Our Team

The STEAM Genius Universe

STEAM Genius is the parent not-for-profit organization with a host of programs, scholarships, and services.  

Our offerings are the result of evidence-based applied research, where we identify specific "cool factor" engagement methods, show up consistently and authentically in underserved spaces, and attract the curiosity of underserved youth and young adults. Sparking their curiosity provides us with an entry point to offer additional STEM and STEAM educational opportunities that allow youth and young adults to witness their own genius and future possibilities. 

Meet our team

Dr. Will Patterson

We mourn the loss of Dr. Patterson,  who passed away suddenly on April 2, 2024. STEAM Genius will continue to honor his vision and implement his projects as best we can. 

Dr. Patterson focused on preparing students of various Hip Hop generations to be civic-minded urban global leaders in cultural innovation, entrepreneurship, engineering, business, art, and technology. He challenged students by contextualizing applied learning methods that encourage students to re-think various forms of traditional scholarship from a variety of disciplines in order to address contemporary issues that impact urban environments around the globe.

Read Dr. P's full bio here.

Lori Gold Patterson

Experienced Chief Executive Officer and Corporate Board Member with a demonstrated history in the information technology industry. Skilled in IT strategy, risk oversight, diversity & inclusion, organizational culture building, start-up advising, and executive coaching. Strong business professional with a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Mechanical Engineering from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and numerous recognitions and awards.

Dr. Sharon Irish

Sharon Irish is a Research Affiliate in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. A resident of Urbana, IL, since 1985, she has collaborated with a number of local youth-serving organizations, especially on arts-based initiatives. As an historian, she has a particular interest in community cultural development and urban spatial practices. For further information, see https://sharonirish.org/

Joe Bolton

Joe Bolton is a fabrication and maintenance engineer who has been creating and experimenting with machines and materials for decades. He has worked on small and large scales—trucks and trailers to tiny audio speakers. In addition to sound and mechanical engineering, he has been a digital and neon sign fabricator; an events DJ; and music producer. In the latter capacity, he tests different software and computer configurations for their creative potential. Born and raised in Urbana, IL, he has also worked in Louisiana and Georgia.

Shannon McFarland, MS

Shannon McFarland was raised in Champaign-Urbana and runs operations for the STEAM Genius team. She is a Hall of Fame Student Athlete of Urbana High and began working in television news in 2005. McFarland negotiated her own scholarship to play volleyball for Clark Atlanta University and graduated cum laude in 2009, studying Mass Media Arts and public relations. She received her Master's in Recreation & Sport Management in 2012 from Florida International University in Miami, FL while directing operations for the women’s basketball program and guest relations for the 2012 NBA Champions Miami Heat. Currently, Shannon is building Champion Diaries Management to track social behavior and deliver data analysis in ways to benefit the community. Her goal is to facilitate hall-of-fame storytelling in education, sports, and venture capital in ways to impact and change the lives of those who love good news.

Devon (Wayne) Turner

We mourn the loss of Devon "Wayne" Turner, who passed away suddenly on February 28, 2024. He served as a mentor for STEAM Genius as well as supporting youth throughout the community. His family launched the Wayne Strong Foundation, which focuses on youth advocacy, community service, and heart health awareness. There is also a scholarship fund through Champaign Central High School established in his memory.

Wayne Strong Foundation

Ja'Naea Modest (DJ Silkee)