Introducting science to girls through imagination and innovation

U-News Staff

Science Pioneers’ Expanding your Horizons, a one-day science and math experience for girls in grades 6-8, took place at Union Station on Friday.

Science Pioneers aims to stimulate interest and encourage innovation in girls through interactive projects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and to cultivate awareness about the opportunities in the STEM fields. They want the students to use science in their everyday lives and encourage them by giving some examples of female scientists as role models.

Twenty-two workshops were held during the event. UMKC students and alumnae presented Mysterious Mixology. Students had a great time watching how liquids turned into solids in no time. Seven alumnae and current biology students lead two breakout sessions where students were taught to prepare Oobleck and Silly Putty.

Corn starch, water, a mixing bowl and a plastic cup were provided to the students for the preparation of Oobleck. Students were asked to feel the texture of the cornstarch and then mix it slowly with a half cup of water at a time until the mixture could be rolled into a ball. The girls enjoyed watching the mixture melt once they stopped mixing it. Finally they were asked to observe the Oobleck properties.

To make Silly Putty, the students were instructed to mix one teaspoon Borax in one cup of water until the solution became saturated. Then each girl prepared the Elmer’s glue solution by mixing five teaspoons of water, five teaspoons of Elmer’s All-Purpose Glue and two drops of food coloring. Later students added one teaspoon of Borax solution at a time to the glue dilution until they could easily lift the resulting mix out of the cup. Then they kept this silly putty on their hand to flatten and fold it until dry. These two experiments really made students excited to watch their liquids become solids.

Other workshops like Eco-to-Go (Closed Ecosystems) gave students a chance to create an encircled ecosystem under the guidance of Chery Turlin and her assistant Justin Jensen , which helped the students understand how a balanced environment should be. Students also developed glowing wrist bands with the help of some LEDs and connection units in the workshop Light Up Bling. They experienced the power of magnetism by trickling a magnet along a coil of wire to generate electric current in the circuit. The girls also designed art robots that can draw patterns. The Kansas City Zoo presented a workshop about animal conservation. An engineering workshop was held to introduce the girls to the real world of engineering, where professionals must consider the cost of a project along with its potential benefit to a community.

Kansas Medical Center students helped the participants listen to both abnormal and normal heart and lung sounds with the help of baby simulators. Students had an opportunity to study fossils under a microscope, test cell respiration and photosynthesis with the help of aquatic plants and household chemicals and make a simple hot air balloon. Students looked at various weather conditions and drove a small solar-powered motor. They scanned water quality in Kansas City streams and learned to purify drinking water by management practices. Students built and tested the simple electric circuits and explored animal habitats.

The girls investigated force and motion by developing a design for balloon-powered airplanes to race at the end of the event.

Author: Alekhya Boyapati