Since February, the SWE affiliate at Springfield Technical Community College, the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts, and the Through My Window engineering curriculum have partnered to host a group of local girls for a “Mystery Lane Discovery Challenge” program about engineering
Co-facilitators include STCC SWE affiliate members Darya Bandarchuk, Clair Gu, and Amanda Alkam; Isabel Huff, a K-12 educator member of SWE and outreach coordinator for Through My Window; Crystal Ford, the Through My Window videographer; and Alyssa Delude, a local student and member of Girl Scouts.
Every Tuesday from 6-8, the girls meet on the STCC campus. In the early weeks, they read and listened to the audiobook of Talk to Me, a book by local author and former engineer Sonia Ellis. The book is about a 14-year-old girl named Sadina and her friends who use engineering to solve a crime, keep Sadina’s mom from going to jail, and help Sadina’s little sister Maddie talk (she has an anxiety disorder that often makes her too nervous to speak). The girls loved the book, enthusiastically reading at home between meetings (some even finished the book early!). When they listened to chapters as a group, they immediately raised their hands at the end, asking questions, sharing predictions, and humorously judging the characters’ actions.
Much to their delight, author Ellis has visited the girls on multiple occasions, reading chapters, signing books and answering their questions about writing, publishing, and experiences in engineering.
In addition to reading Talk to Me, the girls dove into interactive online adventures that allowed them to more deeply explore the engineering concepts from the book. In Trapped in Time, they helped Talk to Me character Sadina, her “frenemy” Catalina, and Catalina’s little brother Carl travel to the past to help the Apollo astronauts and the Chicago mayor with engineering design–and then return to the present to escape from a flooding cave. In Rio’s Brain, they searched a virtual mansion to see if it would be possible to create an artificial brain for Sadina’s best friend Rio, whose brain was removed by evil researchers who plan to destroy it. The online adventures include interactive games, journaling, videos, and more.
Other activities have included investigating consciousness and machine consciousness (using paper brains and heads!), exploring the fundamentals of coding by drawing pictures and explaining to others how to draw them, and discussing the limits of artificial intelligence–like whether robots will ever replace pets, doctors, teachers, and actors.
With SWENext flyers in hand, we know these girls are the future of SWE and the future of engineering!
For more information or to find out how you can use Through My Window as part of your SWE outreach, visit teamthroughmywindow.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Through My Window was created by Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College. It is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 1223868 and 1223460. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
This Mystery Lane Discovery Challenge program was funded through the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts by the Women’s Leadership Council, United Way of Pioneer Valley.