Science For All

The Diet Guide

I’m a 6th grader in Westwood, Massachusetts.  My favorite subject is science. My interest in science began in 1st grade when I decided to participate in my school’s science fair. As I researched ideas for a fair project, I was fascinated by how much there is to learn about the world around us. I tried a number of experiments daily, using my kitchen as a lab.  Osmosis in plants, self-inflating balloons, slime-making, vortex in a bottle and other messy experiments were performed at home to my parent’s delight.

Earlier this year when my dad suggested we build a treehouse, he had one rule: my brother Michael and I needed to be involved. Michael and I drew plans for what we wanted the house to look like. My dad did most of the building work but my brother and I designed a pulley to lift our toys and supplies up to the treehouse.  It took a lot of experimentation to find the right size wheels and rope for our pulley to work. We loaded objects of different weights in our pulley basket to test whether it could be used to lift our dogs up to the treehouse. We decided the basket was not stable enough to transport animals. No pets were harmed in the experiment!

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My brother Michael and I working on a pulley system for our treehouse.

I’ve also been lucky to experiment in a real lab as part of the “Scientist for a Day” program at MIT.  Merjema Purak and the MIT Women in Chemistry group put together an experiment-filled day for middle school girls at MIT’s chemistry lab. I enjoyed extracting DNA from strawberries and fluorescent molecules from spinach, simulating the greenhouse effect in our environment, making ice cream using liquid nitrogen, and more. It was great to be able to perform experiments in an actual lab with helpful and accurate tools. What I enjoyed the most was working in teams and discussing experiment results with scientists and other science lovers. As a thank you for the great experience, I designed a logo for MIT’s “Scientist for a Day” program.

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The logo I designed for the “Scientist for a Day” program.

The goal of the “Scientist for a Day” program is to increase the diversity of the science community by inspiring girls to explore science careers.  My logo design shows a girl, her arm stretched out and an atom hovering over her hand representing “science at arms reach”. Women and other minorities have historically not participated as often in science, sometimes because of lack of exposure to science activities or because their schools do not have quality science programs.  This is concerning to me because understanding many of the most important current issues – climate change, pollution, water safety, disease prevention – requires knowledge of scientific facts. Every day decisions that affect our lives are based in science. Choosing to eat fruit instead of candy, drinking more water during hot days, knowing what medicines to take when we have a cold, deciding who to vote for if we care for the environment.

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Extracting DNA from strawberries at the chemistry lab at MIT.

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Delivering the “Scientist for a Day” logo to Merjema Purak at MIT’s Swager Lab.

I’m inspired to help increase diversity and inclusiveness in science.  I’m fundraising to donate supplies to Boston schools and I’m recruiting volunteers to run science workshops for girls and other underrepresented minorities. The Boston and Cambridge science communities are generous with their time and resources.  Since I started fundraising, I have received positive responses from local science museums, hospitals and companies interested in funding the purchase of supplies. Local scientists have volunteered their time to participate in weekend workshops or support school STEM fairs.

Having access to fun materials and participating in hand-on-science activities definitely increased my interest in learning about chemistry and biology. I was fairly new to chemistry when a friend introduced me to “Happy Atoms”, a chemistry set that allows you to build molecular models using magnetic connectors.  The models raised my interest in learning about molecular biology because I was learning by doing and having fun.

To support hands-on learning in different Boston communities I’m assembling science kits to be donated to various after school programs. The first kit will be a “Chemistry of Food Experiment Kit”, useful to learn about the chemistry behind different foods and to show the connections between chemistry and nutrition. To assemble hundreds of kits with printed experiment guides, I recruited the talents of my awesome girl scout troop, Westwood troop 66081. The office of community partnerships or the Boston Public Schools is helping me connect with teachers across different after school programs. I’m excited to help coordinate fun science workshops in 2020.  This is a dream project for me because it includes many of the things I love most: science, graphic design, teamwork and community service.

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