Wednesday, November 7, 2012

CalGirls Kick-Off Conference

I was so excited for the opportunity to be a part of the CalGirls Kick-Off Conference on November 1st! In fact, I'm still pretty fired up about it & am continuing to make connections and have conversations with other conference attendees about ways we can work together. Read about the conference here: (yes, that's a picture of me SERIOUSLY considering how to best set up our hydraulic powered pumpkin lift. Our team was super proud of our stable & effective outcome!)

In this breakout session, a Lawrence Hall of Science representative gave each of the 5 small groups their mission: to design and engineer a hydraulic lift to move a pumpkin. Everyone had access to an array of tools including blocks, pegs, platforms, syringes, rubber bands, paper clips, pipe cleaners, weights & a few more easily attainable tools. There were a few examples on the table so you could either choose to recreate an existing design or get some ideas & make your own. The mentor was present to offer some key guidance and support. We worked in our small groups, brainstorming, collaborating, building & improving our design until it passed our test and we decided we were finished. This is the basic structure behind the Lawrence Hall's Ingenuity Lab, and their satellite site in Vallejo; the Inventor's Lab (they also use engineer students from local colleges as mentors).

What did I learn from this exercise? First of all, experiences like these are incredibly fun, positive and confidence-building. Second, collaboration is key - this was completely a group effort where we built upon one another's input.
Lastly, accessibility is everything; the challenge, the setting, the group the tools & the mentor collectively make the experience productive & engaging.

Now - how can we create situations where kids in our community get to use science & engineering on a regular basis to create model solutions to real world problems? I hope to provide these opportunities to our MUSD students & welcome your support!