Career explorations at Whitman College

Blue Ridge Elementary School student Neftali Segovia lifts her 3D glasses from the table to explore what the colors on a spinning top will look like during a Great Explorations workshop called "Colorful Illusions" led by Peggy Willcuts and Jenn Carter at Whitman College on Saturday.

Blue Ridge Elementary School student Neftali Segovia lifts her 3D glasses from the table to explore what the colors on a spinning top will look like during a Great Explorations workshop called "Colorful Illusions" led by Peggy Willcuts and Jenn Carter at Whitman College on Saturday. Photo by Matthew Zimmerman Banderas.

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WALLA WALLA — Science, technology, engineering and math may not be the most popular topics with girls, but you wouldn’t have known it by the numbers of participants in this year’s Great Explorations workshops.

“This is the biggest turnout we have ever had,” said Mona Geidl of the sponsoring American Association of University Women.

Every two years, local members of the association sponsor the Great Explorations workshops for middle-school girls to encourage them to further their education and possibly seek careers in science, technology, engineering and math, also referred to as STEM careers.

The 50-minute workshops held at Whitman College focused on a variety of STEM studies that included the topics of saving coral reefs, animal dissection, rocket propulsion, earthquakes and brain development. But whenever possible, coordinators tried to match up the workshop with the theme of crime scene investigation, or CSI.

“It’s science. But they still get to put lipstick on, kiss their paper and see their lip prints,” chemistry technician Katie Rambo said about the “Sealed With A Kiss” workshop, in which the girls studied how lip prints can be used like fingerprints and the chemical composition of lipstick can also be used to solve crimes.

“Was there any type of chromatography that would show a judge that one type of lipstick was the lipstick of the culprit?” Whitman College science educator Mary Burt asked a group of 25 girls.

As if sealing off the lesson with a kiss, each girl got to take home a free lip gloss.

“We are just trying to get them interested in STEM field careers,” Burt added.

Other CSI related workshops included a study of blood types titled “What’s Your Type” and a workshop on DNA titled “Getting Cheeky.”

A total of 238 girls participated in the Saturday morning workshops.

The guest speaker for this year’s event was Jody Wolf, a crime scene investigator with the Phoenix, Ariz., police department.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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