WKU Girls in Science Day helps bridge science gap

Alicia McDaniel of the chemistry department performs a chemistry magic show for about 187 girls and parents on Saturday in Snell Hall for WKU’s annual Girls in Science Day. “I ask myself who has more fun, me or the girls. And I think it’s me,” McDaniel said after the show.

Kevin Allen

Women in science and engineering at WKU worked to inspire the next generation of scientists Saturday with the 10th annual Girls in Science Day.

The event targets girls in grades four through eight and aims to get them interested in science, said Rachel Campbell, educational observatory scientist and director of the event.

“We felt that there was a gap – somewhere along the way we were losing girls in scientific professions,” Campbell said. “We identified that happened around the middle school age group.”

The event had 210 participants in 13 workshops, which included creating silly putty, working with circuits and building small catapults.

The workshops are designed to cover a full range of sciences including archaeology, chemistry, physics and astronomy, Campbell said.

Each workshop was overseen by a mixture of faculty and student volunteers so that the participants could talk about careers and opportunities in sciences, Campbell said.

Meghan Kennedy, a Louisville sophomore and one of the volunteers, said the interest in the event was very exciting.

“The girls are just so excited,” Kennedy said. “A lot of the applications are filled out in their own handwriting with little hearts on the i’s and smiley faces because they want to be a part of it and do it themselves.”

Kennedy said it was sometimes hard to get the girls to move on to the next activity, because they were so into it that she didn’t want to have to tell them to stop.

Berea senior Nicholas Wright directed a workshop that dealt with polymers and how they could be used to make silly putty and foam shapes.

Wright said watching the girls’ reactions was the best part, as some of them would make comments like “Oh my God, this is amazing” while watching a mixture in a cup expand into a foam mushroom.

He said he was definitely going to try and volunteer next year because he enjoyed teaching and having fun with the girls.

The event ended with a chemistry magic show, featuring tricks such as creating a mixture of chemicals that allowed the performer to hold a flame in her hand.