ARL researchers switch on 'Girl Power' at annual expo
Sensors & Electron Devices presentation focuses on batteries, molecules working together

April 02, 2012

Story Highlights

  • SEDD scientist and engineer teamed up to introduce hundreds of young girls to the rigorous scientific research at ARL at the Girl Power expo.
  • Dr. Wickenden and Dr. Bedair presented at the 4th annual event.
  • Girl Power attendees participated in hands-on activities from organizations across Maryland, and saw displays on electrical engineering, aerospace, computer science, geology, information technology, and space science.

A scientist and engineer teamed up to introduce hundreds of young girls to the rigorous scientific research at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL).

Dr. Alma Wickenden, technical assistant to the associate director for science and technology, and Dr. Sarah Bedair, electronics engineer with the Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate, presented to more than 750 girls at the fourth annual Girl Power expo, themed "Reach for the Sky," on March 11, at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md.

The free event, which offered career information in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for middle and high school girls, was a partnership between APL, the Women's Giving Circle of Howard County and the Maryland Space Business Roundtable.

"This is interesting stuff," said Samira Chatrathi, who attends Clarksville Middle School in Howard County. "I am mostly interested in space and genetics."

ARL researchers spoke about the connection between molecular structures and robot battery power. Wickenden used crystal structure models to explain the molecular characteristics of diamond in comparison to that of carbon nanotubes.

When you place a piece of adhesive tape on a block of graphite, it easily pulls off sheets of carbon molecules, she said, showing onlookers the carbon on the tape. But, if you try the same experiment using a diamond, the tape would not collect carbon because although the two materials are chemically the same, they're structurally very different, Wickenden said.

Young people came in clusters to the ARL table and asked questions about materials science. "I like to see how things work," said Precious Asala of Vansville Elementary School in Beltsville, Md. "My favorite part is seeing so many different ways to use science."

Precious's mother, Sylvia Asala said she wants to foster her daughter's interest in science early. "I want her to be aware of the various subcategories. I want her to see women who are involved and passionate about working in scientific areas of study."

Bedair revved up a tiny toy robot as visitors stopped by.

The toy bumped the corners of its box as Bedair talked about its sensors. She also explained other components, like on-board electronics that make it "think" and the batteries that power such small devices to help Soldiers.

Girl Power attendees participated in hands-on activities from organizations across Maryland, and saw displays on electrical engineering, aerospace, computer science, geology, information technology, and space science.

"The country is depending on our youth to do well in math and science and embrace STEM careers," says Dr. Ralph Semmel, director of APL. "Participating in 'Girl Power: Reach for the Sky is a great way for young women to prepare themselves for the technical careers that are so critical to our future."

 

Last Update / Reviewed: April 2, 2012