Roberta Brett, Senior Manager of Science Immersion and Christine Wilkinson, Programs Coordinator of Digital Learning, both from Youth Programs in Teacher and Youth Education, reported that loud squeals of excitement and laughter could be heard emanating from the Forum Gallery recently, where 75 middle school girls had gathered to spend the day at the Academy. From the sound of it, you would have thought that a famous teen idol had just made a guest appearance. Or that they had just heard the most awesome new song. But, if you had peeked inside the doors, you might have been surprised to learn that they were actually amped up on engineering. Yes – engineering!
On Tuesday January 21, led by Roberta and Christine in collaboration with two San Francisco teachers, the Academy hosted “Engineering For Your Life, a day-long engineering challenge focused on engineering, architectural design, and construction for earthquake safety. Eighth grade girls from Katherine Delmar Burke School and KIPP Bayview Academy were invited to participate in the event which was sponsored by a mini-grant from Girls RISEnet.
|The girls collaborate on their initial design.||Engineer Celeste dela Calzada advises on one of the teams’ structural design.|
After welcoming remarks by Dr. Elizabeth Babcock, Dean of Education, the girls listened to women experts in the field including Celeste dela Calzada, an engineer who spoke about her academic and career path as a woman of color in a male-dominated field, and the Academy’s own geologist Dr. Jean DeMouthe, who talked about the causes and effects of earthquakes and how we can prepare for them.
Using the Academy’s Earthquake exhibit as their inspiration along with professional guidance from their engineering mentors, the girls worked in cross-institutional teams to design and construct a two-story building using drinking straws, paper clips, pins, and bits of string as construction materials. The crescendo of cheering and applause reached its peak when the structural integrity of each teams’ building was tested at several different magnitudes using the Academy’s portable shake table. Some designs toppled at relatively low magnitudes of 4.0, but most survived the first round. As one building after another was tested again at increasingly higher and higher magnitudes, others eventually succumbed to the intense shaking. Only two buildings remained standing after each endured a magnitude 8.5 temblor, the tie-breaker going to the team that used the fewest materials.
|The winning design that survived an 8.5 magnitude quake.||The girls show off their certificates of participation from the Academy.|
Regardless of whether or not their building survived, every girl came away a winner through their participation in the event, with not only a greater understanding of engineering principles and collaborating with new acquaintances, but most importantly, recognizing the engineer in themselves. When asked what attributes are most important to a career in engineering, the girls remarked that passion and confidence, courage and perseverance, plus good communication and teamwork were essential for success. As one aspiring engineer put it, “If a woman wants to become a well-respected engineer, she not only has to be good at what she does, she has to have faith and has to believe in herself. She can’t let all the stereotypes discourage her from doing what she loves and has passion for. Women, especially in the sciences, have to stay strong and have lots of self-esteem when faced with obstacles to their success.” We look forward to providing more opportunities for young girls to get so excited about engineering that you’d think it was a Justin Bieber concert. Perhaps we will pass out ear plugs next time!
To see news coverage on this event, click here.
Take time now to plan activities to engage girls in engineering and technology during National Engineers Week, February 16-22, which culminates with Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day on February 22nd. Take advantage of this national celebration to highlight the contributions engineers make to society, and provide opportunities for girls to create, design, and build. Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day is part of Engineers Week, where all kids can explore what an engineer does and the impact they make on our lives. For ideas, take a look at five easy ways to make a difference during Engineers Week.
Don’t forget to get creative on February 5th with Digital Learning Day!
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The L.C.Bates Museum’s Girl Naturalist As Artist Program, with support from a Girls RISEnet minigrant award, directly engaged over 539 rural mostly low income girls and in some cases their Families in learning through integrated science and art experiences. This program enriched the lives of girls by using artistic and scientific observation of our natural world to grow their life-long knowledge and appreciation for Maine’s natural environment and its stewardship and their interest in careers in science or the arts. In collaboration with 3 artists the Girl Naturalist As Artist program implemented a series of 25 Wednesday afternoon and Saturday STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) workshops that merged art and science observation. The Museum’s natural history collections and outdoor areas served as appealing subjects for the girls’ artistic and scientific investigations. Evaluations stressed that making visual notations in nature journals helped the girls engage and build an interest in science and self-confidence.
If you’ve attended a Girls RISEnet workshop, you’ve probably learned about near-peer mentoring as a strategy to engage girls in STEM. In January, we celebrate National Mentoring Month, and we can all start the year off right by finding ways to “be someone who matters to someone who matters!” Throughout this month there are many ways to be an effective mentor, and you can share your story using #MentoringWorks on social media to join the conversation.
If you’re looking for the newest technologies to integrate in your STEM education program, check out the 12 technologies identified as being key in STEM+ education in the next five years. The Technology Outlook for STEM+ Education 2013-2018 report was provided by the New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project Sector Analysis.
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Whether it’s connecting with friends, creating digital art, or exploring our world, technology is a big part of our lives. However, only 12% of computer science degrees are awarded to women! As educators, it’s important to get girls to be creators of technology, not just consumers of technology. So plug in and get your tech on! In this newsletter, there are many helpful resources to do just that.
Speaking of getting girls involved in coding, our congratulations to Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code, for receiving the White House Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion award in August 2013! Kimberly was a guest speaker at the Girls RISEnet National Institute 2013, and a Girls RISEnet minigrant recipient in 2012 The minigrant funded “It’s All About Robotics” which was Black Girls Code’s first summer camp.
“One of the things that really benefited us in 2012 was the ability to receive a RISEnet grant. And that was what really fueled our summer program, our very first summer camp, that we held in San Francisco. And now that has become one of our major and flagship programs.”
–Kimberly Bryant, speaking at the Girls RISEnet National Institute 2013
The toy industry has finally realized that girls like building too!
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