Thursday, April 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

STEM for Girls Day at UC Davis hopes to grow future scientists

Fabiana Ruelas and Jaquelyne Sanabria from Beamer Park Elementary School in Woodland use an electronic “snap circuit” kit filled with color-coded components that could be arranged to create working devices during the STEM Girls 2013 daylong program Saturday at UC Davis. Parto Aram of ISIS Education led the workshop. Tina Jeoh, UC Davis/Courtesy photo

By
From page A1 | April 10, 2013 | Leave Comment

Local girls spent a day immersed in the wonders of science when the UC Davis College of Engineering presented STEM for Girls 2013 (science, technology, engineering and math) on Saturday.

The annual event, designed to inspire young girls with the exciting possibilities of various engineering careers, hosted 60 students from four area schools: Beamer Park Elementary School in Woodland, and Fern Bacon Middle School, Riverbank Elementary School and Will C. Wood Middle School, all in Sacramento.

The event was coordinated by Tina Jeoh, an assistant professor in the UCD department of biological and agricultural engineering; Mari Knuth-Bouracee, assistant director for outreach at the UCD Women’s Resources and Research Center; and Manpreet Kaur, a Women for Science and Engineering intern at the women’s center.

In the spring of 2011, the National Science Foundation presented with Jeoh with an early career development award designed to fund both her research and outreach activities. Mindful of the gender disparity in all engineering fields, she elected to continue the good work achieved by the WISTEM Girls Fair (Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), a one-time event mounted at UCD in April 2010 by the women’s center and ISIS, a local program developed to interest and instruct middle-school girls in technology.

Jeoh and Knuth-Bouracee co-sponsored their debut STEM for Girls Day last May. Armed with the knowledge of what had worked — and what hadn’t — they were ready to make this year’s sequel even more successful.

As each girl checked in at the Student Community Center on campus, she was handed a name tag, a neon green-on-black logo T-shirt and a brochure of the day’s activities. With very few exceptions, all the mentors present were women, the idea being to let the girls see older versions of themselves throughout the day.

Knuth-Bouracee began the activities by introducing the clever gimmick she employed whenever the group grew too noisy or threatened to become chaotic.”When I say ‘STEM,’ ” she instructed, “you say ‘girls.’ Got that?”

“STEM,” she commanded.

“Girls!” the young audience responded.

“STEM!” Louder, this time.

“GIRLS!”

“We have three goals today,” Jeoh explained. “One, we want you to have fun. Two, we want you to get to know us: your team leaders, all the volunteers and workshop instructors. Ask them why they came here, to UC Davis. What did they want to be, when they were girls like you? Third, we want you to see what our world looks like.”

The rest of the morning was occupied by hands-on workshops into which the girls cycled during three half-hour sessions. The workshops were run by female graduate students and undergraduates from various College of Engineering departments.

The morning’s most popular activity featured electronic “snap circuit” kits filled with color-coded components that could be arranged to create working electronic devices. No messy wires, screwdrivers or other tools were required; as the kit’s name suggests, the parts snap easily onto a plastic base, and one need only follow the instruction guide to build a gadget.

The helpful workshop leaders explained the concepts in simple terms, and started by encouraging their young visitors to guess what circuits are used for.

“Electricity?” one girl offered.

“Absolutely,” came the reply. “And what does electricity do?”

Momentary silence. “Electricity provides power to things,” the mentor continued. “Like things you plug into the wall. Who can give me an example?”

“Phone chargers!” another girl answered.

Another workshop, devoted to food science, featured a quick-and-dirty approach to making ice cream. Now working in teams of two, the girls carefully filled a small Ziploc bag with half a cup of milk, half a teaspoon of vanilla, and a tablespoon of sugar. This sealed bag then was placed inside a larger bag, also sealed, that contained four cups of ice and half a cup of salt.

“In food science, we do get to play with our food,” the workshop leader explained, to a chorus of giggles, “so I want you to shake those bags hard!”

Once the shaking had allowed the resulting ice cream to set, the girls tasted the results of their efforts while the session leaders explained the role of each ingredient.

“What’s in the milk?” one of the grad students asked the group.

“Grass,” one girl replied. Then, when the grad student looked blank, the girl elaborated: “Cows eat grass.”

So yes, the deeper chemical principles may have eluded the young scientists, but as Jeoh had insisted earlier that morning, the primary goal was to have fun.

The afternoon’s demonstrations and lab tours, again divided into half-hour sections, featured visits to the department of civil and environmental engineering’s Center for Geotechnical Modeling, Haring Hall’s Human Gross Anatomy Lab, the Student Farms, the Robert Mondavi Institute, the Bohart Entomology Museum and Bainer Hall’s Composite Materials Lab, with its “Tower of Death.”

The stand-out highlights were the bugs and beasties in the Bohart Museum, which drew plenty of ooos and ahhs, and the Tower of Death, where professor Valeria La Saponara demonstrated the ability of various composite materials to withstand the impact of a large weight dropped from a height of 8 feet.

The most dramatic test involved a watermelon perfectly sized to fit inside a bicycle helmet, enabling the fruit to emerge unscathed; followed by the watermelon without the helmet … which didn’t survive.

“And that,” one of the teacher chaperones said, to further drive the point home, “is why you should always wear your bicycle helmets!”

Everybody met back at the Student Community Center for the day’s final activity. As cream and other ingredients were stirred into large metal bowls, Jeoh and a colleague circulated throughout the room and carefully poured liquid nitrogen into the bowls. With a bit more stirring, the ingredients instantly froze into ice cream, which the girls then covered with chocolate sauce and other available sundae toppings.

While enjoying this tasty dessert, the girls engaged in one final activity: a five-question survey asking them (as one example) to cite the “awesome-est thing” they had learned; and asking, as well, if they wanted to grow up to become a scientist, technologist, engineer or mathematician.

Jeoh, although tired by the end of what had been a long day, was quite pleased.

“Outreach activities like this are very important,” she said. “Engaging students of all backgrounds with STEM subjects is critical, if our country expects to keep our leadership position in the global economy. We can’t afford to ignore the latent capabilities of half our population. We’ll need the contributions from girls like these.

“Our hope is to attract more girls to STEM fields by having them participate in fun, engaging and inspiring activities. Further, by involving graduate and undergraduate women in these activities, we’re creating a network of mentors for young technologists.

“After all, some of these girls will grow up to become the future leaders of our society.”

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Davis wins USA Today Best Cycling Town honor

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

     
    Benefit set to help local bike legend

    By Adrian Glass-Moore | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Jury deliberates murder, elder-abuse charges

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

     
    State’s health care sign-ups beat projections

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

    For the record

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    California residents divided on drought solution

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A2

     
    For the record

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A2

    Three killed in attack on Ukrainian base

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Downtown post office set to reopen

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B3

    Run or walk to prevent child abuse in Yolo County

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Nominations sought for charity paint giveaway

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

     
    Scholar will discuss human trafficking in Friday talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Per Capita Davis: Now, for some good news

    By John Mott-Smith | From Page: A4

     
    Birch Lane hosts 50th anniversary party

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Hannah Stein reads poetry at gallery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Davis Food Co-op to offer free bags on Earth Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Get in the picture with school board candidate

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    KDVS hosts on-air fundraiser April 21-27

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Tickets on sale for Pence Garden Tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Fundraiser planned for Allen’s campaign

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

    Food Co-op board plans open house

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Davis Downtown hosts candidate forum

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A4

    Learn more about Google Glass at talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Barbecue celebrates winter shelter program

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Sign of things to come

    By Fred Gladdis | From Page: A8

     
    Davis Soroptimists celebrate 60 years

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    .

    Forum

    Fancy meeting you here …

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

     
    Don’t miss a Trokanski dance

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Frank Bruni: The oldest hatred, forever young

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

     
    Expert: Free parking is a myth

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    Have they really learned?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    A great community effort

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 2 Comments

    Public Health Heroes honored

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    .

    Sports

    Huge inning propels Pleasant Grove past DHS

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Giants edge Dodgers

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Foster steps down as Lady Blue Devil basketball coach

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    River Cats’ streak reaches six wins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Landry evolves into UCD women’s lacrosse leader

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Youth roundup: Martinez, Chan come up big at gymnastics regional

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Kings drop season finale to Suns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Angels get past A’s in extras

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Wineaux: Good deals off the beaten path

    By Susan Leonardi | From Page: A7

     
    Rockabilly phenom to play at The Palms

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    HellaCappella showcases a cappella singing

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    ‘One’ singular sensation to open at DMTC

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    25th annual state clay competition exhibit at The Artery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Tapan Munroe

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, April 17, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6