education to appeal to all learners.

FUSE was initially designed to be implemented in out-of-school settings, with hopes that it might also find a home within the school day.

Despite no marketing effort, word-of-mouth about FUSE’s potential to provide students with new, engaging learning experiences led to interest in bringing FUSE into schools. In September 2013, FUSE partnered with Schaumburg District 54 (the largest K-8 school district in Illinois) to begin an in-school implementation.

FUSE has now spread beyond the Chicago area to include elementary, middle, and high schools in 22 states and abroad (most recently in Rabat, Morocco). While we continue to partner with out-of-school providers, the majority of our partners embed FUSE as part of their instructional day. In the 2021-2022 school year, over 45,000 students will take a FUSE class at one of our 250 partner schools.

The FUSE Name

FUSE was born in 2013 as ‘YouSTEM’: a STEM opportunity for youth in libraries and other after-school settings. The original teens doing YouSTEM thought the experience was cool, but didn’t like the name at all. So in true FUSE fashion, we asked the teens to come up with something better. They debated several ideas, nd finally proposed FUSE. We loved it right away: ‘FUSE’ suggests STEM and engineering, while it also celebrates the spark that powers new ideas and experiences. We’re often asked if FUSE is an acronym. It isn’t, but we love this one, suggested by a FUSE facilitator: “Finally Using STEAM effectively”!

The FUSE Philosophy

FUSE has always been rooted in research. The design principles of our approach are rooted in studies by Professor Stevens and others on alternatives to the traditional classroom model for organizing creative and compelling learning environments. Our research is ongoing, and you can read more about that work here.

FUSE Staff


Reed Stevens
Principal Investigator

General Inquiries about Studios


Lizzie Perkins
Program Director

Anne Hayden Stevens
Creative Director

Colin Sheaff
Senior Software Developer

Gabriel Cerda Nelson
Lead Digital Media Producer

Frannie Miller
Digital Media Producer

James Freetly
Program Coordinator

Cortney Crego
Program Coordinator

Our Partners

FUSE was founded as a research-based program, and we are grateful to the partners who supported us early on, including the National Science Foundation & The MacArthur Foundation.

Over the years, the support received from our partners has allowed us to create new challenges and expand our reach, particularly to include under-resourced high need populations and schools. FUSE has diverse program design, implementation, and funding partners. These partners provide STEAM expertise, support, and feedback that help to improve the program and expand its reach to more students. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a partner, please email

Our current partners include: The Boeing Company, CompTIA, Creating IT Futures, The Mazda Foundation, The Nellie Mae Foundation, Siemens Industries Inc., and Smithfield Foods.

Other historic partners have included: Hive Chicago, IBM, The MacArthur Foundation, Motorola Mobility.

FUSE research, program design and staff are generously supported by grants from the National Science Foundation under NSF grants DRL-1348800 and DRL-1433724. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

FUSE in the News


Siemens awards STEAM grants to schools across the country—including South Valley Junior High School in Phoenix, AZ— to encourage and nurture curiosity and exploration in our world.


This interactive learning lab shows the future of education and these Manual Academy students are ahead of the tech-curve By Melissa Rose. A group of students at Manual Academy in Peoria are a part of something special.


CompTIA Mentors Help Kids Dabble in Design and Technology By Michelle Lange. A physics challenge called Coaster Boss has taken over Ms. Kelly’s computer technology classroom. Eighth grade students created a roller coaster track of black foam and colorful rubber tubes, and taped it from ceiling to floor in a goofy loop around the room.


FUSE Studio inspires STEM learning at Manual Academy By Pam Adams. Jakayla Wright steps back and looks at the small windmill she just built. It’s supposed to use wind energy to lift a small bucket. But the windmill is hardly turning, much less generating wind energy. “I can tell you what I did wrong,” she tells teacher Greg Gilson, then begins to correct her mistake.


At Northwestern, researchers 'FUSE' fun challenges with STEAM learning: BTN LiveBIG By John Tolley, If you weren’t the biggest fan of your grade school science and math courses, rest-assured you were not alone.


The case for shop class: How vocational schools and gap years can help ease academic anxiety. By Karen Ann Cullotta, Karen Berkowitz, Kimberly Fornek and Suzanne BakerContact Reporters Pioneer Press. When New Trier High School student Ben Matejka got his results from the ACT, he was pleased with his score of 27, comfortably above the national average of about 21. But when Ben told his friends, some of their responses took him aback. He got condolences.


The Common Denominator Between Sesame Street and the Internet? Learning. By Sana N. Jafri. Elmo, Big Bird, and the other residents of Sesame Street remain household names, even after 40-plus years on the air. Several weeks ago I watched an episode of "Sesame Street" with my niece, Aisha, and I was reminded that this prolific television program offers vital learning opportunities for kids.


THE FUSE PHENOMENON By Julianne Beck. Education is “leveling up” in FUSE studios from Chicago to Helsinki, encouraging students to drive their own learning and create their own solutions. Through carefully developed computer-based and hands-on challenges, from building a model roller coaster to designing and printing a 3-D keychain, participants are learning by creating, collaborating and innovating.

Video Resources


Media Archive

06.15.21 MAZDA FOUNDATION (USA), INC. awards grant to support STEAM Education in Southern California

02.21.21 Lighting a FUSE at Union Middle: Smithfield, Northwestern University provides STEAM grant (The Samson Independent)

10.9.19 Golfview Elementary Magnet School Implementing STEAM Into Their Curriculum (Space Coast Daily)

4.29.19 Smithfield Foods Makes Sizable Donation to Support STEAM Education in Rural Communities (3BL Media)

12.18.18 Lehigh middle students learn to power mini go-karts, use 3D printers, model dream homes (Fort Meyers News-Press)

11.06.18 FUSE for STEM Learning and Interest Development: An Interview with Reed Stevens (CIRCL: The Center for Innovative Research on Cyber Learning)

8.15.18 Madison Middle Hosts Ribbon Cutting for First Boeing Funded FUSE Studio in Titusville | (Space Coast Daily, FL)

3.22.18 12 Schools Selected for New FUSE Studios with CompTIA-Funded Tech Activities for Students (CompTIA)

3.20.18 Learning Best Through Tinkering, Imagination, Creativity, and Invention Through FUSE Studios (CompTIA)

2.21.18 CompTIA Funding 10 Additional FUSE Studios for STEAM Education in Schools (CompTIA)

2.08.18 Boeing Awards Grant for STEAM Initiatives to Brevard Schools Foundation (Brevard Schools Foundation, Brevard, FL)

2.08.18 Boeing Awards Grant for STEAM Initiatives (Hometown News, Brevard, FL)

2.08.18 FUSE Challenges Evanston Sixth Graders (SESP, NU)

1.10.18 At Northwestern, researchers 'FUSE' fun challenges with STEAM learning (Big Ten Network)

12.29.17 FUSE Studio inspires STEM learning at Peoria school (Seattle Times)

11.15.17 The Case for Shop Class: How Vocational schools and gap years can help ease academic anxiety (Chicago Tribune)

11.09.17 Floral Park FUSE lab encourages innovation (The Island Now)

09.20.17 FUSE Studios Expand to 23 New Schools (SESP News, Northwestern University)

5.31.17 Manual Academy selected for 'Limousine Level' Learning Lab  (Peoria Journal Star)

5.25.17 The Common Denominator between Sesame Street and the Internet? Learning. (Edweek Blog)

3.17.17 21 Schools Selected for New FUSE Studios with CompTIA-Funded Tech Activities for Students

3.11.17 Highland Park High School Unveils '21st Century Learning' Renovations (Daily North Shore)

1.11.17 CompTIA Partners with FUSE at Northwestern U to Expand STEAM Education in 21 Schools

Fall 2016: The FUSE Phenomenon. (Inquiry Magazine, Northwestern School of Education & Social Policy) 

10.01.16 Finnish Educators call FUSE an 'Inspiration" (SESP News)

9.6.16 Finnish Educators seek closer look at FUSE Program (SESP News)

4.20.16  CPS Military Academy receives FUSE grant for 2016-17 school year

11.30.15 - Clark County students explore interests with FUSE (Springfield News-Sun)

11.30.15 - Local jewelry designer creates FUSE challenge (Northwestern News)

9.13.2015 - District 54 STEM coach shares enthusiasm for problem-solving with students, teachers

8.26.15 - Game to Learn (Evanston RoundTable)

4.15.15 - Gardiner students try their hands at solar and wind power

12.20.14 - New classes at District 47 aim to expose kids to science, tech fields