On September 2nd, AGSS hosted our first workshop of the 2023-24 year! Over 40 girls attended our DNA and Biophysics workshop led by junior Emmie Kao. We first discussed how Biophysics — a lesser known discipline in science — is the intersection of Biology and Physics. Starting with Biology, we looked at cells, the building blocks of the universe, and their components, called organelles, and the differences between animal and plant cells. We then zoomed in on the nucleus, which houses DNA. We learned about the structure of a DNA molecule and how it determines the traits in living organisms. Our first hands-on activity was constructing candy DNA, where participants created double helices with licorice and lifesavers. Of course, we happily ate our DNA creations afterwards. We also took the chance to discuss Rosalind Franklin’s contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA, featuring her as our Woman in STEM.
Next up: Physics! What is a force? It can be a push or a pull, such as gravity. Forces cause motion, but what does motion look like in a fluid? Some fluids, like water, are easier to move through than more viscous fluids, such as honey. Our bodies are made up of many fluids, and we can apply these concepts of physics to track movements in our bodies, like blood flow. This is an example of Biophysics. We can even track moving particles such as DNA! Our next activity was Strawberry DNA Extraction, during which we crushed strawberries, put them in an extraction solution, and watched the DNA bunch up and become visible to the human eye! We talked about the movement of DNA during the lab and shouted with glee when our DNA finally began to form. One participant exclaimed: “It was really cool to see the parts of a strawberry that you couldn’t see from the outside.” Another participant said: “It was cool that a couple liquids could make the DNA visible!” Lastly, we placed our clumps of strawberry DNA into different solutions to measure the velocity at which it moved through a certain liquid. A participant stated at the end of the workshop that her favorite activity was measuring the velocity of DNA because she “loves doing science experiments.”
We hope to see you at our next workshop, the Electricity and Power Workshop, on October 14th at Mission Hills Library!
On June 13th, AGSS hosted a workshop about Engineering and Rube Goldberg Machines! Hosted by our graduating president, Kasie Leung, we first started by learning about the basics of machines by covering some simple physics, including potential and kinetic energy, force, gravity, and more. Kids answered questions such as “What is force?”, talking about it in both the context of Newton’s Second Law and examples of force in their everyday lives. Afterwards, the kids then did an awesome mini lab to get them thinking about machines. Using pool noodles, they built their own roller coasters on their tables, incorporating different materials, slopes, and more. Using this mini lab and various physics formulas, the kids got to see the Conservation of Energy in action.
We then moved on to learn about some “Simple Machines” such as levers, pulleys, and more, and how we see these simple machines are incorporated into more complex ones. The kids looked at various examples, including cars, slides, and seesaws.
Finally, today’s workshop culminated with the kids building a Rube Goldberg machine that spanned across the whole library room. A.k.a, a super complex machine to do a very simple task, that being popping a balloon today. Using what they learned in the past two hours, their task was to incorporate at least two simple machines into their design. Another challenge was that they also needed to communicate with their adjacent teams to make sure their machines could all be connected together. The kids all had so much fun, and the final product included a mixture of pulleys, ramps, and more. Barring some technical difficulties, the machine was, at the end, able to pop the balloon as intended!
Thanks to everyone who came, and we hope to see you at the NASA Astrocamp on either June 30th or July 1st! <33
On May 13th from 1:00-4:45 p.m., girls from grades 3-8 participated in AGSS’s annual All Girls Math Tournament at the Logan Heights Library! In this Mathcounts-style contest, our participants solved challenging math problems individually and collaboratively in three divisions: grades 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8. The Sprint Round included 30 problems to be solved in 40 minutes, and the Target Round included4 pairs of 2 problems each to be solved in 6 minutes. Both rounds challenged our participants’ speediness and accuracy. On the other hand, the Team Round, which was composed of 10 questions where the answer from the previous problem carried over to the next, encouraged our participants to work collaboratively and efficiently to solve the most problems in the shortest amount of time. We ended our competition with an easter egg relay as the participants played the game 24, where they used 4 numbers and the 4 basic operations (addition, subtraction, division and multiplication) to create the number 24.
One participant remarked that “the Team Round and the easter egg relay were the most fun,” and another remarked that while “the sprint round was hard, it was also super interesting.” We are so happy to have hosted another year of smiling faces at AGMT! Of course, AGMT would not be possible without the support of our generous sponsors, including Texas Instruments, Wolfram Alpha, Expii, AoPS, Kendra Scott, Gorjana, JoJo’s Creamery, Seaside Equity Partners, 3Blue1Brown and Jane Street, who provided funding and wonderful prizes for our contestants.
Look forward to our next events: the Rube Golberg workshop, held on June 3rd at Mission Valley Library and the NASA Astrocamp held on June 30th and July 1st.
On Saturday, March 18, we hosted our Cryptography Workshop at City Heights Library. This workshop was led by Veronica Tang (one of AGSS’s co-founders!). The girls were able to discuss real-life examples of cryptography, such as secret sharing and hash functions. We then explored encryption, which is a tool that can help us to send messages without the public understanding the information sent. For example, what does “rzkkns” mean? Well, “muffin,” once it’s been put through a Caesar cipher!
Next, the girls met Isabelle and Bob, a baker and a customer who try to deliver cakes to each other without the sneaky delivery man eating the cake first. How might we use locks and keys to evade this threat of cake theft? Through a series of puzzles and scenarios, the girls navigated this challenge creatively, demonstrating different methods of encryption. Acting out different scenarios also represented how we might send digital messages to each other on a daily basis, mirroring many encryption concepts. They learned about terms like public key cryptography, certification organization, Denial of Service Attack, and authentication. This hands-on activity brought cryptography protocols to life in a fun way! One participant commented that “Isabelle and Bob made the lesson much more interesting and fun.”
Look forward to our upcoming events, including Geology on April 29th at Mission Valley Library and the All Girls Math Tournament on May 13 at Logan Heights Library.
AGSS X CyberAssist
This Saturday, February 18, we hosted our Circuitry and Hardware Workshop at Mission Valley Library. This workshop was the first AGSS & CyberAssist collaboration, led by Ryan Qin from CyberAssist along with Kasie Leung from AGSS. CyberAssist collected over 70 computer monitors, hoping to use these materials to teach circuitry and computer hardware before they are donated. Electronics are an essential part of our lives, and the participants were able to explore the parts and inner workings of computers in a hands-on and fun way!
Our first activity involved using copper tape to create our own circuits. We experimented with creating switches and parallel circuits to try and turn on a light, applying our knowledge of atoms and electricity. Upon conducting electricity through our own bodies, one participant exclaimed: “This is actually really cool. I never thought I’d really like this!”
Our next activity was turning ourselves into computers. We simulated the inner workings of a computer, taking on the roles of the CPU, motherboard, RAM, and GPU. Each group had to describe a toy through a chain of different people (acting as computer parts) and finally, draw the best depiction based on the clues given by their team. Afterwards, the participants thought it was “so exciting” to take a look inside a real computer monitor and label the parts themselves.
We hope you can join us at our Cryptography workshop on March 18!
On Saturday, February 4, we hosted our second NASA Astro Camp at the Mission Valley Library. Along with The Clueless FTC robotics team, we learned about NASA missions, rockets, and more, focusing on the Mars Sample Return Mission. Firstly, we learned a little bit about The Clueless, and watched a video of their robot. Then, we heard from our speaker, Dr. Rachel Kronyak, who shared about her work on the Mars Sample Return Mission at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. One participant shared that “it was interesting to learn about how the rocks tell us information about Mars”.
This Saturday, January 28th, we hosted our data science workshop at the City Heights Library. Led by Emmie Kao, we learned about probability, statistics, and much more!
Our first activity was a quick introduction to data science, where we collected data from the participants on their favorite part of AGSS. The most popular answer by far was learning about STEM! Next, we learned about what data science is, and some of its real-life uses, specifically in tracking COVID-19 cases. Then, the girls got to collect some data for themselves, by counting how many of each type of candy were in a random cupful, and calculated the probability of how likely it was to pick each candy out of the cup. We then discussed sampling, non-response, and acquiescence biases, and why judging the entire bucket of candy from a cupful wasn’t totally accurate.
On January 7th, we hosted the NASA Astrocamp in collaboration with NASA and The Clueless, a local FTC robotics team. In this workshop, our special guest speaker, Dr. Rachel Kronyak, a system engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), talked about the Perseverance and rover and its Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission, and answered participants' questions about all things space. For more information on the MSR mission, please visit their website at https://mars.nasa.gov/index.cfm.
In addition to learning about NASA’s most recent projects and programs, participants designed their own mission patches and logos and designed their own landing systems (modeled by an egg drop). They also built their own sample collectors / drills using straws and rubber bands, constructed their own aerodynamic rockets and programmed commands to guide a mars rover on a simulated terrain!
One participant reported that the camp was “very interesting,” and that she learned about “why rocks on Mars are red.” Another participant said that she learned about how engineers and scientists collaborate together, to help us “explore the deep unknown of space.”
We will be hosting the same NASA Astrocamp on February 4th, from 12:30 - 5:30 pm, at the Mission Valley Library. Also be sure to sign up for our upcoming Data Science workshop at City Heights Library on January 28th!
On December 10th, we hosted our annual Holiday STEM Party at the University Community Library. Participants made science and engineering-based, holiday-themed arts and crafts. In build-a-sleigh, we used cardboard and balloons to design self-propelling sleighs, learning about physics and aerodynamics. We used baking soda and shaving cream, with food coloring and glitter to make “fake” snow, and we used oil, water, alka seltzer to make snow globes, and learned about chemistry behind it. We made gingerbread houses using Graham crackers, icing as glue, jelly beans, m&m’s and sprinkles, aiming to engineer the tallest and sturdiest houses. Last but not least, we also made Christmas themed origami, practicing our geometry skills.
One participant said, “It was really fun. My favorite activity was the gingerbread house.” Another participant heartily agreed: “it was very yummy too. I also learned about the polarity of water at the snow globe station.”
We hope you join us at our data science workshop in January. We will also be hosting NASA Astrocamps, in collaboration with the Clueless FTC team and Mission Valley Library on 1/7/23 and 2/4/23.
On Saturday, November 19, we hosted our How To Train Your Dragon-themed machine learning workshop at the Mission Valley Library. Led by Angelina Kim, 35 girls explored concepts such as sorting and artificial intelligence. We began by introducing the concept of algorithms, which we illustrated by asking the kids to instruct the volunteers to perform specific tasks (such as sitting or standing) without naming the tasks themselves. One participant commented that this was their favorite part because “it was interesting explaining instructions without being able to say the actual words.” This was followed by a couple of activities about sorting algorithms, specifically bubble sort, and linear and binary search algorithms. We organized pictures of dragons in order from fastest to slowest, watched videos about a Hungarian dance involving bubble sort, and demonstrated linear versus binary searches by organizing participants by height and determining the fastest way to find the girl who was exactly 5 feet tall. The girls learned that binary search is much more efficient than linear search!
After a snack break, we delved into the topic of machine learning itself, discussing artificial intelligence and neural networks. We played tic-tac-toe with a computer, whose playing strategy changed depending on which “player” we selected: they could play offensively, defensively, both, randomly, or use machine learning. The girls learned that the AI that used machine learning or both offensive and defensive playing almost always won, unless it was playing against another player using the same strategy. Finally, we talked about neural networks and used our newfound knowledge to play a modified version of tic-tac-toe. Overall, the girls had a lot of fun, adding that they “will probably go to other workshops in the future.”