Cassie Byrd, University of Michigan-Dearborn asked Sonia Krech Jacobsen, The Works Museum

PostedWednesday, September 21, 2016 at 12:30 PM

Hi Sonia, wondering what your take is on engineering lessons for middle school girls? Thanks for any ideas!
1 Answer
  • Sonia Krech Jacobsen , The Works Museum
    Posted Thursday, February 2, 2017 at 11:37 AM
    Wow this is a late answer to your question!  I'm so sorry for that.
    
    I think girls of all ages are great problem solvers - as girls we really have to be!  
    
    I know that there tends to be a "girl-ified" approach to presenting engineering challenges to girls, and I have mixed feelings about that.  1st We need to get girls some experience and confidence in engineering (so anything goes!) 2nd We need to have projects that everyone can look at with awe - without a girly characteristic qualification.
    
    Middle School girls are tricky. They've already started to withdraw from confidence in their mastery of STEM subjects. At The Works Museum, we have had great success in providing gender neutral challenges (Catapults, Marble Games in a pizza box, Melody Harps, Raspberry Pi + Python coding).  
    
    To present a challenge that lends itself to a more girl-centric appeal - I might choose an instrument.  Possibly focusing on a hand-built one, over an electronic one.  A simple design (in supplies & in flexibility) would be a string instrument we call Ear Harps.  Much like a commercial Melody Harp, the materials are a solid pine board (you can choose the size), roofing or other nails with a good head, a hammer (each or can share) and rubber bands of various sizes, a bit of sandpaper and something to decorate the board with - crayons, markers, watercolors, stain, etc.  You can go try a variety of established instruments to discover the variations in vibrations - learning about how high and low pitches are created through different materials.  Generally speaking, the more material the vibration travels through, the lower the pitch and reversed for higher.  The challenge will be to create an instrument that can play a variety of pitches.  You decide how many nails will fit well on the size board you use.  Use even #s of nails to string a rubber band.  To enjoy - place the flat side of the board (no nails) against your ear, then strum the strings on the nail-side. Sounds like a guitar/harp!
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