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 Discover with Roxanne Simpson after the egg drop!SciGirls Discover with Roxanne Simpson after the egg drop!

We have been blessed with amazing campers this week! We can't believe SciGirls 2019 is coming to a close!  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! Using random samplings of 30 milk chocolate M&M's and 30 dark chocolate M&M's, it turns out colors are not equally represented in milk vs. dark chocolate M&M's! After all the number crunching, SciGirls were hungry for some 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. A few of our SciGirls were able to project correctly and hit the monkey! This activity was a hit and our girls had a lot of fun with it! 

After lunch, 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 critical thinking STEM challenges. Ask any of these SciGirls how to walk through an index card!! Other challenges included making and playing with kinetic sand, spaghetti/marshmallow towers, and, a SciGirls favorite, the egg drop! We dropped our eggs from the second floor and the third floor outside at the MagLab, and some groups were very successful in protecting their eggs!

Lastly today, 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! Girls had a great time working together and using trial and error to master neutral buoyancy!

It has truly been a STEMtastic week with SciGirls Discover Week 2! Girls have learned a lot of new concepts, explored many different areas of STEM, and made new friends! 

That's it for SciGirls Discover 2019! See you next summer!! 

SciGirls Quest finishing their Mars colonization projects.SciGirls Quest finishing their Mars colonization projects.

We began today by wrapping up our Mars colonization posters and sent them to the printer. The girls have some amazing designs and have put forth so much effort and thoughtfulness in completing this project! Mid-morning, we set off for FSU’s Department of Physics where we met Melissa Shahbandeh, an astrophysics graduate student. Melissa took us on a tour of the night sky in the planetarium and we also watch a show about star and planetary formation and historical models of the universe. 

After lunch, back at the MagLab, we met with Dr. Huan Chen, who shared with us her research on microbial life. We learned how diverse and beautiful bacteria can be. We also investigated our own microbial growth that we had set up in petri dishes last week. 

We ended our two-week science extravaganza with a reception at WFSU where the SciGirls presented their Mars research, engaged with a panel of women scientists, and received certificates of completion. We have all had such a great two weeks, we learned so much, and really enjoyed getting to know each other!

SciGirls Quest outside FSU's Innovation HubSciGirls Quest outside FSU's Innovation Hub

We spent the morning in the MagLab with Dr. Payal Ghosh of FSU’s Nutrition, Food & Exercise Sciences program. Dr. Ghosh’s lab researches the effects of space flight on the human body. She shared with us the results of their research and demonstrated changes in blood pressure and vascular physiology that results in microgravity environments. Of course, we had a ton of questions, especially related to our Mars research project. What an interesting and informative presentation!

After lunch, we traveled to FSU’s Innovation Hub to meet back up with Castle Kim, who led us in a 3D-printing lesson last week. We got to retrieve our 3D-printed tokens and keychains that we designed last week. We also toured the facilities and saw the FabLab where the 3D printers and laser cutters do their magic. We also had the opportunity to design a laser printed keychain.

We returned to the MagLab full of innovative ideas! Hard to believe tomorrow is our last day together!

SciGirls Discover at wFSUSciGirls Discover at wFSU

What a fantastic Thursday! We started the day at the FSU Textile Testing Lab! We were led by FSU Professor Tara Hackett. She first told us about her job in the textile lab and what she teaches college students that want a job in product development. 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. Another test textiles can go through is how far they can stretch before breaking! Did you ever have any clue that all apparel goes through this kind of testing before going on the market? 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. We started off with Paul Dam, who gave us a tour of the TV/Radio Museum here at wFSU! The girls were surprised by the box style TV's and tuning radios, but especially with the floppy disk!  6 of our girls then went off with Kim Kelling at wFSU and participated in a SciGirls podcast, while the rest got to edit video clips into one fluid 30-second video segment. They got to choose the music, 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. Thanks to the staff at wFSU for hosting another wonderful SciGirls experience!

All in all it was a fantastic day. Tomorrow is our last day of SciGirls Discover, 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 have fun with mini STEM challenges!!

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

Another amazing SciGirls Discover Day!!! We started the day with Andrew Dennard and his staff at the Florida Center for Interactive Media, FCIM! FCIM makes apps, websites, and specializes in graphic design and creating websites for different businesses. At FCIM, our girls were able to learn about the very beginning of app building, and then made paper app prototypes to fulfill a need! Some needs that were filled were for crockpot potato recipes, theme park navigation, school planner, and "the music shop." Girls also created new board games by collaborating with each other. They came up with rules, procedures, game board, and game pieces, and then they played their games! Thanks to Andrew Dennard and his staff for another wonderful SciGirls experience.

Once back from FCIM and after lunch, our girls completed a "Grab and Go" challenge. Each group of girls created a mechanical arm out of household items. The arm had to pick up a weighted cup from 1 meter away and hold it up for 10 seconds. Our girls came up with some amazing designs and all girls rose to the challenge!

After "Grab and Go," Dr. Amy McKenna, a chemist here at the lab, came to lead us in an investigation about surfactants/oil and water solubility. Girls used milk (skim, whole, half and half,) food coloring, and dawn dish soap to investigate properties of hydrophobic and hydrophilic substances. This was such a fun learning experience and our girls created some very colorful milky creations.

Lastly today, girls competed in a microscopy challenge. They were shown 9 pictures of foods under a microscope, and as teams, they had to match the picture of the food with the food name. This sounds easy, but, boy, is it challenging! Our winning table completed the challenge in 1.15 minutes!!

Tomorrow will be another fun adventure as we travel to FSU's Textile Testing Lab in the morning for some materials science, and then to wFSU in the afternoon for Media/Technology!

SciGirls on air at WFSUSciGirls on air at WFSU

We began our day with unpacking our brains a little at the MagLab after spending the last several days out and about. We discussed our recent experiences and how they tie into our Mars colonization project. Mid-morning we walked to the WFSU studios and got our broadcasting on! Some of our girls lent their voices to a radio production, while others tried their hands at filming. The radio crew was led by Regan McCarthy, Jon Manson-Hing, and Kevin McDaniel. We took turns being interviewed and filming the interview for a podcast to be edited and used by WFSU. Regan asked our girls in-depth questions about their experiences so far in camp and how those experiences have changed their perceptions of science and their place in STEM fields. Girls who worked with the film production crew, led by Suzanne Smith, learned about the mechanics of a set and how to use all the equipment. They learned about the process of interviewing and wrote interview questions to ask each other. Others worked on editing footage from the past 7 days of our camp. 

After lunch, the radio group wrote and recorded 15-second stories about the impact of SciGirls. These stories will be used on air as radio spots and advertising for the program. The television group recorded their interviews and filmed intro and closing footage, and learned the glory of a teleprompter.

We returned to the MagLab for a delicious molecular gastronomy demo by the MagLab’s own Dr. Martha Chacon Patino. We learned how to make carrot foam using a soy lecithin emulsifier, watermelon juice caviar using spherification with alginate, and chocolate spaghetti using gelification with agar agar. What a tasty end to the day!

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!