'SciGirls' PBS show features Minn. girls empowered by science and math

7:03 AM, Nov 16, 2012   |    comments
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OSSEO, Minn. - A locally-produced television show that encourages girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, is gaining steam nationally.

Twin Cities Public Television's "SciGirls" is in its second season. It features several Minnesota girls who are superheroes of science in their schools.

Grace Lewis and Greta Schwartz, both 12, are Osseo Junior High School students who are among four girls featured in an upcoming episode Saturday, Nov. 17.

Last January, the girls began shooting their "Insulation Station" episode Medicine Lake during the Art Shanty festival. They were challenged to create a warmer and more energy efficient ice shanty for freezing volunteers.

"They are going to see confident bright girls struggling through problems, but succeeding in the end," said Dr. Lisa Regalla, a chemist and outreach director behind the show.

Through a series of experiments, using prototypes and a thermal camera, the girls discovered the answer. They could direct sunlight to create heat, while insulating walls with bubble wrap. The air pockets helped trap heat, what they call a great tip for many ice fishermen.

"Bubble wrap, that was most surprising to me that would keep it insulated the best," said Schwartz.

This season the SciGirls design an underwater robot, create a bicycle that uses pedal power to make ice cream and even use forensic science in a crime scene investigation.

In every episode, a female mentor guided the girls as they solved a problem, which is an important part of the process, according to Dr. Regalla, who says even though girls can outperform boys in science and math, there is still an imbalance in the workforce.

"The research shows that upper elementary to middle school age range is really when young girls start losing confidence in their abilities in science and math," she said.

But the results from this experience already have lasting impact. Schwartz and Lewis are empowered by their experiment and have concluded their STEM careers are within reach.

"It really put more opportunities in my path. I thought I could only be a doctor or artist, now there are other things I want to do like be a scientist," said Lewis.

"I really think science shows there is different ways of doing things and better ways of doing things, and it will help the world so much," said Schwartz.

This SciGirls "Insulation Station" episode airs this Saturday on more than 350 PBS stations across the nation. Kids can research experiments and work on their own projects on the show's website.

The show is funded by the National Science Foundation. Check your local listings for show times.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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