Highlights from TechnoQuest 2019

By Caraline Malloy. Girl Scout Ambassador, Girl Member of the Council Board, and Media Girl

If you deeply admire talented, intelligent women like Marie Curie, Martha Chase, Edith Clark or Alexa Canady, TechnoQuest is the event for you! TechnoQuest is an amazing event where Girl Scouts from near and far are able to experience what it is like to be a woman in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to participate in TechnoQuest 2019 on the campus of East Carolina University (ECU). I had a marvelous time exploring several different STEM workshops! I participated in four workshops: chemistry, DNA Testing, mechanical engineering, and neuroscience.

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My first workshop was on the subject of chemistry! The primary lesson of this workshop was to understand the different pH balances of various solutions, like orange juice, Gatorade, and vinegar.

Firstly, I learned that the pH balance of a solution is a number that helps to determine whether or not that solution is acidic (has a pH less than 7), basic (has a pH above 7), or neutral (has a pH of exactly 7). My lab partners (other fellow Girl Scouts), and I tested orange juice, Gatorade, vinegar, Window cleaner, and many other solutions with special color-changing test strips that help to determine solutions’ pH balances.

The unique way these color-changing strips works is when you stick a strip into a solution, it will change from its original white color to the color that corresponds to the color listed on its packaging associated with being acidic, basic, or neutral. However, before we tested the solutions for their true pH balances (like true chemists!), we hypothesized where the solutions belonged on the pH scale. Then, we were instructed to rank the solutions in order of decreasing acidity. I speculated vinegar was the most acidic solution. However, I was surprised to learn that Gatorade was the most acidic solution! My decision for ranking Gatorade as less acidic than vinegar was due to my consideration of Gatorade being a water-based beverage (pure water has a neutral pH of 7). I failed to think of all the electrolytes in Gatorade– I believe that definitely led to its high acidity!

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My next session was on the thrilling subject of DNA testing! Through this workshop, I was able to find the DNA of a strawberry!

Believe it or not, finding the DNA of a strawberry is actually quite simple. All you need is a Ziplock bag, a strawberry with the green tip removed, salt water, some dish soap, and rubbing alcohol that has been tinted blue. Open your Ziplock bag and add all the ingredients mentioned (minus the alcohol). From this point, you will want to close your Ziplock back and mash the strawberry into a pulp (this task is great for unleashing any tension, Girl Scouts!). After this, you should have nothing but a few chunks and pinkish-red liquid in the bag. You will need to drain out all your strawberry chunks. You should have only liquid left. At this point, pour your liquid into a clear cup, and slowly use a dropper to add the blue tinted alcohol to the cup. Shortly, you should see a blue layer start to develop above the pink layer. On top of that blue layer, you should see thin white lines. Those little, whitish-blue lines are the DNA of your strawberry! Using a dropper, I was able to remove the strawberry DNA and store it inside a pendent necklace.

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Next, I was able to experience what it is like to be a mechanical engineer.  My mission during this workshop was to design my own model car that would be sustainable enough to protect my passenger, Mr. Eggy (Yes, my “passenger” was an egg. Such a unique name, right? 😉).

After putting on my thinking cap, I actively thought of the precautions that an engineer would take to ensure a safe vehicle. Instead of having steel or special fibers to make my car with, I had to use straws, popsicle sticks, and masking tape. Needless to say, I had to get a little creative.

With help from two awesome Girl Scouts, I managed to create a car strong enough to protect Mr. Eggy from his major car crash. By “car crash”, I mean the wall we rammed him into… but, fear not! No eggs were harmed in the testing of this vehicle.

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Last (but not least!), I learned all about the games our minds sometimes like to play on us concerning the images we see. These “mind games”, are referred to as Optical Illusions.

From this neuroscience workshop, I learned about the science behind why some people see “the dress” as blue and black, not white and gold, or vise-versa. In the case of “the dress” viral debate, Colour Illusion is the reason why one pair of eyes may see the colors differently than the next.

Our brains are very perceptive; they like to provide information for things we don’t understand. So, our brains our basing what we see off its interpretation of what images or colors it thinks it sees. Who knew our minds were such tricksters?!

 

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If you liked reading about my adventures at TechnoQuest, imagine how much you would enjoy these things (and much, much more) firsthand! If you are ready for an eye-opening opportunity to explore the world of STEM, I would highly recommend unleashing your inner innovator at TechnoQuest!

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Thanks to a generous $40,000 donation from Duke Energy, TechnoQuest will return in Greenville and Raleigh for the 2019-20 program year. Duke Energy and Girl Scouts will team up to provide girls with the opportunity to learn about all things STEM in a safe and supportive environment.

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