Computer Science Workshop

I’ve been holding off writing this post because the computer science workshop didn’t actually happen. It was scheduled for October 24, and I had everything planned, but no girls showed up! It was the last workshop and I was so excited to do a fun wrap-up with the girls, but no one came. I was a little disappointed, but I totally understood that it was nothing against me. Before the workshops officially started, the librarian braced me for nobody showing up. She said it would not necessarily be because of what I was doing, but most likely because there would be a lot of sports games or other club meetings. I was lucky that it was only the last workshop that no one came to, and that for every other one I had a steady number of either 4 or 8 girls.

Since I was not able to do this workshop “in person”, I figured I might as well share my plans with all of you! Hopefully someone will get some use out of it 🙂

For my beginning, I planned to talk about Ada Lovelace and give a brief intro into computer science:

How many have heard of computer science? Basically, computer science and computer programming deals with telling a computer how to run. It is building the software from the computer so it knows how to react when certain buttons are pressed. 

Do you understand how computer science works? Just like humans speak different languages, there are many different languages computers understand. There are so many different computer programming languages out there and you can program a computer in anyone of them. Just like human languages, the same action can be represented by different names. Today instead of delving into the different languages we are going to focus on one of the underlying parts of computer programming: binary. Data in computers is stored in a sequence of zeros and ones. 

Does anyone in your family work in the computer science industry?

I was also bringing in a fan used to cool down a computer, and two circuit boards, one from a telephone and one from a CPU, to show the girls what goes on inside our electronics.

The first activity I had planed was binary cards. Bascially, I had 2 sets of 6 index cards, and the index cards either had 1 dot, 2 dots, 4 dos, 8 dots, or 16 dots. I wanted the girls to recognize the pattern that each card had double the amount of dots as the next. After, I was going to explain how binary works by flipping the cards over. If the dots were showing, that was represented by a one, and if the dots were not showing, that was represented by a zero. After seeing where all the ones and zeros are, the girls would add them up to see what the binary numbers represented. If there was a 0 for 16 dots , a 1 for 8 dots, a 1 for 4 dots, a 0 for 2 dots, and a 1 for 1 dots, that would make the number 13 because when there is a 1 one for a particular number place, that number is “turned on” and is counted, if there is a 0 , that number is “turned off” and does not count. After the girls understood this concept, I was going to ask them to use the cards to make different numbers for me.

The next activity I planned was binary worksheets. I printed two worksheets from a website( and I hate not being able to give credit, but I have them in PDF form and am not able to attach them so you can see the actual worksheets 😦 However, the first worksheet was about sending secret messages. Tom was trapped in a department store and decided to send a message for help using binary through the Christmas tree lights. The worksheet provided lines of binary with boxes up to 16 and when there was a Christmas tree in a box that meant the number was turned off. The worksheet provided a number that corresponed with each letter of the alphabet, and the girls would get that number by adding the binary numbers of each line. Hence, each line represented a letter.

The other worksheet I printed was about E-mail and modems. It explained how comuters use binary, a high-pitched beep for 1 and a low-pitched beep for 0. The sounds go by really fast that they only accumulate to the screeching sound we here when a modem is connecting to the internet. The worksheet posed the task to the girls that using the same message as Tom, they were to send an email message to their partner through the way computers send messages with the sounds.

If we had more time, I was going to do the “shifting pyramids” checkers game. I think it is best explained on this website:

At the end of the workshop, I planned to share the different careers in computer science:

App Developer

Software Architect

Computer Systems Analyst

  • Analyze data processing problems to improve computer systems
  • Develop and test system design procedures
  • Enhance system compatibility so information can be shared easily

Computer Programmer

  • Create and test the code that allows computers to run properly
  • Analyze user needs and develop software solutions
  • Write computer programs to store, locate or retrieve data

Web Developer

  • Write, design or edit web page content, or direct others producing content
  • Identify and correct problems uncovered by testing or user feedback
  • Back up website files for immediate recovery in case of problems

I was also going to share some fun facts-

Only 8% of the world’s currency is physical money, the rest only exists on computers.

Mary Kenneth Keller, the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in Computer Science in the United States also earned a Master’s degree in Mathematics and Physics, helped develop computer programming languages and she was a Catholic nun.

 In 1936, the Russians made a computer that ran on water.

Computers used to take up an entire room. 

If Facebook were a country it would be the third largest in the world.

To close, I was going to share the tales of Grace Murray Hopper and Annie Easely.

Well, that’s what I had planned for the computer science workshop! I hope maybe it inspired you to explore computer science more!

Wonderful Workshops: Structural Engineering

I have been a bit sick this past week, but that did not stop me from hosting an awesome Scientess class! I have to say, this one past one from Monday, October 17, turned out really well. Our theme was structural/civic engineering. I was inspired to do this topic after speaking with a bridge engineer and visiting her firm. I was fascinated with the work she did, and knew that building bridges out of Popsicle sticks was a popular STEM activity. So that’s what we did.

This week I only had 4 girls, and they were four that I’ve had consistently. None of the new girls from Columbus Day came L.

Once the librarian and I felt no more girls were going to show up, we began and jumped right into the activities. The first thing I had the girls do was to build a tower out of two pieces of newspaper (4pages total). I gave them scissors and told them to use as little tape as they possible could. We needed the table for the next activity and I also did not want their tower to be made up of more tape than newspaper. The other caveat was that the tower needed to stand (without any human help) for at least three seconds so I could properly measure its height. Some girls struggled with this, but in the end everyone ended up with a tower she was satisfied with.

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I have seen newspaper towers at the Camp Invention I volunteer at, and I built a paper tower in engineering class, but I also used PBS kids for the activity idea:

I had them finish up the towers quickly so we can move onto our next, bigger activity: bridge building. To begin, I read them information about bridges from Scientific America. I had two boxes each of 1000 popsicle sticks, one with a smaller and one with a big width. I also gave them 24 medium binder clips and 10 large ones. They also could use masking tape, packing tape, and scotch tape. I tried to be as hands-off as I could so they could make a bridge to fit the description I asked them: semi-decent looking, could support all types of weight, and could withstand an earthquake.

I was so proud of their bridge; it was able to hold up my Calculus binder and Spanish textbook separately, but could not hold them both up together.

Normally, the girls finish an activity is less than the time I planned but for the bridges they almost went into over-time! I had to stop them and told them I understood their plan so don’t worry about finishing it. I was disappointed because I had a lot of other cool ideas if they finished early, but am glad they at least enjoyed the activities we did get to.


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I got the ideas for the bridges from:

All the activities took so long; we didn’t even have time for a story about a famous woman scientist! That’s ok, though, because at the end of the workshop one girl who at the beginning in September told me she wanted to be a fashion designer, but now she is going to be a fashion designer and an engineer. To me, that little statement revealed I was at least making a little difference.

Wonderful Workshops: Materials Engineering

Scientesses does not stop for Columbus Day! On October 10, I held the fourth workshop. I made a last minute decision to make the theme materials science. If you want to learn more about what a materials engineer does:

I had the lesson planned out for a while, but was waiting until I had enough egg shells. With a dozen, I figured that was good enough and I went to the store to buy a gallon of milk. Once all the materials were packed, I realized how much stuff I actually needed! I had to bring a big storage container in addition to my backpack. To top it off, I had to park in the lot across the street from the library and all the stuff I brought caused me to waddle as I walked into the library.

When I got to the library, I didn’t see any of the girls who normally come. I immediately started to panic thinking they thought the classes weren’t happening because of the holiday. The librarian who normally helps me was on vacation, but there was another one who was extremely helpful and told me that there was a girl there for my workshops and that the workshops were still on the calendar. She even helped me move the tables!

I called all the girls in and even asked some other who I noticed sitting in the library if they would like to join. I had 4 girls end up participating, one set of sisters, and everyone was new.

I was a little nervous about having half my normal amount, but I think it worked out for the activities. We opened with a story of Joan Beauchamp Procter, from my favorite book – “Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World.” She was a zoologist who discovered a new species of lizard.

Our first activity was turning milk into “plastic.” I got the idea from Because there were only 4 girls, we all went to heat up the milk together. I had to heat up one cup of milk per girl, four cups total. Two girls carried the containers while two girls held open the doors. I heated up the milk one cup per time in a Pyrex measuring cup and then poured the warmed milk into a container. In each girl’s container of milk, I added 4 tablespoons of vinegar. I then told them to stir VERY SLOWLY with a plastic fork and when they saw stringy things to take them out and put it on a paper towel. I was really surprised that they were able to get out lumps at a time because when I tried the experiment at home I only got little pieces. Once everyone was satisfied with everything they got out, I gave them a bunch of paper towels to dry the curdles. I told them they could also shape the “wet plastic” and many chose to do a heart or simply a “mountain.” The took their “plastic” home on a plastic bag with paper towels because it takes a couple days to dry.

I shared thse fun facts

After the milk activity was done, we tested the strength of egg shells. For a while I have been have collecting egg shells and have been having my dad cut them in half so they were a uniform height. We used the blunted curve of the egg. I got the idea here: My original plan was to give each table of four, six eggs to use, but since there were only four girls total, each girl got three. I brought a bunch of my school textbooks from home and everyone chose which they would like to put on their eggs. We had a 1000 page AP Chemistry textbook, a Calculus textbook, a Spanish textbook, a SAT book, an AP English workbook, and an AP US History book. When the first girls’ eggs held up the Calculus book, we moved to the next set of eggs which held up the APUSH book and the Calculus book. At this point, we decided to test the third girl’s eggs and this time we tried as many book as we could. Look at the pictures and the videos; the three egg halves help up all the books! We had to go through my backpack to get more. Without breaking, the egg shells held up the Chem, Calc, APUSH, English, and Spanish books, two binders, and a college magazine. Take a look at the gallery and you will be able to see all the photos and videos. Here are some interesting facts about eggshells I shared with the girls:

We finished with a story about Gerty Cori from my Women in Science book. Check out my blog post about her here:



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Wonderful Workshops: Math

Monday, October 3, 2016, was a momentous day for me. It was the first time I drove all by myself, and I drove to the Scientesses workshop. After some long and hard decision making, I chose the theme of this workshop to be math. It was hard for me to decide on math because I couldn’t really think of any projects that would be very “hands-on.” I eventually found three activities that in my opinion, ended up turning out well.

Normally, at the end of each workshop I will read the girls a story about a famous woman in that field. I decided to change this up, however, because after flipping through my book, “Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World”, I found so many mathematicians that I couldn’t pick just one. I opened the class with a reading about Hypatia, shared information about Emmy Noether halfway through, and ended with the story of Katherine Johnson. For the last one, I let the girls choose which women they wanted based on the color of the book page.

After learning about Hypatia, I gave the girls the task of completing the magic triangle. Using the number 1-6, once and only once, they needed to make each side of the triangle add up to be 9. I was shocked and proud to see one girl get it within no more than 2 minutes. Most of the girls got it pretty quickly, but for some I had to give hints. I told them because they need to use three number on a side, any combination of 5,4, or 6 should not be together on a side because the sum will already exceed 9.Here’s the awesome blog where I found the activity:

Our second activity was solving the “T” puzzle. I gave the girls four very different shapes that they had to turn into a T. Each piece I gave through a wrench in what they thought would be the solution. After a few minutes, I was about to give a hint, but then I saw that a girl got the answer. The girls around her table followed her lead and also “solved” the puzzle. The other table, however, still needed a hint. I told them that they should not try to fit another piece in the notch piece. It took a little time, but with my assistance, they eventually made the T. I got the “T” puzzle from the same blog as the magic triangle:

At this point, I told the girls about Emmy Noether, a woman who Einstein called “the most significant mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.” She made groundbreaking discoveries in theoretical physics and abstract algebra. You can read more about Emmy in the Scientist Spotlight section:

562773065_1012371Once we were enlightened about Emmy, I decided we had time for the last project: the aluminum foil boats. The connection to math was finding the volume of the boats and how many pen caps (I forgot the pennies) the boats could fit without sinking. Some girls made regular rectangular boats, but some girls also made what looked like canoes. Many of them wanted to put sails on their boats but I said since we are indoors and lacking wind, it probably wouldn’t be the best use of tin foil and time. Instead of sails some girls made little people or furniture to put in their ships.

Even though the boats were different shapes, I still used the length x width x height formula for volume because it was just easier in the interest of time. Since many of the measurements turned out to be decimals, I did the volume calculations myself and told the girls the answer to remember for when we tested the boats. It turned out that all the boats held the eight pen caps I had. All the girls were very impressed with their creations and were going to try to make more boats when they got home.  I am disappointed, however, that we couldn’t truly test the boats due to the fact I forgot all the pennies but I still think everyone really enjoyed the activity.

This math workshop proved to be more successful than I anticipated. I was very happy and proud when I saw how quickly many of the girls solved the “brain-teasers.” I realized how lucky I am that the girls attending my workshops are truly there because they enjoy STEM, and not because their parents sent them. I am excited to see what surprises and innovations these next three workshops bring.

Wonderful Workshops: Forensics

How do police collect evidence? Can investigators find characteristics of the perpetrator through footprints? Why is handwriting important in solving crimes? What is so unique about fingerprints?

Monday, September 26, we explored these questions at my weekly Scientesses workshop. The theme was forensics. I was a little weary talking about crimes with the girls, especially since some of them are in first or second grade, but I made sure I never used the word death, suicide, homicide, or murder.

I had the same amount of girls attend the forensics workshop as the genetic one, but three girls didn’t return and three new ones took their place. I’m not really concerned about the numbers, however, and I understand things come up or maybe they just were not that hooked on the first workshop.

I started off the workshop with me asking the girls if they have heard of shows like NCIS or CSI, most girls said they have never watched them but a few shared that they had seen the commercials. I used this a jumping off point to briefly explain how police solve crimes.

The first activity I had planned was a handwriting analysis. The girls were to all write their names on the whiteboard, then write “Watch Jeopardy! Alex Trebek’s fun TV quiz game” on a sheet of paper. On the back of the paper I asked them to print their initials as tiny as possible. Once everyone was finished I collected the papers, laid them out on a table, and assigned a number to each. The girls then came up and tried to see if they could match the handwritten phrase to the name on the whiteboard. They actually got really into it and I and the librarian had to remind them it was a game and they could just guess. At the end, I held each paper up and asked the girls who they though it belonged to. After everyone was finished sharing their guesses, I had the girl who wrote it stand up and reveal herself. Everyone really enjoyed this game and I would highly recommend it. It taught the girls how if the criminal left a ransom note, the police might be able to use the handwriting to track the criminal.

Once I went through all the handwriting samples, we moved on to fingerprints. I explained how everybody’s fingerprints are unique and that they will never change, even if you have a finger injury or scar. Because I did not have an ink pad, I had the girls rub pencil lead on an index card and then use that as a makeshift pad. I had a paper with different types of fingerprints fingerprintmatchso I asked the girls to determine which type theirs were: whorl, loop, arch, etc. Mostly everybody was able to determine their type. We had a pretty good mix.
In the last activity, I measured the length of each girl’s foot and compared it to her height. Some girls chose to have to do the division by themselves, but the librarian and I did it for others. It came out that there is a foot:height ratio of between 1:6 and 1:7.  I described how police officers use this known ratio to estimate the height of the criminal, if they find a footprint they could multiply its length by any number between 6 and 7 to get a rough approximation of the criminal’s height. Besides height, the footprint could also reveal where the criminal has been (because scientists can analyze the mud/dirt) and the weight of the criminal (because of the depth of the imprint).

At the end of the workshop, I told the girls about Frances Glessner Lee, “the mother of genetics.” To me, her determination in problem solving is very inspiring and she is one of my favorite female scientists I have read of thus far. You can read more about her here:

Overall, the forensics workshop was a success and I am elated that the girls enjoyed it.


Wonderful Workshops: Genetics

Hi Everyone!

As you may or may not know, part of my Scientesses project is hosting workshops at my local library to get girls excited about STEM careers. We had our first workshop on Monday, September 19. Eight girls attended and I think more are going to sign up for the next one.

Each workshop is centered around a specific area of STEM. For the first one, I chose the field of genetics. Originally, I planned to do materials science for the first workshop, but after realizing I needed over a dozen egg shells I decided I did not have enough time to eat that many scrambled eggs. Instead, I figured that genetics was the perfect introductory workshop because the girls would learn about genetics and the different characteristics of each other.

I was surprised that many of the attendees enjoyed the two activities we did, especially the first one. To me, the activities were not as exciting as others I have planned, but the girls did not seem to mind.

After some introductions, I briefly explained dominant and recessive traits and then gave the girls a list of physical traits. I had them write down if they had a particular trait or not. We went through hair color and hair type, eye color, face shape, freckles, dimples, attached earlobes, and if their eyebrows were connected. After writing all their traits down, the girls compared their characteristics with those of the other girls sitting at the table. I then took a survey to see what traits were most dominant in the group.

Once we finished the traits activity, I read the girls a story from Arizona State University about monsters and their DNA (link below). This allowed me to segue into the monster building session. Using worksheets from ASU, the girls had to decode descriptions of a monster and then draw the creature. It took longer than I expected, and some of the girls got frustrated, but I would still highly recommend the activity because it demonstrates how different DNA sequences affects traits.

At the end of the workshop, I read a story from the book I have called “Women in Science.” It is a really interesting and cute book that tells the tales of various women scientists. To go along with the genetics theme, I read about Barbara McClintock, a cytogeneticist who won a Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. I think everyone was very impressed with Barbara’s work.

Overall, I believe the class went well and I am very excited to see how they react to the next workshop, forensics!


Check out my blog post about Barbara:

Monster DNA from Arizona State University: