Seven RDCEP members volunteered at the second annual STEMapalooza, a science expo organized by the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana. The purpose of the event, which took place on Saturday, March 9, was to reach out to girls and cultivate their interest in STEM careers. 

Alison Brizius, Michaela Carey, Aman Chitkara, Sou-Cheng Choi, Bill Leeds, Shanshan Sun, and Meghan Vincent joined other representatives from dozens of science organizations and museums in the Chicagoland area in Country Club Hills, IL, where they helped to photograph the event and perform scientific experiments for close to 400 participating girl scouts, who were primarily K-8 students.

Choi, a research scientist at the Computational Institute, led experiments that illustrated how light energy could be converted into electric energy and subsequently transformed into mechanical or light energy.

I instructed a number of girl scouts to bring close to a desk lamp two small photovoltaic panels connected to a toy fan and a small bulb by insulated electric wires,” said Choi. “I was excited by the joy of our enthusiastic participants; their faces lighted up like the light bulb did.”

Our RDCEP volunteers also carried out a number of other demonstrations designed to teach the girl scouts more about energy. For example, volunteers asked the girls to lift a one-liter water bottle in different ways in order to feel the difference between a joule and a watt. In addition, they taught the girls about the conservation of energy by dropping tennis balls and asking them questions in the process.

One demonstration even allowed the students to explore how blade number and shape change the power output of a windmill. The volunteers assembled a plastic wind tower containing a small generator and explained how the blades of wind turbines capture the kinetic energy of the wind and transform this energy into rotational kinetic energy; this rotational kinetic energy, in turn, powers a generator, which produces electricity. 

Through other demonstrations, the girl scouts were able to engage with various topics, including how solar energy is produced and how steam engines function.

Volunteer participation at STEMapalooza is a part of RDCEP’s overall commitment to community outreach and efforts to increase young scholars’ interest in and exposure to STEM fields.

“I thought the event went very well and I was pleased with the large number of volunteers we had this year,” said Vincent, RDCEP’s Education Outreach Director. “The girls [girl scouts] were fascinated by the various energy demos.”