CyberFair Project ID: 5125

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: The Creative Side of Engineering
Category: 1. Local Leaders

School: St. Albans City School
    St. Albans, Vermont, USA

12 students, ages 9 - 13 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 14, 2007. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): 2007

Classes and Teachers: Tech Savvy Girls

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

St. Albans City is a small rural city (population: 7500) in Northwest corner of Vermont. Our western border is the beautiful Lake Champlain. Just to the north of us is the province of Quebec, Canada. Our community is known for being the Maple Sugar Capitol of the World. We are one of the few cities to still have an active railroad. There are 800 students in our school from grades K – 8.

2. Summary of Our Project

Our project connects girls and women who are leading the way in making sure that both females and males participate in inventing our future. Although women and girls are very smart and have good ideas, most of the engineers and designers of new technology are men. Our project introduces the field of engineering to girls and shows them how fun and creative this field can be. We got first hand experience about the creative and fun side of engineering by designing and building edible cars for a competition on National Engineering Day. After the exhibits and competition, we had a power lunch with Women Engineers, and met smart creative female role models. We recorded sound and video during our Powerlunch which we used to build a website that introduces these female role models to other girls. We are working on making podcast episodes to put on I-tunes featuring one of our role models each week. We think that helping other girls get involved in technology and engineering also makes us leaders.

3. Our Computer and Internet Access

A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:more than 50%

B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:4-6

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:more than 6

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

The first problem we had to overcome was how to convince more girls to get involved. We invited many girls to participate, but some did not know what engineering was. The next problem was that we didn't know much about building cars. We asked our tech-ed teacher to come and give us a lesson on the types of factors that we should consider when designing our car. We learned that real engineers also have to try lots of different ways to build something to make it work. The redesigns paid off, because our cars won 4 awards. Another problem was assigning roles. We learned that each role was important. It was hard to agree on a design. There were lots of good suggestions for backgrounds, fonts, and colors. We had to learn to accept the vote of the group, and not feel bad when if our design was not chosen. The quicker we agreed on a design, the more time we had to create the project. We had a very big snowstorm that canceled one of our workdays. Since we only meet once a week, we were running out of time, so we came in during our school vacation to meet the deadline. Broken arms, the flu, and other reasons, made it necessary that we pitch in and finish each others work to get it all done. Hard work and team work were the key to overcoming our problems. Since our school does not own fancy web design software, we used share-ware programs such as Open Office to make our web pages. Sometimes it didn't work right and the links got messed up, but one of our girls knew HTML and was able to fix the code. It is good to all have different knowledge and help each other as a team.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

More women and girls need to get involved in designing and inventing with technology, not just using technology. In our project we got a chance to design and build cars, and well as design and build a website featuring women role models. Since there were no boys around to ask for help, we learned that we had the skills to do it ourselves. Because some boys have more experience with technology and design, it sometimes seems easier to watch them solve a problem. But we learned that as girls, we bring different ideas to the design because we have different experiences. We, want women and girls to be part of inventing the future.

6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?

This project helped us apply math, science, and technology skills to come up with a car that would do well in a competition. We learned about slope, rub, friction, as well as how some materials work together, while others don't. For example, we learned that the shortening in the twinky softened the axle made out of pasta. The acid from the potato car melted the candy axle. We also measured our car's length, width, wheel circumference, and other dimensions. Then we made a graph of the car's performance and made conclusions based on the graphs.

The project also supported communication standards. We brainstormed questions for our interviews with the female role models. We learned how to ask open ended questions in an interview. We also worked hard to listen to our interviews and create 2 -4 paragraphs about each role models. We learned how to change what someone says to write a good story.

Finally we applied many technology skills to this project, such as recording audio and video. We organized our work in folders in our network. We editted pictures and also learned to make web pages using Open Office. There were many technology standards in this project. We kept our work organized in folders. We learned that teamwork was important. We had to learn to make decisions together and accept the group choices. We learned that sometimes we have to assign roles in a way where not everyone gets their first choice, but each role is important and must get done. We practiced telling other people about our project.

Project Elements

1) What information tools & technologies did you used to complete your CyberFair project?

wood plane to test our cars. Putting the results on spreadsheet software helped us create graphs to analyze results. Digital cameras, video cameras, digital voice recorders, laptop computers with microphones were all used to capture images, audio, and video from the exhibits, the competition and the power lunch. We tried to use all free programs when possible. The program called Audacity helped us record and edit our sound. MovieMaker was used to make our movies. The web pages were created using Open Office. One of the girls knew HTMl, and sometimes she would fix things that didn't work well in Open Office by changing our HTML code so it worked better. We used a Wiki to organize our work and keep it in one place. We used BLIP TV to change our windows media movies into Flash so people without Windows could also see them. Audacity turned our audio files into mp3 so they would load faster on the Internet. Flash drives and memory sticks were also important. Finally our school network administrator helped us fix some of the problems with Dreamweaver.

2) In what ways did you act as "ambassadors" and spokespersons for your CyberFair project both on-line and in person.

The first way we acted as spokesperson was by working as an all girls team. We all wore green shirts with Tech Savvy girls name badges when we took our car to the competition. It was obvious to everyone that we were all at the engineering day as a large group of girls. When our girls won 4 awards at the project, we were able to send a message that “girls, too” can be good designers and engineers. Although the women role models that we met at the Power Lunch helped us learn more about engineering, our project helped them learn more about Cyberfair and our group of TechSavvyGirls. They thought it was cool that we were using all this technology at our lunch. One organization called Vermont Works for Women sent one of their mentors to shadow us for the day. Theylearned a lot about us. The Vermont Women's Fund who provided some of the funds for our project also learned more about us. Many people were very interested in our project, because it was so creative and fun. Some people didn't like the idea that we were doing a girls only project. This gave us a chance to talk to them more about the fact that there are very few women and girls in engineering projects.

We used an Internet Wiki, a blog, photosharing site, and video sharing site to post pictures, videos, and stories of our project as it went along. This allowed our teachers and a global community to see us in action each step of the way. They were very proud of us when we won the awards. WCAX-TV news team interviewed us during the competition and two of our girls were on the TV news talking about girls in engineering. We sent an article to our local newspaper about our project and our awards. Our town was very proud of us.

3) What has been the impact of your project on your community?

Our project helped get the word out that there is a need to get more girls involved with engineering, technology, and design. Many people do not realize that there are so few girls and women in these fields. We also got more kids(both boys and girls) involved in the engineering competition. We invited others to join the competition. Two boys from our school competed. Now more people are interested for next year. By asking our tech ed teacher, Mr. Blair for help, we got him more excited in participating next year. Right now, the Tech Savvy Program has been on hold for a few years because of cuts in funding. It has been trying to find a new sponsor. The organization, “Vermont Works for Women”, became interested in our project. They are now trying to help us get more funds to keep Tech Savvy Girls alive.

One of the most impact was helping our community feel proud of us. One of the parents wrote a nice letter to our school, saying that she saw Engineering Day in the paper each year, and was excited that her daughter could participate.

More impact came from creating the website. Creating a web site about our project increased the awareness about the need for more girls in technology, and more people got to meet our wonderful women role models. If it had not been for the website, the buzz around the project would have ended a few days after our competition, but the web tools helped us keep the story alive and spread the story to more people in our community. We hope to be part of a series of podcast episodes featuring strategies for getting girls interested in technology.

4) How did your project involve other members of your community as helpers and volunteers?

The first way our project involved others was to ask Mr. Smith (our tech ed teacher) for help in designing our cars. He came to two of our meetings to give us some background knowledge that might help. We also asked our school's web designer, Ms. Rawding for advice about making our web site. We also helped us fix problems near the end using her Dreamweaver program.

We started with 8 girls, but we sent invitations to other girls to come help us build cars and attend the competition. We asked 5 women engineers to join us for a Power Lunch with Women in Technology. They agreed to volunteer and extra hour after the competition and stay and have lunch with us. The Vermont Air National Guard offered us their dining room for our Power Lunch. The Vermont's Women's Fund helped by providing funds that we were able to use for a bus to the competition and to buy materials to make our cars. Kristen, from Vermont Works for Women, helped us organize our Power Lunch, and worked at the E-Week events. Ms deLaBruere, helped lead us and keep us organized and moving forward. She also took many trips to the store to get more ifull, candy, cookies, and other ingredients when we ran out. She taught us many of the programs and technology tools we needed to do this project. We asked several of our teachers to proofread the project with us. The project would not have been possible without a lot of teamwork.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

We made many discoveries during the project. We learned that potato starch melts candy cane axels and the filling from Twinkies softens axels made from spaghetti. We had an interesting surprise the day of the Competition. One of the judges of the Edible Car Competition was a engineer named Casey, who had just won an award as Professional Engineer of the Year a couple of days ago. She was the first female to win this award. We invited her to be the guest of honor at our Power Lunch. We were also surprised when our edible cars won 1st, 2nd, 3rd place for fastest cars, and 1st place for furthest car. We discovered that if you don't eat all the Tootsie Rolls in your repair kit, you have a better chance of winning! And finally, we learned that we have perserversance and even two broken wrist and 4 feet of snow didn't stop us from meeting our goal.


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 5125)

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