News: AAAS 2008 Annual Meeting News Blog
Young Engineers Serve Up Fun at Family Science Days in Boston
At AAAS Family Science Days, children had lots of options: discovering the science behind the “walking the dog” Yo-Yo trick, exploring underwater earthquakes and tsunamis through Second Life, or learning how racecar drivers use science to cross the finish line first.
But perhaps the most inventive display at the event, held on 16 and 17 February 2008 at the AAAS Annual Meeting, was an exhibit with two machines dispensing candy and lemonade. These were not your average vending equipment, but Rube Goldberg machines designed by four aspiring engineers in the Science Club for Girls.
Named after the famed cartoonist, Rube Goldberg machines are incredibly intricate machines that perform surprisingly simple tasks like breaking an egg, turning on a light switch, or flipping the page of a book. Typically, a long series of mechanical devices trip the next lever until the task is finally accomplished.
For their machines entitled “The Love Machine,” a candy dispenser, and “The Minute Maid Lemonade,” a lemonade dispenser, the four young women designed a contraption that used mechanical or simple machines, electrical components, and magnets.
To help them build the machines, the young engineers worked with two local engineering students from Olin College who wanted to help the next generation of potential engineers learn about their field.
“We got involved with the Science Club for Girls because we did not have an opportunity like this when we were younger,” said Katarina Miller, a sophomore who plans to major in computer and electrical engineering. “I think it’s important to attract younger people to engineering by allowing them to work on projects like this.”
Science Club for Girls is a free afternoon and Saturday program that increases self-confidence and science literacy of girls in K-12th grades, with a special emphasis on those traditionally underrepresented in math and science.
Through the program, the young participants work with mentors who model leadership, affirm the importance of higher education, and promote careers in science and technology.
The program is currently active in eight sites around Boston and has been featured in local and national media.