BASF hosted SciGirls, where we dig science!
Really hot, but oh so cool! SciGirls I was met by a caravan to begin a wonderful day with the company whose slogan is “We create chemistry” – BASF. We traveled to an attapulgite mining site in Quincy to search for fossils with Guy Means (Florida Geological Survey) and Howard Kirk (retired BASF geologist). As soon as we arrived, we met and saw a real SciGirl in action – Ms. Natalie, the head of mining operations who holds a degree in geological engineering. This site is one of five that actively mines attapulgite, a naturally occurring clay with a high capacity for adsorption. We were excited to begin our dig, but first found out a few interesting tidbits about this wonderful place that we were about to uncover. Understanding that our Earth is about 4.6 billion years old, some of the treasures we found today could possibly be in excess of 18 million years old. Did we mention how AWESOME these SciGirls are???? In spite of the high temperatures, this group of girls found shark and alligator teeth, clam, gastropod, and oyster fossils, took a water break, and went back to hunt for more – proving they are SciGirls tough!
How do we maximize learning during SciGirls? Of course, you make the connection between experiences. So it was only fitting that after leaving the mine, we ventured to the actual attapulgite plant in Quincy. We were greeted by Ms. Paige Hilton, the new site manager, who shared a bit of her background on earning degrees in chemical engineering and technology management. Uniquely, this plant employs approximately 70 permanent employees and around 30 contracted employees who work to produce Attagel, which is used in such common products as Emergen-C, Behr paint, makeup, and Cheerios (just to name a few). BASF prides itself on working to make women 30% of the company's workforce. This was evident during our luncheon, where we had the chance to ask questions of BASF’s women in pink: Ms. Christie, the engineering and maintenance manager; Ms. Sarah, a chemical engineer; Ms. Solaine, a textile engineer; Ms. Regina, quality & continuous improvement manager at the Attapulgus site; and Ms. Claudia, the site nurse. They provided thoughtful and insightful responses to the questions posed by this inquisitive group. The takeaway for the girls was understanding that science is often a way to bridge the gap between careers. After taking a brief tour of the facility, the girls returned to the instructional lab to engage in a Kids’ Lab experiment on an oil spill simulation and clean-up. Creating fun with chemistry was easy with such a willing and engaging group of young scientists.
Needless to say, this day was AMAZING! A special thank-you to Walt Loomis, Kimberly Harrison, Paige Hilton, Blythe Lamonica, Silvia Medrano, Bria Johnson, Guy Means, and Howard Kirk for making this experience memorable. SciGirls were treated to pink shirts, pink caps, pink goggles, and other goodies, including a filling pizza and sub lunch. Join us tomorrow as we switch gears from using our hands to analyzing our minds and testing the waters. SciGirls definitely ROCK!