WIB-RTP Young Women In Bio, in coordination with Graduate Women in Science RTP, hosted its third annual Spring into STEM event on April 27, 2019. Approximately 50 girls in 4th-8th grade joined us for a morning of hands on science activities and learning. The event was held at North Carolina Central University’s Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE). The girls rotated through four diverse activities during the morning, each focusing on a different area of science and engineering.
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In the activity, “Clearing a Path to the Heart”, the girls became biomedical engineers working in teams to design a device to clear a blocked artery. In the activity, a tube filled with playdough was used to mimic a clogged artery. The girls began by comparing the flow of liquid through a clean artery (empty pipe) and a clogged artery. After using materials such as pipe clears, straws, paper clips, and balloons, the girls brainstormed & designed devices to clear the blocked artery. The girls then attempted to clear the arteries with their engineered devices. After, they tested the flow of liquid through their “cleared” arteries and compared the flow to the clean and clogged arteries. The girls’ creativity shined throughout this activity with the girls designing devices that ranged from using scraping to unclog the artery to devices similar to commonly used balloon catheters without any previous knowledge. The girls also thought about how their designs in the context of if they were to be used in real human patients and how some designs may be better than others for actual patient use.
In the activity, “DNA Detectives”, the girls learned how DNA can be extracted and how DNA can be analyzed by scientists to solve crimes. First, the girls collected samples of their own saliva. The cells in saliva were broken up by adding soap. DNA is insoluble in ethanol, therefore when the girls added salt and ethanol the DNA came out a solution and the girls were able to visualize their own DNA. Their DNA appeared as strings in the solution. After, the girls worked together in groups to analyze a crime scene. Each team was given provide with a suspect’s DNA that was visualized on an agarose gel. Each suspect’s DNA ran differently on the gel. The girls compared the DNA from each suspect with the DNA found at the crime scene to determine who committed the crime. The girls had a blast in this activity, especially with the hands-on components.
In the activity, “Slime Time”, the girls learned about polymers and their unique properties while making slime. The activity leaders explained how the glue and borax they added together was undergoing a chemical reaction, called polymerization. The girls explored how the properties of the slime could be changed by manipulating the amounts of glue/water/borax added to the slime as well as adding other materials to the slime, such as lotion. The girls had a blast carrying out their own reactions and comparing how their slimed differed from their friends. The girls were very excited to take their slime home to play with!
In the activity, “Entomology: Pinning Insects”, the girls learned how entomologists preserve insects they find in nature for later examination under the microscope. The girls had the opportunity to learn how to pin insects for display in a jewelry box that they were able to take home. The activity leaders taught the girls how to spread apart the ladybug’s left and right to expose their wings. The girls also learned how to distinguish the native ladybug from the invasive Asian lady beetle. Some girls left this activity with the want to start their own insect collections!