By Danica Chen, Del Norte High School
All Girls STEM Society held its Knot Theory Workshop on Sunday, September 30, 2018, to teach girls about mathematical knots with Play-Doh, a human knot activity, 4-Color Theorem worksheets, and a game of Jeopardy. The workshop was held in the Community Room of Mission Valley Library.
Gwen C., who previously attended the circuitry and robotics workshops, was happy to return once more.
“I like that you get to make stuff and experiment here,” she says, arriving to the workshop early. “My favorite part is the trivia section, because you can earn prizes."
The workshop started out with a presentation by AGSS president Crystal Wang about the basics of knot theory, before segueing into a Play-Doh activity in which the participants were tasked with making shapes with Play-Doh. The activity showed how, as participant Ekaterina G. explains, “how topology explains if you break or change a shape there are some things about it that are still the same”. Each participant made a unique Play-Doh shape to learn with, including circles, hearts, and stars.
Afterward, with further explanation of knot theory, the participants did the next activity: making a human knot by joining hands and figuring out how to untangle themselves. The room gathered into three groups, with girls in each one ducking under arms and twisting backwards to get free. The first two groups that succeeded were awarded prizes for their efforts and quick thinking.
Then came the break, during which the girls went outside to enjoy cookies, bananas, and water. During break, volunteer Emily W. told me about her experience with STEM, and why she chose to volunteer with AGSS.
“Even though the event is for kids, I still feel like I’m learning new stuff. I like how with STEM there’s always new stuff to learn,” she said. “It’s actually really fun–I’ve understand much more and I’ve made new friends just from my first workshop volunteering."
When the workshop began again, the 4-Color Theorem worksheets were passed out. Girls were instructed to color in various images; the colors could not touch each other and the maximum number of colors used could not exceed four. The purpose of the activity was to teach girls about the 4-Color Theorem, or the concept that any plane separated into a map can have all its regions filled in with four colors, with no adjacent regions sharing the same color. Girls once again took creative initiative when coloring, lovingly choosing their four colors and shading the detailed maps.
Finally, the workshop ended with Jeopardy, a massive trivia game about all the concepts taught that gave the girls a final chance to earn treasured prizes. The participants divided itself into teams to answer questions, and each cheered uproariously when they answered a question correctly. Every group managed to pick at least one question and answer it correctly, a victory in itself as rewarding to the excited students as taking first place.
The workshop ended with Team 2, or the "Gummy Bears", winning, but with every girl getting a small prize of a pen or eraser in some way. It seemed that everyone was happy with their experience.
“It was great!” Luna R. said with an affirming thumbs-up. Her cousin Jocelyn R., for whom this was her first workshop, agreed.
All Girls STEM Society’s next San Diego workshop is the Gases Workshop at the Carmel Valley Public Library on October 14th. Students will have the opportunity to study the chemistry and physics of gases to launch their very own bottle rockets. Sign up details can be found here.