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 2017 Day 10

SciGirls II on our last day of camp. So sad to see it end!

Another spectacular SciGirls Summer is coming to an end. It's been an amazing two weeks, as our girls have worked together and bonded, learning more about STEM fields, and about themselves.

Today, our girls thought about their futures. Each girl was given an opportunity to research a possible career path, including their education along the way, from challenges in high school to the amount of schooling needed, and eye opening reality check concerning tuition! After researching, girls created displays of their findings that will be showcased at tonight's reception.

No SciGirls day is complete without some hands-on science! Today, we had a visit from Southeast Archeological Center - National Park Service. Thanks to Dr. Katie Miyar, Dr. Hillary Conley, Megan Merrick, Brittney Shields, Megan Williamson, Edith Gregory, Paige Hawthorne, and Heather Young for showing our girls all that goes into archeology. Archeology is the study of ancient people and the things they left behind. Archeologists study artifacts from long ago to learn more about the past. 

Our girls were given a scenario in which an archeological site at the MagLab had been looted. The girls had to visit the site and document the damage, record the size of the illegal digging, recover artifacts in the distrubed area using scientific methods, and then work in the lab to analyze the artifacts and the confiscated human remains, and interpret the findings for a report. 

Tonight, we look forward to our annual SciGirls Reception! First we will hear from former SciGirl campers, Stephanie Reynolds, Janessa Sullivan, and Mei Maddox. These women have continued their love for science and will share with the audience their journeys since scigirls in the STEM fields. In addition, our girls are extremely anxious to get to view the news broadcasts they recorded at wFSU on Day 8. It will prove to be an amazing, but bittersweet night, as we say goodbye to another group of fabulous campers.

As for now, this is Brynn Wallace and Kelly Pagan signing out! We'll see you next summer! SciGirls ROCKS!

SciGirls1 2017 Archaeology

It’s here and we’re oh so sad to see these girls go. Ten days of interactive science activities plus ten days of creating friendships equal The SciGirls Experience! A big thank you to Dr. Hillary Conley, Dr. Kathryn Miyar, Megan Merrick, Brittney Shields, Megan Williamson, Edith Gregory, Heather Young, and Paige Hawthorne for a lesson in archaeology, a subject that incorporates the various aspects of STEM through the utilization of chemistry, mathematical formulas, statistical analyses, and ground penetrating radar. SciGirls acquired a new term this morning in learning that the spatial location of an artifact in a site is called provenience. Yep, that’s right. Archaeology is a mesh of not only STEM, but language as well. After the artifacts are located, the written documentation must be accurate for purposes of validity and reliability. This was a great way to end SciGirls.

As we worked to complete our poster presentations for tonight, we thought about many of the fun times over the past two weeks. Who knew you could mesh so well with people after only two weeks. Many of us now even have new friends to look forward to seeing on the first day of 6th grade at our new schools. We were extremely anxious to showcase our radio and television talents at the reception, but first we listened to our panelists share their current journeys in STEM. Kudos to Stephanie Reynolds, Janessa Sullivan, and Mei Maddow who we know will be trailblazers!

SciGirls I 2017 has come to an end and to our hosts, we extend our sincerest appreciation and thankfulness for making these two weeks EXTRAORDINARY!!!!! Just remember that Fun + Learning = SciGirls, and WE ROCK!

Keep the SciGirls spirit alive and come out to the next Science Cafe featuring our very own Dr. Roxanne Hughes. She will be discussing "breaking down the barriers that keep women out of science." This event will take place Tuesday, August 29 at Backwoods Bistro 6:15-7:30.

Scigirls1 at Leon Sinks

SciGirls survived the hike at Leon Sinks.

A real SciGirl has the willingness and courage to venture into the unknown.  Thus we got an introduction to karst topography this morning with our visit to the Leon Sinks Geological Area. Karst is a landscape that happens through deep erosion of a soft rock such as limestone, and it leads to the most unusual visual treats as water flows into, out of, and through the Swiss-cheese holes that occur within karst (floridahikes.com/leon-sinks). Joined by Greg Hitz, Cindy Fischler, and Mitra Khadka, we trekked a little over two miles through the Apalachicola National Forest to conduct water testing at Hammock Sinks.  Time flew so quickly that we didn’t get a chance to conduct water testing at Fischer Sink, but we were treated to the natural beauty found at Big Dismal Sink and Gopher Hole. 

Dr. Amy McKenna reminded us that science is all about fun.  Sharing a little bit of her journey into science, Dr. McKenna emphasized the importance of attentiveness as a student.  Holding a degree in analytical chemistry, it was obvious that this petroleum chemist knows a little bit about how to keep the SciGirls about surfactants.  With an activity that tested the solubility of milks, we tiptoed into the area of organic chemistry.  We discussed the hydrophobic (oil-loving) and hydrophilic (water-loving) nature of various substances.  Using food coloring, whole milk, heavy cream, skim milk, and Dawn dish soap, our afternoon was filled with colorful explosions of art. Today we were given permission to make a mess and make a mess we did - accompanied by many giggles, smiles, oohs, and aahs! 

Nine days down… only one to go!  But wait, the fun is not over.  Come back tomorrow to check out our last day.

SciGirls on the Beach!

SciGirls at the Beach with our tour guide, Jessica!

What a splashin' day!

Today, SciGirls 2 went to Panacea, FL, and visited the Gulf Marine Specimen Lab. Upon arrival, we met our tour guide, Jessica, and started to explore the touch tanks in the lab. The first tanks we saw were from the Arthropod phylum, including the Horse Conch, which it's shell, that can grow up to 2 feet, is our Florida State Shell. Who knew? In that area, we also saw a tulip snail interact with a scallop. The scallop can sense it's pray, and when placed by the tulip snail, quickly opens and  closes it's shell to "swim" away. We also got to see and hold seastars, urchins, crabs, and sponges.

Then, we made our way over to the looking tanks, where we saw nurse sharks, turtles, and large fish, including trigger fish and goliath grouper, which is an endangered fish. Jessica fed the nurse sharks and discussed how their barbles (like whiskers) help them sense food. We continued on our tour and saw a brown octopus, sting ray, and eels. We learned that the eels have a bacteria on their teeth that makes their bite more painful. 

From there, we went to see the sting ray, who made a mighty splash when given food, and lion fish. We learned that lion fish are very invasive because they breed quickly, have no natural predators, are venomous, and they eat a lot. They are becoming popular to eat, and can be purchased at Whole Foods.

We went outside and saw some turtles that are being rehabilitated. We were excited to find out that 4 of the turtles that had been rehabilitated, are being released next Thursday, August 3rd, from Bald Point at 3:00pm. 

Before we left the lab for part 2 of our tour, we saw fiddler crabs, which all of our girls fell in love with. We also played with some horseshoe crabs and learned that they have been around for more than 450 million years, even before the dinosaurs! We were amazed to find out that horseshoe crabs have 10 eyes, even some on their tails!

Part 2 of our tour was the "living dock." Here, girls got to pick up stringers and search for critters. They identified and discussed the critters in preparation for part 3 of our tour! Some of the animals we found were decorator crabs, brittle stars, sea squirts, cross jelly, hydroid, needle fish, zebra flat worms, tiny shrimp, and the crum of bread sponge, which smells like garlic!

After our lunch, we began phase 3 of our tour with the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab. We went to the marsh where we tried our hands at seine fishing. It was low tide, and the girls were able to wade out pretty far, and were still only up to their knees. When net fishing, we found a few critters, including small comb jellies, needlefish, grass shrimp, several juvenile fish, and a whole lot of fiddler crabs. It was very hard to pry our girls away from the fiddler crabs. We would not be suprised if some of our SciGirls brought home a pet fiddler!

Today was another wonderful SciGirls day! It's so hard to believe there is only one day left! Tomorrow, we take on some archeaology and research careers of interest and how to prepare for them, as our girls continue their education in high school and college. 

Don't forget about the reception tomorrow night to close out another fabulous SciGirls summer! See you all at 5:00 at wFSU, the program begins at 5:30!

SciGirls on the production team at WFSU

SciGirls on the production team at WFSU

Five, four, three, two, one. SciGirls were front and center as they showcased their presentation talents at WFSU this morning, but only after receiving a brief tour of the facility.  During this tour, we were taken down memory lane as we viewed pieces of the Kirk Collection.  The 300-piece Kirk collection at WFSU includes radios from the turn of the century through the mid-50’s, televisions and musical instruments.  We then bounced downstairs to begin the most exciting part of the morning: taping.   We broke into groups to record radio podcasts and video segments that will be highlighted during our closing program on Friday.  Come out and see and hear how SciGirls rock!

We then headed back to the MagLab for an awesome afternoon with Audra Hayden (Professional Civil Engineer) and Christin Gorman (Environmental Engineer) from EGS (Environmental Geotechnical Specialists) who were joined by Kristine Obenour, a Structural Engineeer with Barkley Engineering.  Their session, “SciGirls Get Their Hands Dirty”, was an activity in soil Identification.  The girls went a little bit beyond identifying just the basic types of gravel, sand, silt, and clay.  Soil particles can be defined based on the following characteristics:  gravel is larger than 2 mm and feels coarse; sand is 2-0.05 mm and feels gritty; silt ranges from 0.05 – 0.002 mm and feels like flour; and clay is smaller than 0.002 mm and feels sticky when wet.  Upon the mastery of this test, we then headed downstairs for a little “dig” in the earth to really unpack the wonderful soils of the earth.  Next was a quick detour around the MagLab building to build sand columns that would support the weight of each girl in the individual groups.  Finally, we bounded back upstairs to attempt to make simple bridges with wood stakes that would support two packs of baby wipes – all of this in five minutes.  Did you think we were finished? No. The ultimate task was to replicate a bridge structure from Leonardo da Vinci using only the wooden stakes that could support the weight of a person.  Again, we were given a time limit of five minutes.  Off to the races we were to build, build, build….  It’s so hard to believe, but there are only two days left for SciGirls I 2017. 

SciGirls with EGS (Environmental and Geotechnical Specialists) Inc.

SciGirls get their hands dirty with EGS!

 We started our day with EGS (Environmental and Geotechnical Specialists) Inc. The girls learned about the different disciplines within civil engineering from three female engineers: Audra Hayden, a certified Professional Engineer; Christin Gorman, a former teacher who went back to school and is now an Environmental Engineer; and Kristine Obenour, a graduate intern who discussed her experience building a concrete canoe.  The girls learned about soil and how it is often a mixture of varying amounts of gravel, sand, clay, and silt. After seeing how these look under the microscope, they got a chance to get a "hands on" experience identifying each one based on their characteristics.  The girls loved getting dirty!

We moved outside to practice identifying soil types in the field using hand augers. This was a great application of what the girls had just learned in the classroom!

Later, they were challenged to stand on a sand tower that had been packed into a frame and had the frame removed. It was a fun fail! Then they were given mesh squares to reinforce the sand and repeat the same process; this experiment was a success!  The girls were excited to take turns getting on their sand towers.

Lastly, the girls had an opportunity to build a span bridge. With little instruction and only a few pieces of wood, they were asked to build a structure from one table to another. After some quick testing, the girls concluded that their bridges were not able to support much weight.  The engineers showed the girls a tried-and-true design created by Leonardo da Vinci built with no hardware, adhesives, or center supports.  The girls were then able to return to their materials and attempt to recreate da Vinci's design. These bridges were much stronger.

We hiked over to wFSU where we learned about the history of radio and TV including a tour of the display of radios and televisions from the past while learning about the science involved and advancements made. Nipper, the RCA symbol, is always a topic of interest and many girls recalled seeing the same dog statue at Novey Animal Hospital earlier in the camp.

The group was then split in two, where girls got to experience first-hand production, either on radio or TV.  The radio group went to a sound room where they were recorded while discussing topics of their interest. They spent a lot of time discussing SciGirls camp, the importance of the camp being for girls only, and instances they've encountered where they felt underrepresented. This will be broadcast in the future on wFSU, FM 88.9. The other group got to experience the TV side of broadcasting, including producing, writing, interviewing, camera operation, and control room operation.  You will have a chance to see and hear some of their work on Friday at the concluding SciGirls reception, beginning at 5:30 at wFSU.

Today was an amazing day filled with many sciences! From engineering to media production, it couldn't get any better. Oh, wait! Tomorrow is another fun-filled day! See you tomorrow, as SciGirls dives into marine biology at the Gulf Marine Specimen Lab in Panacea.

SciGirls I at the Florida Center for Interactive Media

SciGirls I at the Florida Center for Interactive Media

Chopped! 30 Minute Meals! Good Eats!  Who could believe that SciGirls experienced all of these shows in a 90 minute presentation from Chef Paula in the Fresh from Florida demonstration kitchen this morning?  The smells of peppers being sautéed in butter, fresh dill that would be added to a dip, peppers in the blender, and zucchini bread in the oven started a day that was all about exploration.  No, we didn’t just enjoy a bevy of food samples, but we also found out some interesting facts concerning the foods that we enjoyed.  For instance, the chili peppers that were blended in the salsa contain the chemical capsaicin that is a determiner of the level of spiciness.  We also learned about the benefits of companion planting, which is when two vegetables that are beneficial to each other are planted next to each other.  So the next time you plant some tomatoes, consider planting basil also (bugs don’t like the smell of basil).    An extra special thank you to Chef Paula, Ms. Kristi, and Ms. Beth for making our morning brilliantly aromatic!

Our day continued with a return to the MagLab to complete a mini-research project on “Women in Physics”.  The girls worked diligently to find pieces of information on women in this field who have received little recognition for their contributions to the science.  Stay tuned for more to come on their investigation, as many felt they had not acquired enough information to share as of yet….

To end this day of discovery, we headed to the Florida Center for InterActive Media to get an understanding of the rate of progression of technology.  The staff worked very hard to set up innovative encounters:  projection mapping with Ms. Stephanie; drones and 360 video with Ms. Chelsea, Ms. Whitney, and Mr. Steve; artificial intelligence identifier with Mr. Drew; and presence in virtual reality with Mr. Cody.  Unfortunately, Mr. Andrew could not join us today, but we were thinking about him!  There’s nothing better than a SciGirls day…. well except another SciGirls day.  SciGirls voices keep getting stronger!!!!!

SciGirls 2 With TMH Animal Therapy

SciGirls with members of TMH Animal Therapy!

Another amazing SciGirls 2 Day!!

We started out today with the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital Animal Therapy Program paying us a visit! We were so lucky to have 4 therapy dogs, 1 therapy bird, and 2 therapy mini horses! Our girls listened anxiously as the handlers of these amazing animals told us their stories, we all just couldn't wait to cuddle with them and have some one-on-one time with each animal! The TMH Animal Therapy group is an amazing group that visits hospitals, schools, care centers, and many more places to provide some needed calming and, well, therapy! It was very clear that these animals are used to interactions with people and welcome it! We are very thankful to Daniela Diaz for hosting this event, and also thankful for the handlers and animals that came to play! Thanks to Lindsay with Snuggles and Lexi with Bella (mini horses,) Sharyn with Rockie (Cockatoo,) Allison with Sally (Golden Retriever,) Mary Anne with Jesse (Golden Retriever,) Preston with Kosmo (Jack Russell Terrier,) and Bobbie and Sybil with Kassie (Golden Retriever!) And, of course, we can't forget Reggie (the terrier that came along with the mini horses!)

After our therapy session, we ate lunch and practiced being engineers by building telescopes! Each girl got their own kit with instructions to build a 30x magnification telescope to take home! This was fun as we all had our hands on building, but quickly learned that instructions are very important!

Then, we were off to the FSU Psychology Building for a learning session all about Neuroscience! Led by Alexandria Meyer, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, our girls learned all about measuring the neural response to making mistakes. 3 of our scigirls got to wear EEG caps, which measure the on-going electrical activity at the scalp, while playing a game on the computer where they had to make fast responses. After the game is completed, Ms. Meyer and her staff time-lock the activity that happened during correct responses and during mistakes and then average all those trials together to get an ERN, error-related negativity. We learned that error-related brain activity has been studied for almost 30 years, and that our brains respond in similar ways when we make mistakes. It is thought that this brain activity occurs so that people can notice when they make mistakes and then do something differently next time.

While waiting for groups to do the neuroscience activity, we had some fun little activities planned for our girls. Each scigirl got to make and take energy conversion cars and "scooterbots," as well as paint our nails with some UV color-changing nail polish!

Another amazing SciGirls day was had! Tomorrow, we look forward to engineering with EGS/ATKINS and broadcasting over at wFSU! 

SciGirls at the Tallahassee Animal Services Center

SciGirls at the Tallahassee Animal Services Center

With the weekend over, SciGirls I started Week Two with Dr. Rachel Barton at the Animal Service Center. Realizing that there would be many oohs and aahs and oh nos, Dr. Barton began the day with a presentation on animal welfare and eased the girls into the roles of forensic veterinarians to discuss the importance of caring for your pets. Citing the City Animal Ordinance (Section 4.7a-d), the case was made for ensuring that animals are provided their five freedoms: (1) freedom from hunger and thirst; (2) freedom from discomfort; (3) freedom from pain, injury, and disease; (4) freedom from fear and distress; and (5) freedom to express normal behavior. Animal welfare refers to the physical or mental state of an animal and there are consequences for owners who are found guilty of abuse, cruelty, or neglect. Animals deserve to be loved, and thankfully, the Animal Service Center serves as a haven for cats, dogs, bunnies, and at this moment, a lizard who are all in need of a good home. Last year, close to 4,000 cats and dogs were adopted out from the ASC. That's right people, if you are looking to add some cuteness to your household, drop on in.

Of course, no day would be complete without some interactive experiences. Let's just say that everyone tried to make it through the spaying of the two female dogs, but some were more successful than others. If we weren't in animal surgery, then we were determining the transmission of zoonotic disease in the form of a fomite or a vector. Did you know that there are close 30,000 emergency room visits per year that are attributed to bite wounds and up to 80% of cat bites become infected? This serves as a SciGirls PSA to take the proper precautions when dealing with unfamiliar animals. We ended our day with heartworm testing, and due to typical Tallahassee summer weather, we conducted an emergency retrieval of a raccoon from the ceiling with the help of Officer Kelly. Not too bad for a group of amateurs! What's up next for this intriguing group? All we'll say is move over Food Network..... cuteness to your household, drop on in.

SciGirls visit the Marianna Caverns

SciGirls visit the Marianna Caverns and Blue Springs State Park!

From stalagmites to stalactites, from caves above and below the water, we had a splashing day!

We headed out early this morning to Marianna, Florida. Our first stop was the Florida Caverns State Park! Upon arrival, we took a nature hike down the Beech Magnolia Trail, looking for wild plants, such as the bear paw flower. Then, we went into the education center and our girls learned all about water pollution, caves, the importance of bats, and nature. From there, down into the cave we went! Our tour guide, Brandon, was entertaining, but very educational. He showed us all through the cave, teaching us about the history and science behind the cave formations. We went into many "rooms" of the cavern and saw many features, including the "wedding room," which people actually get married in, but named because of a wedding cake and organ looking formations. Other "rooms" included, "fracture room" where Donald Duck can be found, "waterfall room" where the "heart" of the cave is, "discovery room," which was the first room discovered in this cave in 1937 during the Great Depression. Brandon explained to us that it is always 65 degrees down in the caves, 55 ft below ground level, regardless of the temperature above ground. He showed us many awesome formations, including stalagmites, stalactites, soda straws, and how the ground has grooves due to carbonic acid. He showed us the differences between the features of present elements, including calcite, which makes it look "sugary," iron, manganese, and of course, limestone deposits. The girls were excited to finally be able to touch a formation, as they all were given the opportunity to touch, or hug, the touching column. 

After we thanked Brandon, we headed on to stop #2, Blue Springs State Park! After lunch, we all suited up and went out on kayaks and pedal boats. While adventuring, we stopped at a cave, where some of our girls took the Go Pro for a swim, and we also stopped at a cave platform for divers, where many of our girls swam around and jumped off the platform. 

From there, we all had a bit of time to relax and swim. Some girls chose to slide, jump off a diving board or dock, while others chose to swim. One of our girls chose to get buried in the sand!

No trip to Marianna is complete without stopping at SciGirls favorite frozen yogurt joint, Milk & Honey! We all enjoyed a treat, while watching a bit of Disney's "Brave." Some girls took advantage of a foosball table, while others created dry erase art work!

All in all, today was a full, fun day! Tomorrow, we look forward to learning about therapy animals in the morning and becoming neuroscientists in the afternoon! TTFN!