SciGirls Blog

What are campers up to this year at the MagLab-WFSU SciGirls Summer Camp? This blog provides daily updates about the fun field trips we take, the cool scientists we meet, and the hands-on experiments we conduct throughout the two-week schedule.

SciGirls Quest starting on a marsh walk at the FSU Coastal and Marine Laboratory.SciGirls Quest starting on a marsh walk at the FSU Coastal and Marine Laboratory.

We had another day packed full of science goodness! We spent the whole day at FSU’s Coastal and Marine Laboratory in Sopchoppy, with several scientists from FSU. We began the morning with an introduction to the lab and the research taking place there. We learned about corals and sea snails, and we got to see some interesting experiments conducted at the lab. Next, we ventured out on a research boat and trawled the sea floor for critters. We got to see several types of shrimp, crabs, fish, and invertebrates and learn about the habitats in which they live. After a working lunch, where we were treated to a presentation on life in the marshes and shallow water, we walked out into the marsh to check out more sealife. We learned how to do the “stingray shuffle” and saw firsthand what an incredible habitat oyster beds provide. We returned to the MagLab a little tired, a little wet, and completely full of newly acquired marine science knowledge.

SciGirls campers make circuits with Playdoh.SciGirls campers make circuits with Playdoh.

Today was another great SciGirls day! We are so incredibly impressed with our SciGirls and the challenging, but fun job they did today! We started the day with help from electrical engineer, Sujana Uppalapati, making LED Circuit bracelets! It was a bit tricky at first, but, Sujana helped us understand how circuits work, but, from there, we taught the girls to sew with conductive thread. We had to be very careful to keep the positive side separate from the negative side, and also know how to place our LED's so that they are also on the right side! It was definitely one of our more challenging activities, but these SciGirls rose to it!

After LED bracelets, we continued the idea of making circuits, but this time we used Playdoh! Did you know that Playdoh is conductive? We had fun making "dough creatures" and making them light up, spin a fan, or buzz! Our girls took it up a notch and created their own creatures!!

After lunch, PhD student, Alyssa Henderson, from the Condensed Matter Facility here at the lab, came to help us make crystals! We used Borax and VERY hot water. Alyssa taught the girls that crystals would form after the Borax/water solution was saturated enough. Each girl made their own shape out of pipe cleaners, and stuck them in the solution. They will be growing crystals for the rest of the week and girls can take them home Friday! Alyssa also took some time to show us where she works here in the lab, and all the super secret areas that many people don't know exist here at NHMFL.

Lastly, we ended the day with tours of the Machine Shop and the 3D Printing Facility here at the lab. An employee in the Machine Shop compared what they do to 3D Printing because they start with big pieces and then erase material to make something smaller, while 3D printing starts with nothing and creates a product! 

Again, it was an amazing day and we are so glad to spend the week with this amazing group of SciGirls! 

SciGirls Quest assisting Dr. Rachel Barton with a surgery.SciGirls Quest assisting Dr. Rachel Barton with a surgery.

We spent the whole day today with Dr. Rachel Barton and her team at the Tallahassee Animal Shelter. We started with a tour of the facility where we got to see all the adorable adoptable cats and dogs. Next, we got a primer on zoonotic diseases and how to protect ourselves and our pets. We followed up this informative presentation by assisting Dr. Barton in a spay surgery. Our girls helped to prep the animal and were present in the operating room during the surgery. After a lunch break, we learned how to recognize and prevent heat stroke in our animal companions and how to treat and prevent heartworms. Finally, we got a lesson about all the different dog breeds and their identifying features. All told, we had a jam-packed day of veterinary science with a side of adorable, fluffy sweetness! Anyone interested in adopting a shelter pet? Visit:

SciGirls Discover at Environmental and Geotechnical Specialists (EGS)SciGirls Discover at Environmental and Geotechnical Specialists (EGS)

What an amazing day with an amazing new group of SciGirls! Today we kicked off week 2 of SciGirls Discover! Our campers came in excited and ready for a week of fun learning! After our precamp surveys, MagLab safety training, and receiving badges, we all got to know each other a bit with a question game! Then, it was time for a tour of the DC (Direct Current) Field of the MagLab. Led by our tour guide, Julia Smith, physicist here at the lab, we learned so much about how the magnets are made, the research that the magnets conduct, and the entire facility! Thank you, Julia, for a great tour and for your time!!

After lunch, we had a wonderful visit from Audra Hayden and members of her staff from Environmental and Geotechnical Specialists, EGS. Audra, Kristin, and Kristine first gave us a presentation on everything civil engineering, including what the job entails and how they got to be the engineers they are today. Then, the SciGirls were given a challenge! They were to build a doghouse that can provide shade and shelter from the Florida heat!! The doghouse had to be big enough to hold "Kevin" the dog, while also being built with enough insulation to protect Kevin from the heat! Our girls rose to the challenge, and each group was successful! Our winning group had a 25difference between the inside of the doghouse and the outside! 

All in all, it was a wonderful day! Tomorrow, we look forward to high tech fashion and LED circuits, crystal growing, and more!

SciGirls Quest with Dr. Marcy Cockrell at Wakulla Springs State ParkSciGirls Quest with Dr. Marcy Cockrell at Wakulla Springs State Park

What a day! We trekked to Wakulla Springs this morning with Dr. Marcy Cockrell, a NASEM Gulf Research Program Science Policy Fellow, from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Dr. Cockrell guided us through a trail walk where we learned about the ecology of the area and how all the flora and fauna work together in a beautiful balance. After our hike, some of us took a dip in the cool, clear 70-degree water of the spring bowl, and others opted to refresh themselves with a bite or two of ice cream. We then hopped aboard a boat tour of the springs where we witnessed firsthand the wonderful biodiversity of the Wakulla River, including manatees, anhingas, egrets, alligators, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon (joke!). Exhausted and content, we returned to the MagLab after a wonderful end to the week.  What a fantastic first week it has been! Can’t wait to be back at it on Monday!

SciGirls Discover STEM challengesSciGirls Discover STEM challenges

What an amazing week it's been! It went by so fast and we truly hope each SciGirl had a wonderful, learning experience!! Today was another fun-filled, but very busy day!!! We started off with Kari Roberts, the "data master" up here in CIRL at the MagLab! She led us through a math and statistics activity with milk chocolate and dark chocolate M&M's! It turns out colors are not equally represented in milk vs. dark chocolate M&M's!

Afterwards, we did two activities involving gravity. The first involved black holes. After a quick balloon representation of a star, Aly Troy, an intern here at the MagLab took our girls to the black hole table! Girls all agreed that they had a better understanding of the way black holes are formed! Also involving gravity, the girls participated in an activity called "Monkey and the Hunter." With this, girls used a laser to aim where a projectile will hit a falling electromagnetic monkey. This proved to be challenging, but fun!

After gravity, we switched to buoyancy and density! Girls participated in an activity called "Deep Sea Diver," in which they were to create a neutrally buoyant diver. This was messy, but proved to be challenging, as well!

Lastly today, we had a visit from Roxanne Simpson, the Program Coordinator of FSU's Student Support Services - STEM. She, along with her staff, led the SciGirls in 4 different critical thinking STEM challenges. All this culminated in a fun egg drop! 

It has truly been a STEMtastic week with SciGirls Discover Week 1! Girls have learned a lot of new concepts and made new friends! 

SciGirls Discover at wFSU.SciGirls Discover at wFSU.

Today was an absolutely amazing day! We started the day at the FSU Textile Testing Lab! None of us, teachers included, knew really what to expect, and we were all blown away. We were led by FSU Professor Tara Hackett. She first told us about her job in the textile lab and all that she teaches college students. In the textile lab, multiple fabrics are tested for companies before they are put on the market. They are tested for durability and functionality. They are also tested for breathability and pilling likelihood. Our girls then completed an experiment in which they tested 5 fibers over a flame. They used a rubric to be able to distinguish the fibers based on how they reacted while approaching the flame, in the flame, and after burning. Most girls were excited when they realized they identified the fibers correctly! We then talked about different types of weaving, and girls practiced their weaving skills using paper. Lastly, they were all given a color test to see if they could put the colors in order of lightest to darkest, which sounds easy, but definitely was a challenge! Thanks to Tara Hackett for a wonderful experience!

Our afternoon was spent at wFSU, where we learned all about media and technology. 6 of our girls went off with Kim Kelling at wFSU and participated in a radio broadcast, while the rest got to edit video clips into one fluid 30-second video segment. They got to choose the music and the transitions from scene to scene, and the scenes themselves. It was great to see the girls use their creativity along with learning new technologies, all while working as a team. 

All in all it was a fantastic day. Tomorrow is our last day of SciGirls Discover Week 1, and we've really enjoyed getting to know these girls! Tomorrow, we will do some math/statistics with M&M's, learn about black holes, and complete STEM stations!

SciGirls Quest in the Council House at Mission San LuisSciGirls Quest in the Council House at Mission San Luis.

We had another full day today! We started off our day with a trip back in time at Mission San Luis, to visit a colony very different from the ones we are designing for Mars.We met a blacksmith, militiamen, and sat in a council house from the colonial period of Florida.  Alison Bruin of FSU’s Department of Anthropology joined us on our tour and shared her master’s work on Colonoware from Mission San Luis. We learned what a typical day looks like for an archaeologist and about the many fields of study within anthropology. 

 After lunch, we returned to the MagLab to learn about human physiology at high altitude from Dr. Claire Berryman and her student Cassie Heim of FSU’s Nutrition, Food, and Exercise Science program. They helped us to think about the atmospheric limitations of Mars and showed us some military MREs. We learned about the importance of nutrition in physically challenging conditions. We wrapped up the day by digesting all the awesome information and experiences so far this week and using them to inform our Mars colony designs.

SciGirls Discover at the Florida Center for Interactive Media (FCIM)SciGirls Discover at the Florida Center for Interactive Media (FCIM)

What a fabulous day! We started the day right down the road from the MagLab at the Florida Center for Interactive Media (FCIM) with Andrew Denard and his staff! Each year, FCIM never ceases to come up with amazing activities to introduce our SciGirls to graphic design, app creating, and more! This summer was no different! Our girls were split into two groups. One group learned about the brainstorming that takes place to create prototypes for new apps and their designs. The girls split into even smaller groups and came up with a need for a new app. From there, they created three prototype papers of the first screens of their new app. They really enjoyed this activity! The other group of girls brainstormed and collaborated to develop a new game. They started simple, with either dice, cards, or shape blocks, and in smaller groups of 3 made up a simple game. Then, one girl from each group had to move groups, and integrate their game with another group's game. This continued until all girls were collaborating together in making and designing a new game from the game board to the rules and consequences. 

After our time at FCIM, we came back and completed an engineering challenge called, "Grab & Go." This challenge involved using everyday household items to create a mechanical arm that can pick up and put down a weighted cup safely, without harming the cup. We got some really great creations!

The highlight of our day was our time with Dr. Amy McKenna, a chemist here at the MagLab. Our girls learned all about surfactants and hydrophilic and hydrophobic molecules. To demonstrate this in a way we can all understand, our girls used different types of milk, food dye, and dawn dish soap. Girls discovered that food dye is hydrophilic and spreads to the water molecules in milk when Dawn is introduced. The different types of milk made it so that the dye either spread fast or slow, depending on how much fat the milk had in it. Our girls made amazing colorful creations with their milk samples! 

Big thanks to the staff at FCIM and to Dr. Amy McKenna for a wonderful day. Tomorrow we go off campus to the FSU Textile Testing Lab for some Materials Science and to wFSU to learn all about Media Technology and the focus on science communication! 

SciGirls Quest with Dr. Hank Bass and Katherin Easterling at FSU's research fields.SciGirls Quest with Dr. Hank Bass and Katherin Easterling at FSU's research fields.

So many scientists today! We started bright and early with a Skype visit from Dr. Aavidai Swamy of FAMU and an in-person visit from her graduate students, Anjali Sharma and Deepa Raveendranpillai. Dr. Swamy shared her research on climate and environmental change and encourage our girls to think about how their interests can have a positive impact on the world. We then used playdough and banana leaves to model topography and hydrology, and saw 3D-printed models of agricultural fields and drainage ditches that can help curtail agricultural runoff.

Emma Martin of FSU Engineering and the MagLab came to visit and led us in an engineering challenge. Girls worked in teams to build towers out of tape and index cards working within budget and time constraints. After our challenge, Emma shared with us her experiences a woman in engineering and encouraged our girls to be confident and take risks.

After lunch we took a trip to FSU’s Biology Department and met with Dr. Hank Bass, Juan Reza, and Katherine Easterling. Juan shared with us his research on plant growth and reminded us how exciting science (of any kind) can be. Dr. Bass taught us about Zea mays and mutant corn and gave us each a copy of his book Crazy Lazy Corn. Afterwards we drove out to Dr. Bass’ research fields and greenhouses and we learned how to make crosses and how to pollinate ears of corn. Some of us left with popcorn souvenirs!

We returned to the MagLab with our heads full of ideas and excitement!