Middle school girls learn about agricultural and engineering careers via SHE
Published: Thursday, July 1, 2004 at 3:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 1, 2004 at 12:00 a.m.
It isn't often that middle school students get to use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to participate in a scavenger hunt, but learning how to utilize satellite technology was just one element of an unusual educational opportunity provided by the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) during a recent event at the UF Plant Science Research and Education Unit (PSREU) in Citra.
The local students were participating in Project ATHENA, a summer camp conducted by the UF College of Engineering for girls in grades 6-8. The project is designed to encourage middle school girls' interest in science and math and features fun, hands-on engineering projects and connections with female UF engineering faculty and students from each participating department.
The Scavenger Hunt for Engineers (SHE) was organized by Jasmeet Judge, an ABE assistant professor and director of the Center for Remote Sensing. Three teams were provided with a hand-held GPS to hunt for a set of five locations spread out across the large facility. At each location, the teams learned about different sensors and used them to record observations on a datasheet provided.
ABE department chair Wendy Graham introduced the girls to a weather station where they recorded air temperature, relative humidity, pressure and wind speed. ABE undegraduate students Kristen Femminella and Mary Shedd introduced the girls to a state-of-the-art sensors to measure soil moisture and temperature of the wet and dry soil amidst a corn field. Graduate student Mi-Young Jang helped the girls use a sensor to measure vegetation cover. Judge introduced the girls to a remote sensing instrument to measure emission from the field.
"This was an excellent opportunity to combine technology and fun to introduce these girls to the idea of careers in science and engineering," said Judge. "We wanted to show that technology is useful, but can also be interesting and fun to learn. Everyone had a blast and we definitely want to participate again next year."
One of the highlights of the event was a trolley ride to the weather station that was provided by PSREU Research Coordinator James Boyer and his staff. The girls also enjoyed treats and drinks at each station and each team was awarded prizes at the end of the hunt.
The girls said they enjoyed combining fun and education "I really liked learning about soil temperature. It was very educational," said Kailey Wade. Student Katy Sputo said her favorite thing was "downloading data from the weather station." One student even commented that she might consider majoring in agricultural and biological engineering.
"Mentoring students of all ages, particularly female students, and encouraging them to choose careers in science, math and engineering is one of my personal goals," said Judge. "This was just a first step in a series of exciting events toward that goal."
Students interested in academic programs and careers in Agricultural and Biological Engineering can find more information at the department's website at www.agen.ufl.edu.
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