Using funding from the State of Illinois, particle physics faculty Dave Hedin and Jerry Blazey initiated a physics outreach program in 2001 which was dubbed the Frontier Physics Program to reflect NIU ties to Fermilab and Argonne. Activities included school visits, summer science camps, and the Haunted Physics Lab, with this evolving into NIU's STEM Outreach program in 2008.
The Department of Physics holds an annual Haunted Physics Laboratory (HPL)as part of the NIU STEMfest. This tradition began in 2003, and was originally located at Faraday Hall on the DeKalb campus of Northern Illinois University. Due to its overwhelming popularity, HPL was expanded in 2010 to include other STEM disciplines and became the backbone of STEMfest, which is located at NIU's Convocation Center. The HPL and related LaserFest displays are still some of the most popular parts of STEMfest which is still held in late October each year. Check the STEMfest website for this year's date and parking information. The event remains a free, family event.