‘Bout time. As the father of a daughter who is degreeing in the Bio-Tech field, I am aware of the shortage of women in these fields…
And the shortage of Americans in the STEM fields nation wide.
Maybe the coming generation of girls can save us from becoming a Third Rate, Third world nation.
The way Darrian Loganexplained it to the 20 or so 7- to 11-year-old girls seated around four tables in a summer camp dining hall, the future of American space travel rested on their little shoulders.
“NASA gave us a little project to do,” Darrian said. “In a few years, they need people like you ladies to build rockets for them.”
Then he and his fellow Camp Moss Hollow staffer Evan Simmons put a bowl of marshmallows and a pile of uncooked spaghetti at each table.
The link to rockets may not have been obvious, but this was part of a new class at Moss Hollow. It’s part of an effort by NASA’s education office to teach STEM concepts — science, technology, engineering and math — in interesting ways. Earlier this year, representatives from the space agency taught the curriculum to camp staffers. Other lessons include making paper airplanes and building tiny cardboard cars propelled by balloons.
This afternoon’s assignment: the Leaning Tower of Pasta. The girls of the Boxwood cabins had to work in teams to design and construct spaghetti-marshmallow towers capable of holding a Ping-Pong ball. If the Ping-Pong ball was safely cradled, a highlighter and then a pair of scissors would be added to see if the towers could stand the strain.
“And, yes, you can eat the marshmallows,” Darrian said. “At the end of the exercise.”
I don’t know what motivates NASA engineers, but marshmallows seem to work with 7-year-old girls.
“Let’s make a castle,” one camper shouted.
“Who wants to make a rectangle?” asked another.
“How many corners does a rectangle have?” asked counselor Rani Lewinson.
The girls from her cabin — Boxwood 3 — decided that a rectangle has four sides and proceeded to sketch out their design on construction paper. It was a basic cube, with a marshmallow at each corner and spaghetti struts in between.
The girls of Boxwood 1 went for something more pyramidal in shape. The girls from Boxwood 4 had an organic shape, semi-pentagonal. It looked a bit like a model of a newly discovered molecule: marshmallonium, perhaps.
Boxwood 2 started out with a wall — tall and narrowly horizontal — until the girls realized it wouldn’t stand up on its own and disassembled it to make something a little more sturdy.
Marshmallows were precious — there was a finite supply — but the spaghetti seemed endless. A lot of measure-once-and-cut-twice was going on as lengths of pasta were snapped in half or quartered, only to discover that they were now too small.
The girls had 12 minutes to construct their towers. When they were done, they admired their sticky handiwork. None of the creations were particularly soaring. Saturn V’s they were not. But they didn’t have to be graceful. They only had to work…