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Girl Scouts make polymers, lava lamps, solar ovens at ASU Polytechnic campus

Girl Scouts study model of the human eye at ASU Polytechnic campus

Emel Topal, human anatomy and physiology instructional professional in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, uses an eye model to show the scouts how the eye takes in light and reflects the image on the retina. Photo by Kelley Karnes, ASU.

October 17, 2016

Twenty-four Girl Scouts gathered for a day of physics, chemistry and fun at Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus Saturday. There were even s’mores — but first the scouts made solar ovens to cook them in.

“The girls started the day with an overview of the fields of chemistry and physics and heard about women who have made important contributions,” said James DeGraffenreid, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts instructional professional in science and mathematics, who led the day-long workshop.

They learned about polymers and then, working in teams, used white glue and borax to make their own, experimenting with different ingredients. They explored properties of materials and the concept of density and then made a lava lamp, DeGraffenreid said.

From there, the girls transitioned to a module about how the sun works before they constructed solar night lights and solar ovens. They also viewed the sun through a special telescope.

Scout Madeleine, after looking at the sun through the telescope, said: “It was so red! It didn’t look like I was thinking it would.” 

After lunch, the kids toured the campus and studied the human eye and how lenses can be used to correct common problems. At the close of the day, they summarized what they learned and how their perception of women in science might have changed.

“It was fun!” said scout Hayven. “I definitely want a profession in science. Anything in science. Maybe nuclear medicine like my dad.” 

Fellow scout Leah agreed: “It was really fun, and I want to do this again. I’m planning to go to Stanford, but I like ASU now, too. I want to be a doctor, maybe a neurosurgeon.”

DeGraffenreid, who holds a doctorate in physics from ASU, has more than 20 years of experience in the semiconductor industry. His daughter Grace is active in scouting and for the last four years he has volunteered with the Arizona Cactus-Pine Girl Scout Council, offering sessions to engage girls in STEM activities.  

"The girls love science so much," he noted. "But the sad truth is that around this age, they start subtly being discouraged from becoming scientists. It is so energizing to be able to renew their love of science."

“We’re thrilled when K-12 students have the chance to spend time in our great Poytechnic campus facilities and experience the hands-on learning that is prevalent here,” noted Duane Roen, vice provost of the Polytechnic campus and dean of the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts and University College. “Faculty across colleges are eager to create customized tours and learning experiences for youth.” 

To learn more about creating customized visits for K-12 students at ASU's Polytechnic campus, contact Gerald West, recruitment coordinator in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. 

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