On Saturday, May 14, 2016 volunteers from SWE CT demonstrated engineering principles to over 100 families in Stamford, CT. The Stamford Public School system hosted their 3rd Annual Stamford STEMFest. This was the second year that SWE CT participated. Last year we demonstrated how to make a lemon battery, measure its voltage and compare it to a AA battery. This year we expanded our electricity demonstrations with 3 demonstration modules, provided hands on circuit building kits, educated families on the contributions of women to science, and promoted SWE and SWENext.
SWE CT stepped up to the plate taking over two demonstration tables and bringing in 6 women from a variety of engineering disciplines. We again used a lemon battery to teach families about electricity, how to use a multi-meter, how to compare the voltage in a lemon to a household battery, and how to connect lemons in a series to increase the voltage. We discussed how many lemons were needed to power an LED (3) or replace a car battery (over 6 million).
We then used paper circuits to demonstrate how graphite conducts electricity. We applied our newfound knowledge about multi-meters to measure the voltage in a circuit drawn on paper using a graphite pencil. We could even draw in a switch. Children were able to fold the paper over creating an on/off switch to close the circuit. They learned how easy it was to transform a “doodle” into a circuit by connecting a battery and other elements such as an LED. Children were able to see how a battery, which they had just created with the lemon, could be used to create a circuit. As they held down the folded paper they were aware that underneath their finger electricity was travelling along the graphite path and that when they released the paper the voltage measured zero. They now had a concept of the voltage of the rectangular 9 volt battery through the graphite compared to the AA battery and the lemon.
Circuits made of squishy dough, colored LEDs, and batteries were set up to demonstrate the conductivity of yet another material they were familiar with. In our first two demonstrations the children saw series circuits. Some dough circuits were set up as parallel circuits and some as series circuits. We tested what happens when an LED was removed from a parallel circuit versus a series circuit. Cardboard dividers were inserted between dough balls to direct electricity to travel through the LEDs. When the dough balls were reshaped so they touched around the sides of the cardboard we saw the LED light go out as the electricity sought the path of least resistance and avoided going through the LED. To provide extended learning, we discussed with children how an Arduino (microcontroller) could be connected to squishy dough via a wire jumper from the Arduino pin so that the LED in the dough could light up through a Sketch for the Arduino.
After learning about electricity, ions, chemical reactions creating electrical energy, multi-meters, and parallel and series circuits the children were eager to create their own circuits. SWE CT provided Snap Circuit boards and electrical elements and let the children build and test their own circuits providing guidance and encouragement as needed.
A pamphlet was handed out to each family. The pamphlets included detailed instructions on how to reproduce the lemon battery demonstration. There was an explanation of the science behind what they saw happening. Web addresses for YouTube videos and reference sites for the paper circuits and squishy dough circuits were provided for extended learning activities. Our pamphlet contained a panel educating families on the contributions that women have made to science. We talked to families about SWE and the SWENext program. Flyers were handed out with the web address to sign up for the SWENext program.
The materials for this program were put on our section’s Google drive so that the program as a whole or components of the program can be used for future outreach programs. This package included: Volunteer training instructions with video and website references, Snap Circuit diagrams, Graphite-Paper circuit PowerPoint diagrams to color with graphite pencils, the Lemon Battery and Other Circuits pamphlet, and demonstration related slides that can be put on a table or used to create a tri-fold.
Through this outreach SWE CT was able to reach over 100 families many of whom brought several children to our table. We were able to provide parents with a pamphlet to reproduce the demonstrations at home, explain the science involved, and give online resources for extended learning. This program also allowed us to bring 6 women engineers (civil, electrical, industrial, and mechanical) into the community as role models for young people interested in STEM. We promoted the Society of Women Engineers demonstrating its value to the community and encouraged parents to sign up for SWENext. This was our fourth K-12 outreach. SWE CT members participated in Girls & STEM Expos in Waterbury and New Haven to educate and promote engineering to over 100 high school girls and we conducted a “Build a Roller Coaster” event for elementary and middle school students earlier in the year which reached 31 students.