Engaging Middle Schools Girls in Chemical Engineering

September 25, 2018 at 11:12 am Leave a comment

by Abey Klotz, Undergraduate Student in Chemical Engineering

ce3The National Science Foundation awards grants to young faculty to launch their research. Entitled CAREER grants, these grants task faculty with not only working on cutting-edge research but also sharing their work with the broader community. In Summer 2018, Professor Ayse Asatekin, from the Tufts Department of Chemical Engineering, partnered with the Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) to develop and host a workshop for middle school girls. The goal of the workshop was to introduce the girls and to get them excited about the possibilities of chemical engineering. Leveraging a partnership between CEEO and the Malden YMCA, 20 middle school girls from Malden engaged in a week of hands-on activities related to reactions, separations, filtrations, and polymers. Staffed with graduate student volunteers from chemical engineering, CEEO staff, and  Professor Asatekin, the workshop led the girls through a week of hands-on chemical engineering exploration.

The girls made plastic out of milk, lit LED bulbs with coins, designed and tested their own ce2hand warmers and instant cold packs, created water filtration plants, shot Alka Seltzer rockets, and much more!  The various activities allowed girls to see the many different ideas and practices involved in chemical engineering. To help the girls understand more about chemical engineering and possible careers, the girls came to Tufts to tour four different labs and learn about each lab’s research. They also toured the campus and ate lunch with some current female Chemical Engineering graduate students. On the final day of the workshop, the girls took what they learned throughout the week (the trial and error process, cost efficiency, teamwork, etc.) to design large-scale processes to spherify drinks and cosmetics.

ce1The workshop had perfect attendance. The girls were always engaged and they wanted to take almost everything they made home. We received positive feedback for most experiments, and the main negative feedback was that certain experiments were smelly or messy. With just a few improvements, the workshop will be ready to go again next summer! The activities will be available in the future on stompnetwork.org for wider dissemination.

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