STEM Club Blog

Engaging girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.


Spring Report 2016

Throughout this term we have been busy running STEM Club after school which has included a number of challenges and competitions, a visit from a neuroscientist and the creation of some bizarre contraptions. Sixth Form College girls have led on most of the activities with a mixture of students from Year 8 up to College II taking part.

We started by designing the perfect paper aeroplane. A range of designs were tested for the longest flight time and the furthest distance achieved. In week 2, we met Chris Neale, a neuroscientist from the University of York. Chris demonstrated the dissection of a pair of pig’s brains and gave a great presentation on how the brain works, and what can go wrong with it.

In Week 3, we designed marshmallow-flinging catapults. The girls split into teams to create a catapult that was both powerful and accurate – much easier said than done when working with cocktail sticks, spoons and tape. However, we did end up with some fantastic machines, with one firing a marshmallow almost the full length of the room to take the win. Following on from that, was a Harry Potter-inspired potions class in which ‘eye of newt’ was mixed with ‘witches warts’ and ‘shredded lizard gizzard’ to see what would happen.

Weeks 5 and 6 saw us combine maths and engineering as we built towers from spaghetti as well as the Science Technicians leading a session making kaleidoscopes and bath bombs. Things took a sinister turn later in the term as we discussed forensic science around a chalk body outline at the back of the science lab. Our CSI team analysed some hairs and fibres and collected fingerprints to reveal the the culprit.

In week 8 we explored how to send a Dorito through the post without it breaking. With the size and weight of the package reducing the amount of points you could score, everyone had to think creatively to get the right balance. We all had good fun experimenting with our designs, and filling one of the Technician’s pigeonholes with envelopes full of Doritos! The following week we took this one step further – how do you send something fragile to Mars? We started by making a landing craft which safely drop an egg from a height without breaking it with the added difficulties of not being able to use a parachute (the atmosphere of mars is much thinner than ours.) A difficult task which three of our STEM Club, creating a UFO-looking lander, seemed to have no trouble at all.


Club Member Bios

I am in Sixth Form College II and I joined STEM Club because of my interest in science and in particular biology. I knew we would be doing things like dissections and forensics, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore my interests, especially since next year I'm going to be studying psychology with biology. Being fascinated by dramas like Silent Witness I ran a session on forensics, where we tried to unmask an 'attacker' by analysing finger prints left at the scene and comparing them to our own. We also examined the blood spatter patterns left at the scene so that we could determine the sequence of events which led to 'victim' being admitted to hospital. Additionally we looked at different fibres under the microscope, comparing our own hair to a variety of animal hairs. Finally we were able to unmask the culprit, who turned out to be an Assistant Housemistress! 

I joined STEM Club because I wanted to share my love of engineering with girls lower down the school. I'm hoping to study Mechanical Engineering next year, and STEM Club has been a great opportunity to explore topics in this field and create fun design challenges. I ran the first session on building the best paper plane. We looked briefly at the four forces of flight, and discussed how this would impact our designs. Each girl entered one paper plane into the competition and we measured time in air and distance of flight. It was nice to see girls from all different years working together and sharing ideas to try to make the best design. I've enjoyed being able to run the sessions as well as take part in the sessions ran by my classmates. It has been exciting to watch my friends share their passions in such an enthusiastic way.

I have a keen interest in Mathematics and I wanted to show an alternative aspect of Maths through STEM Club. Combining with my aspiration to become a civil engineer, the session I led was carried out in the format of a speed quiz in conjunction with a building challenge – building materials such as marshmallows and sticks were given out depending on the time taken by each individual to produce the correct answer. The two teams then combined all their building materials to construct a structure to hold a plastic egg for the longest duration. It was a very interactive session with enthusiastic responses in reaction to unheard-of Maths laws and mind tricks under time constraint. I thoroughly enjoyed keeping a group of students immersed in Maths for over 20 minutes, and I hope that by running the session I have offered aN interesting way of looking at the subject matter of Mathematics.

I'm hoping to study medicine after I leave school because of my interest in biology and chemistry. Right noW chemistry is rather challenging to say the least and I thought STEM Club would be the perfect opportunity to break from mole calculations and exams and just have fun carrying out some really cool experiments. So the session I led was packed full of chemical surprises which included making rainbow fountains and determining what ingredients were in a cake misture using three simple but conlusive tests. It was a great chance to get stuck into the practical side of chemistry and to discover how the different compounds results in different reactions.

I am interested in STEM related subjects, especially biology, because it explores the different systems that happen around us every day. It explains the seemingly complex world around us into simple and amazing concepts that shape our everyday life. Understanding nature helps us to better conserve and preserve our precious earth. Technology, Engineering and Mathematics has also advanced how we understand the multiple processes that occur in the universe. This has allowed us to discover the many wonders of the world around us. This is why I think STEM subjects are so interesting; it helps us to understand and improve our way of living. I hope to be able to influence my future workplace to be environmentally sustainable. Although I am looking towards the Hospitality Industry in the future, I believe that STEM can be applied to any industry.