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Middle School

Girls Innovate with Open Circuit Challenge

You’ve probably never wondered what index cards and aluminum foil have to do with STEM, but it turns out that all three were brought together this spring in the Open Circuit Challenge, led by upper school science teachers Ms. Watt and Ms. Llewelyn. 

The premise of the challenge is to engage both middle and upper school girls in fun and innovative activities that promote interest in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), a growing department at Derryfield. According to Ms. Watt, “Research has shown that middle school tends to be the time that girls move away from STEM subjects, so we want to provide a safe environment for girls to continue to explore these subjects and also connect with other girls and women who have similar interests.” 

The first activity, held at a meeting in April, challenged students to build the tallest freestanding index card tower possible while still able to support a stuffed animal. Freshmen Lila Kelsey and Charlotte Rohlfs came away the winners, with their design that was “based off of a tripod stool, which was very different than the other designs.” The index card challenge was “harder than it looked,” in the words of Ms. Watt. The second activity, held in May, engaged students through a challenge that required them to build an aluminum foil boat that could hold the most mass possible, armed only with foil, tape, and straws. Ms. Watt says that they “completely underestimated the foil boat challenge and had to scramble to get more mass.” Freshman Brooke Nolan and sixth-grader Eleanor Kerwin were the winners, with a boat that supported 402 grams of mass. Both activities involved critical thinking, innovation, and design skills, all necessary assets for STEM fields. 

Considering how successful both challenges were, Ms. Watt says that “We hope to have monthly meetings next year that will be a combination of additional challenges, speakers, and other presentations. We will look to the students to give ideas as to what they are interested in doing.” She and Ms. Llewelyn are also interested in expanding the opportunity for students to attend STEM conferences. Due to the welcoming and collaborative environment of the challenges, it is clear to see that great work is being done at Derryfield to combat the worldwide dearth of women in STEM fields and raise up the next generation of innovators. 
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The Derryfield School

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