Young girls branch out with STEM-palooza


Rebecca Cantrell

Two student volunteers help prepare the slime lab for local elementary and middle school-aged girls.

Rebecca Cantrell, Reporter

The second annual STEM-palooza, held on March 18 in NC’s freshman cafeteria, fostered a passion for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in girls from local elementary schools girls and allowed the girls to explore science concepts through hands-on labs as well as learn about the careers STEM can offer.

“We had to make sure we had enough volunteers from NC to cover all of the stations. They had training on how to run each station. We also had to make sure we had all the supplies, but it is so much fun that they love doing it,” Advanced Scientific Research and Magnet Chemistry teacher Nena Tippens said.

Senior Courtney Wadley spearheaded the event for her Gold Award for Girl Scouts. She started the project last year with the help of Tippens and members of the Science Club in an effort to combat the traditionally masculine view of STEM programs.

“I actually planned this event because I knew not every girl has a positive experience with STEM when they are younger. That’s why there’s such a discrepancy of girls in STEM fields,” Wadley said.

The event held nine stations and the girls rotated through the stations and kept their experiments. Experiments include soda and Mentos, homemade slime, and dry ice, which taught the girls about CO2. When dry ice combines with the bubble and water solution, the bubbles expand due to the CO2 from the dry ice.

“My favorite lab was the dry ice one because it showed the different possibilities ice can do, even though dry ice is different. The lab gave me a different perspective of what I wanted to study,” Coraline-Anne Hilaire, a fifth grader at Smyrna Elementary School, said.

Next, the girls created their own lava lamps using water bottles filled with vegetable oil, water, and their choice of food dye. The oil and water do not mix due to differences in density and, as a result, produce a lava lamp like effect.

Susan Aughey, NC forensics teacher, ran the fingerprinting station where girls learned how forensics helps fight crime as well as how to identify different fingerprints types. The girls kept a bookmark with their fingerprint as a souvenir.

Cara Hamilton, NC’s AP Statistics teacher, conducted a Kahoot on jobs that include mathematics. Careers include animation, which uses algebra, and video game programming, which uses trigonometry, physics, and calculus.

Honors Physics teacher Elizabeth Walker enlightened the girls on how collisions and energy work through a splatter ball and a popper. Student volunteers worked together to provide the slime lab, where the young girls learned about solids and liquids. Using water and cornstarch, the slime appears watery when not touched but turns solid due to a reaction in the solution.

“I liked the slime lab because it teaches you about solids and liquids and how they can be both,” Cassandra Denton, a sixth grader at Awtrey Middle School, said.

Next, the girls saw how chemical reactions and gases work using a balloon, vinegar, and baking soda. The reaction between the baking soda and vinegar creates a gas which inflates the balloon. The girls also performed a Mentos and Coke lab and created an explosion. The final station provided snacks and drinks.

Wadley and her team intensely planned the event and perfected the experiments for the best results. She also distributed flyers in local elementary schools and sold candy to raise money.

“My team and I chose the experiments, designed and ran the website and Facebook page, created flyers, and fundraised by selling candy bars. It was a very complex process, but we made it work and that is what counts!” Wadley said.

Wadley hopes to continue STEM-palooza in college and further improve the event for the future.