Girl Scouts’ STEM Event: Limitless Possibilities

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Getting ready for their bridge-building challenge/NNYB

Working together with kits of LEGO® bricks, a Smart Tablet and a six-step guide, each team of two Girl Scouts was ready to tackle its project: building mini New NY Bridges.

“How is the bridge attached to the water?” “How high is it?” “How does the bridge stay up?” They wanted to know the basics first, and GS Service Unit Manager Harriet Mendl smiled. “I think younger kids always learn better with hands-on experience,” she said.

That’s why the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) event Mendl arranged for the Greenburgh/Elmsford troop — part of Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson — included LEGO® Master Builder Aaron Tang, a Bricks 4 Kidz franchise owner.

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Troy Calkins, PE, enlightens scouts w/Educ. Outreach Admin. Andy O’Rourke /NNYB

Upstairs, older scouts and their parents learned how STEM education is integral to the project. Design-Build Contract Manager Troy Calkins, PE, shared his experience on the state’s biggest project.

While for many young scouts the bridge project is a distant goal, activities now can help them attain it, Calkins said. “Get involved with internships, extracurricular activities or events at your school or within your community,” Calkins told them. “Establishing a network now is key to early success.”

The audience of parents and older scouts listened intently — and asked very specific questions. They knew answers as well. To an impromptu question, “What are they building the bridge from?” one teenager responded, “Concrete and steel.”

Tang — who designs enrichment programs for after school, camps and summer parties, and teaches engineering and architecture using LEGO® bricks — fashioned this bridge specifically for the project’s educational outreach team. “It helps kids get an awareness of the bridge and of bridge-building, and how they can relate to it (on a smaller scale).”

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Busy at work/NNYB

“We started off with a five to 10 minute talk about the model and an introduction to the bridge,” he said. “The kids were given tablets with step-by-step instructions and pieces, and they all finished their bridges.”

The younger ones were presented with a problem to solve — building a bridge — while learning to work as a team and to follow directions, Mendl observed. “It was very positive and fit in with the engineering and technology part of STEM.”

“Speaking with the Girl Scouts was important to me as civil engineering and the engineering profession overall needs more women. As a parent of a young daughter, I think it’s important to nurture a love of math and science from an early age and to encourage girls to explore engineering as a possible career choice.” — Design-Build Contract Manager Troy Calkins, PE

“We have events that are educational as well as fun and want the girls to grow up and be courageous, have confidence and character,” Mendl said. “We give them the ideas and experience with activities like this (presentation) that may lead to future female chief engineer on a project.”

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Madelynn Calkins proudly shows her new poster/NNYB Team

While cookie sales are one activity — this year it’s hi-tech with a digital component — “Girl Scouts are much more,” she emphasized.

Saturday’s presentation and LEGO® project coincidentally kicked off additional events this month: the Regional STEM Festival on March 7, and the Lower Hudson Valley Engineering Expo on March 22.

To learn more about Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson, visit www.girlscoutshh.org

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

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