Down to a science
October 7, 2012

STOCKTON - Diamond Marshall enjoys taking things apart and putting them back together. Saturday, the 12-year-old took on an ambitious project as she helped dismantle a desktop computer and reassemble it. The exercise gave her a chance to see the inner workings of the machine and how it operates. "It only took about 10 minutes, but making sure all the power was disconnected was the hardest part," Marshall said.

She, along with hundreds of other girls from the region, participated in Expanding Your Horizons at University of the Pacific this weekend. The event is coordinated by a nonprofit organization that hosts conferences throughout the nation. The movement targets girls, who historically are less likely to pursue careers in science, mathematics and robotics. Marshall's passion for math and science helped her earn a chance to participate. Although she's far more intrigued by electrical engineering, Marshall said she enjoyed some of the biological experiments she participated in. The girl smiled as she pulled out a necklace decorated by a small pink container filled with a cloudy mixture. "That's my DNA," she said. She extracted it by gargling salt water and spitting the liquid into a cup. Dish soap and isopropyl alcohol were then added, creating small lumps in the mixture. The resulting lumps are thousands of DNA molecules banding together.

Experiments related to the body's senses were conducted as well. Leanne Haner, 12, said one test saw them use their fingertips to grade the coarseness of various types of sandpaper. The students were then tasked with running their fingers along Braille letters to see if they could distinguish the subtle differences in the patterns. Haner and 14-year-old Faith Allen concluded their day by constructing a Lego Mindstorms robot. When finished, the robot rolled along the floor, changing directions by sensing vibrations from the girls as they stomped their feet. Several girls at the table next to them laughed and congratulated each other on the project while filming the robot on their camera phones. Although college remains years away for Marshall, she says Saturday's event helped her realize what she's passionate about. "I know math and science are my passions," she said. "And I want to be in electrical engineering."

Posted: 11/9/2012 11:26:54 AM