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From cookies to chemistry: Girl Scouts attend Cool Science workshop
Fifty Girl Scouts ages 5-7 attended the Air Force Academy’s Cool Science workshop Nov. 10, 2012, where they participated in creative chemistry and physics experiements with cadets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Julie Imada)
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From cookies to chemistry: Girl Scouts attend Cool Science show

Posted 11/16/2012   Updated 11/16/2012 Email story   Print story


by Amber Baillie
Academy Spirit staff writer

11/16/2012 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Approximately 50 females experimented with liquid nitrogen, Alka Seltzer rockets and food chemical mixtures at the Academy's chemistry laboratories last week-- only they were supervised by cadets, needed a snack break almost every hour and were hardly tall enough to see over the bench tops.

Girl Scout Daisy and Brownie troops ages 5-7 attended the Academy's Cool Science workshop Nov. 10 to learn how fun science can be through creative chemistry and physics experiments illustrated by cadets.

"It's an important event because it gives an introduction to young girls about the world of science, which is important because there aren't many females in the field," said Cadet 4th Class Katherine Case, a volunteer at the event. "When I was younger, I went to something called 'Girls in Engineering and Mathematic Science' that presented workshops on career fields in science and made me fall in love with the field. Now I'm pursuing that love."

The girls spent the day competing in simple educational experiments, such as how to make ice cream with liquid nitrogen, how a film canister reacts with Alka Seltzer and water, and how many chemistry books a tower made of paper and masking tape can support.

"The girls really enjoyed launching the rockets in the stairwell because they were amazed at how high their rockets went," said Cadet 4th Class Staci Colbacchini. "Since we only launched one rocket at a time, each girl could see what the other rockets did and all of the girls began a countdown for each other's rockets in the stairwell."

Dr. Ron Furstenau, an instructor with the Air Force Academy's Chemistry Department and organizer of the event, said the workshop allows the Academy to showcase its facilities, spirit of volunteerism and service to the community.

"It allows the Academy to show its STEM expertise to the community as well as give the cadet volunteers a chance to be role models for these girls," Furstenau said. "It's a good leadership opportunity for them because there are so many little kids wanting to do so many different things that day and it requires great organizational skills."

Cadet 1st Class Helen Ensley has helped with the workshop for four years and was a leader for the chemistry of food lab, a new activity this year.

"These Girl Scouts really enjoyed making their own butter and then getting to eat it on crackers," Ensley said. "These girls are always so excited about what we're doing and the workshop is a great opportunity for them because it gives them a chance to participate in real chemistry in a safe environment, allows them to visit a prestigious institution and leaves them with the impression that they really can do anything they want to with their lives."

At the end of the day, Furstenau performed a chemistry magic show for the scouts that featured flashy color changes and explosions. Furstenau has been performing these shows here since 1984.

"The chemistry magic show was a big hit with everyone," Colbacchini said. "The girls were amazed to see the type of magic that a few chemicals created and became very eager to learn how the tricks work."

The Academy has hosted the workshop for 10 years and offers it every fall and spring.

"For most of the cadet volunteers, it was their first time helping out with the event," Furstenau said. "Most don't quite know what to expect if they haven't worked with that age group before but as soon as it starts, they have so much fun but at the same time are professional and take things seriously. They have a really good way in letting the girls feel confident in what they're doing."

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