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.

SciGirls2 with Southeast Archeological Center and "Pat"SciGirls2 with Southeast Archeological Center and "Pat"

The last day of camp (super sad face.)  Today was a bittersweet day, as we wrapped up an amazing two weeks of scientific fun! This morning, our girls were challenged to create posters displaying either what they aspire to be when they grow up in science, or which career covered over the past two weeks they were inspired by the most. From there, the displays gave a definition of the career, and steps needed to be taken from now until then to achieve that career. Our girls were blown away when they started their research, but quickly discovered that with some work, they can achieve anything they want to, as long as they try, and never give up! Of course, we had to have just one more visit on this last day from women in science. The Southeast Archeological Center with the National Park Service, led by Alexandra Parsons and her staff, came to give a presentation and hands on activity all about the science behind archaeology. The presentation dove into what archeologists do at sites, how they use chemistry to identify residue, math to identify ages and diet eaten, statistical analysis, and the use of ground penetrating radar to image what is below the ground surface. The ladies explained the excavation process, stratigraphy (the layers of soil that make up an archeological site,) seriation, dendrochronology (tree ring dating,) radiocarbon dating, and osteology. From there, the girls split into three rotations where they got to get a hands on experience with the SEAS women. One station focused on stratigraphy and seriation, where girls had to determine the time period for each stratigraphic layer based on items recovered. Another station focused on dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating, where girls needed to determine how old the site is, where artifacts were found. The also used dendrochronology to decide how old the trees were when they were cut at the site. The last station focused on human osteology, the study of the structure and function of the skeleton and bone structures, and paleodemography, the study of the composition of human populations in antiquity and prehistory. This station sorted skeletal remains into anatomical positions, using skeleton drawings as guides. They also looked into dentition, the arrangement of an individual’s teeth! It was a super scientific, hands on, and fun experience! We are very thankful for SEAS for coming out to the MagLab for us! Once we were finished with our activity, it was time to settle down, complete camp post-surveys, and finish up our presentation displays in preparation for tonight’s end of camp reception. Whew! It was an amazing, intense, fabulous ride, and one that we hope our SciGirls will never forget! For now, SciGirls II 2018 is out! Don’t forget to tell your friends and family to apply for next summer!!

SciGirls I check

We can’t believe this is the final day of SciGirls 2018. We have had so much fun in many different settings, learning LOTS of different things! These young ladies have been amazing and we know their futures will be very bright!

This last day of SciGirls began with an archeological experience. Alex Parsons, of the Southeast Archeological Center-National Park Service, and her team helped us dig into the past! We learned that archeology is the study of ancient people and the things they left behind. We investigated a mock archeological site at the Mag Lab that had been looted. This included documenting damage to the site, recovering artifacts and working in our “lab” to analyze artifacts, human remains and interpreting our findings for a final report.

Our afternoon included surveys, interviews and creating posters to show the world all we’ve experienced during our two week camp. We have made new friends and created memories to last a lifetime. We encourage all of our campers to come back for SciGirls II and after that to return as volunteers. Once a SciGirl, always a SciGirl!

 SciGirls 1 2018 stairsSciGirls 1 2018 stairs

Chef Paula and her Fresh From Florida team hosted us this morning with a delicious, engaging culinary science experience. We were reminded of the differences between physical and chemical changes, acids and bases, as well as fruits and vegetables (hint: it’s all about the seeds!) Chef Paula encouraged us to be good tasters, being willing to taste new things or things we’ve tried before previously but didn’t enjoy. Since our taste buds can change, it can often take 10 to 15 tastes of the same item to develop a taste for it. Our SciGirls were certainly good tasters as they devoured southwestern scrambled eggs, fresh garden salsa and watermelon pizza. We also learned about free radicals and the importance of fresh produce rich in nutrition, like Vitamins A, C, and K.  “Eating the rainbow” can help with this. Chef Paula’s group gifted us with a bag of kitchen gear to help us carry over the lessons we learned today.

This afternoon Roxanne Simpson, director of FSU-STEM returned to challenge us with a variety of STEM activities. Groups traveled through four different stations and worked collaboratively. One station required the girls to solve and create riddles. Another “eggcellent” station had teams create a device for transporting eggs safely from various heights. Teams also had to figure out how to cut an index card so that it stays connected but has an opening large enough for a person to walk through it. One group made one large enough for the whole group to fit inside the index card! The last station was the tower station where we designed and constructed the strongest and tallest tower possible using dry spaghetti noodles and marshmallows. We definitely have future engineers in our group!

We are so sad that tomorrow is our final day of SciGirls 2018. As we conclude our time together we will DIG into archaeology and prepare to celebrate our wonderful two week experience.

SciGirls 2 with Jack Rudloe, founder and owner of Gulf Specimen Marine LabSciGirls 2 with Jack Rudloe, founder and owner of Gulf Specimen Marine Lab

What a “Turtletastic” Thursday!!! Today we went to Panacea, FL and spent the day at the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab. We were greeted by our tour guide, Leslie Breland and intern, Anthony. Leslie first took us to the touch tanks and inside the lab. We touched and played with crabs, starfish, anemones, sea cucumbers, urchins and so many more small critters! After a visit with some nurse sharks and sea bass, we then went into a special behind the scenes quarantined room to see 2 Kemp’s Ridley turtles that were being released later in the day. (More on that later!) We then continued through the lab and saw some jellies, ctenophores, corals, fiddler crabs (my personal favorite,) logger head sea turtles, blue crabs, and horseshoe crabs. Whew! After our lab tour, we went to the “Living Dock.” At the dock our girls picked up stringers, looking for critters! We found teeny tiny crabs, sea squirts, and jellies! We talked about estuaries and their relevance, salt marshes and their communities, including plants and animals found in them. We then went to the marsh and went seine net fishing! We found silver sided fish, pin fish, pipe fish, crabs, and more hermit crabs! All of this led us to the most exciting part of our day! We went to Shell Point to observe the releasing of the 2 Kemp’s Ridley turtles we saw earlier in quarantine. Their names are Weezer and Renegade. As we were waiting for the release to occur, we were invited by a staff member to assist in the release of both turtles! We immediately accepted! We got to take pictures with Jack Rudloe, the founder and owner of Gulf Specimen Marine Lab, the staff and the volunteers/interns, and both turtles! Then we followed Jack, while he was holding the turtles (one at a time) down into the ocean where they were released back into the wild. We may even get a spot on the news tonight at 5:30 or 11:00 on WTXL/ABC News. All in all it was a day we all will never forget and an amazing opportunity our girls will be talking about for years to come! We can’t believe tomorrow is the last day of camp for summer 2018!

SG2 2018 at wFSUSG2 2018 at wFSU

Roller coasters, water sheds, radio, and TV! Today was a whirlwind of a day! Big thank you to EGS (Environmental and Geotechnical Specialists) for spending their morning with us! Led by Audra Hayden and Lauren Beckwith, civil engineers, and Elon Yates, President of American Society of Civil Engineers, at FSU College of Engineering, our SciGirls learned all about the ins and outs of a civil engineer! Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including works such as roads, bridges, canals, dams, airports, sewerage systems, pipelines, and railways. After their introduction, our girls started engineering! Their first task was to engineer roller coasters using pipe insulation, tape, wooden blocks, paper towel tubes, and a marble. We discussed support, velocity, potential and kinetic energy, acceleration, and friction. Their goal was to create a coaster with 2 loops, 2 hills, and 1 jump! All girls succeeded! After coasters, we switched to water sheds! A water shed is a place for water/runoff to be stored for purposes of floods, from higher elevation to lower. Using similar items as before, girls had three steps to take to build their water sheds. First, they needed to make the topography below their surface, then, place the surface (a tablecloth) over their topography structures, and lastly place building/houses on their land. Then, it “rained!!” Each group successfully collected their “rainwater” in watershed “pools.” After a huge thank you to EGS, we walked to wFSU for Media/Communications Technology fun! Thanks to Kim Kelling, Director of Content and Community Partnerships, Suzanne Smith, Executive Producer for Television, Paul Dam, Production Manager, and the staff at wFSU for showing our girls all about public media. Some of our girls went off into the radio world, where they recorded a discussion concerning their hobbies, music, challenges/interests in science, and then they talked about their beloved pets! The rest of the girls made a television news broadcast about their experience thus far in SciGirls Camp! Both portions, radio and TV, will be broadcasted Friday night at the reception at wFSU. All in all, today was another wonderful day!

SciGirls1 2018 wfsuSciGirls1 2018 wfsu

Day 8 of SciGirls took us to WFSU to learn about radio and television production.  After a tour of the WFSU station and collection of antique radio/television equipment, we took turns participating in various roles. Several girls interviewed each other for a radio broadcast which will air on WFSU in the near future. Other girls worked on a television news broadcast. Some of the tasks performed were: script writing, camera operating, control room operators, graphic design and news anchors/reporting. We have a new appreciation for a news broadcast; there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye

After lunch, we met with female engineers from EGS who work, or have worked in the following areas: civil engineering, geophysical engineering, geotechnical engineering and environmental engineering. After going on a virtual roller coaster ride we learned about the necessary requirements for successful roller coasters. Together in teams, SciGirls planned, designed and created roller coasters with a minimum of two hops, two hills and a jump. Our engineers complimented the SciGirls group on their amazing, “epic” roller coaster design skills!

Tomorrow will be a tasty day! As we’ve learned, science is all around us, even in a kitchen!

Scigirls 1 2018 FCIMScigirls 1 2018 FCIM

We can’t believe we’re already up to Day 7 of SciGirls! Time flies when you’re having fun! We began our day with Claudia Miller, a nurse for BASF. She taught us the basics of hands only CPR. Our girls have mastered chest compressions and are ready to step up and help out when needed.

After the CPR lesson, we finished sharing our research on women in science. We focused on the accomplishments of women and also the challenges they faced. Dr. Roxanne Hughes, SciGirls camp director, facilitated this discussion. We were so impressed by the effort our girls put forth in their research and the insightful comments they made during our discussion.

We ventured over to the nearby WFSU station for our next encounter. Tasha Weinstein and her team hosted us for Water Moves, an engaging activity where we collaborated to move water from one large body of water to smaller buckets. Our girls solved puzzles to earn tokens, which were cashed in for a variety of tools used to transport water. SciGirls were certainly creative in their problem solving!

Finally, we spent our afternoon at FCIM (Florida Center for Interactive Media). Andrew Dennard and his team (Cody, Chelsea, Drew, Gillian, Steve and Sebastian) walked us through the steps of creating an app. We recorded voices, designed levels of the game, played with Garage Band to create music and eventually spent time playing the Quest to Quench game we created.  You can play our game at http://fcim-web.fcim.org/scigirls2018/group2/

Tomorrow we’ll put our news production and engineering skills to the test!

SciGirls II at Florida Center for Interactive MediaSciGirls II at Florida Center for Interactive Media

Today was a “tech”tacular Tuesday day!! From The Florida Center for Interactive Media (FCIM) to Challenger Robotics, it was a fun, technological experience! Our day started at FCIM, where Andrew Denard and his staff were waiting to give SciGirls another interactive activity for this summer! As always, FCIM never disappoints, and our girls created a game! Our girls were split into groups of three that rotated. One rotation worked on the graphics behind the game, with Jillian. Another rotation, working with Sebastian and Chelsea, made photos in front of a green screen and recorded sounds used in the game. This rotation also got to explore with the music in the game, using the program, Garage Band. The last rotation actually made the mazes in the game using simple pattern blocks, then translated them into code. When all this was put together, the girls got to play their game, and it’s very challenging, in true SciGirls fashion! To play the game, simply go to http://fcim-web.fcim.org/scigirls2018/group1/. From there, we went back to the Maglab for lunch, and awaited the arrival of Jana and Jess from the Challenger Learning Center. Jana is a teacher at Leon High School, Jess is an undergraduate at FSU studying Environmental Science. Jana and Jess started with a brief power point highlighting the history of the Challenger Learning Centers, robots and their uses, and highlighting some women in robotics! This was truly interesting to us and our SciGirls mission to learn about Helen Chan Wolf, who helped to create Shakey, one of the first robots to use AI, Neha Chaudhry, who created a robotic walking stick, and Ayorkor Korsah, who has a PhD in Robotics and AI and co-founded the African Robotics Network. Then, using EV3 Mindstorms, SciGirls worked with building and programming robots! Each group of girls built a robot and then learned to program it, starting with an easy task and graduating to harder, more challenging tasks! All in all, it was a “tech”sational day!

SciGirls I paint DNASciGirls I paint DNA

What do art and science have in common? Well, today we found out they have a lot more in common than we thought. We started our day with two ladies who were on our Ladies in Science panel last week, Dr. Stephenson and Dr. Gordon. Kylie from LeMoyne and Khadijah Weathers, an instructor at FAMU, along with a crew of volunteers from the FSU DREAM program also joined us to help make a connection between science and art. We learned about deoxyribonucleic acid, also known as DNA and how it is our individual “blueprint.” Just like our DNA, our paintings of DNA were all different. Capturing a scientific concept in an artistic way turned out to be a fun time for all!

We spent our afternoon with Dr. Amy McKenna, a chemist here at the Mag Lab. She taught us about molecules being two or more atoms. We learned that those molecules can be hydrophobic, loving water or they can be hydrophilic, loving oil. Other substances partly “like” water and partly “like” oil. These are called surfactants. We used liquid dish soap to demonstrate how surfactants work in different liquids (skim milk, whole milk and half and half). The results were stunningly beautiful, colorful creations.  All in all, today we learned not only is science cool and interesting, it can also be beautiful! We also started working on our research of women in science. Stay tuned tomorrow for more SciGirls adventures as we learn life-saving skills, apply engineering skills in a wet setting and get a little techy!

SciGirls2 visit the Florida State Caverns in Marianna, FLSciGirls2 visit the Florida State Caverns in Marianna, FL

Today was a “mine”blowing day!! We spent our day in Marianna, FL, first at Florida Caverns State Park, and then Blue Springs State Park. At the caverns, we first completed a nature hike, called the Beech Magnolia Trail. Our SciGirls brought along their scavenger hunts and wildlife guides to look for native plants throughout the trail. We found many plants, such as cabbage palm, white oak, lichens, ferns, saw palmetto, champion tree, American Beech, and so many more! We filled up much of the plant area of our scavenger hunts! Then, we took a tour of a cave that was found in 1937, by Oliver Chalifeaux, of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC.) We were led b y Park Ranger, Cassie Brown. She gave us lots of history and science as we were led through the caverns. We were walking on what used to be ocean floor, so there were many fossils throughout, such as sea shells, sea urchins, and coral. The colors of the caverns are all due to minerals throughout, like calcite, iron, manganese, and a green coloring which was algae, since the caverns stay at about 100% humidity, with a constant 65 degree temperature year round. Cassie told us all about the stalactites (hang tight from the ceiling) and the stalagmites (you might trip over), as well as “soda straws,” baby stalactites, and columns, when stalagmites and stalactites meet. Interestingly, there were a few columns that had fractures. This, we learned, is due to the fact that we were standing over an aquifer. As the aquifer gets filled up with rain, and then drained by wells over and over again, it causes shifts in the ground of the cave, creating fractures in the columns. There were also trenches in the ground we were walking on, caused by carbonic acid, when water mixes with carbon dioxide and then drips down from “soda straws.” The caverns tour is always such a wonderful experience for our scigirls, and this year was no different! From the caves, we traveled about 20 minutes down the road to Blue Springs State Park! We started with a nice picnic lunch, and then hit the canoes, kayaks, and pedal boats for some adventurous fun on the spring! Along our paddling adventures, we stopped at a couple of cave diving holes, swam around, and looked for turtles, small fresh water fish, and ibis. Our pedal boat girls quickly realized that in order to make their boat move, they had to collaborate and work together!! Once we got back to the docks, we had some free time to swim, play, dive, and slide in the beautiful spring water! No trip to Marianna is complete without a stop at SciGirls’ favorite froyo joint, Milk and Honey! All in all, it was a wonderful day full of learning fun!