Middle-school girls get WISE at Tech

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Clockwise from left, Jeffers Middle School seventh-grader Kyla Larson, Jeffers eighth-grader Olivia Anderson, Watersmeet seventh-grader Cassie Williams, Washington Middle School eighth-grader Kalee Parisot and Ontonagon eighth-grader Nicole Lukkari test their pinball machine at the Get WISE event.

HOUGHTON — Seventh- and eighth-grade girls from across the western Upper Peninsula spent their Tuesday building things, learning how contagions spread and hearing about life in college through Michigan Technological University’s annual Get WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) event.

The 260 girls from 14 schools started by making a model of a wood cell and looking at types of wood. They also made pinball machines with materials such as Dixie cups and popsicle sticks. After lunch they simulated an epidemic, learning about pathogens and laboratory science.

The day teaches children about college, and also helps them in problem-solving, said Lauren Kirwin, coordinator for Tech’s Center for Pre-College Outreach.

“I think (the benefit is) just being exposed to science and engineering activities, and seeing that school isn’t just writing papers,” she said. “When they go to college, and if they want to do these kinds of things, they get to build things and they’ll get to create things.”

Before lunch, students set to work building the pinball machine out of materials. They had any number of ways to accomplish their task, as long as it met the criteria: a machine built on an incline with a paddle, a marble launcher, three obstacles and an end goal.

One group said the pinball machine was their favorite exercise so far.

“You have your own technique and design,” said Nicole Lukkari, an eighth-grader from Ontonagon.

Eve Anderson, an eighth-grade student from Stanton Township, also enjoyed the activity.

“It’s pretty cool to see how you can build stuff out of random things,” she said. “I liked building the pinball machines, because you could use more things to build it.”

After the pinball machines, four female science and engineering students at Tech answered student questions on topics such as how they chose their majors or organized their schedules.

“Coming in as an engineer, math and science is just something that I knew that I loved,” said Madison Olmstead, a fourth-year civil engineering major. “It gets a little overwhelming sometimes when you look at your class list and see that you have physics and calculus and all that, but I’m doing something that I love, so it all works out in the end.”


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