North Hills teen hosting science fair for girls
Alexis Mandell, 17, is earning Girl Scouting's highest honor — the Gold Award — by encouraging middle school-age girls to try their hand at science.
Mandell is sponsoring a science fair for any girl in grades 4-8. It will be held at the Zappala College Center at La Roche College on March 4. It is free, and award medals will be given for first-place, second-place and honorable mention, plus Best Overall for each grade level, as well as Best Visual Presentation.
“I love biology and want to study neuroscience in college,” said Mandell, a member of the WestPerry Service Unit Girl Scout Troop 51061 and a senior at North Hills High School.
“Sadly, girls are often shut out of much STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) because of the preconceived notion that science and math are for boys. As a result, women represent only about one in five people employed in the fields of computer science, mathematics, engineering and the physical sciences.”
Mandell chose to focus on girls in grades 4 through 8 because studies show that the middle school years are the time girls lose interest in STEM and also lose self-esteem.
“My goal for this fair is to create a safe space and a vehicle for girls to explore STEM and find out what interests them. I hope that it enables them to keep science as a part of their lives for many years to come and to have the resolve to follow their passion, whether that be in high school courses or even future careers,” she said.
The science fair allows participants to choose any topic related to biology, environmental science, or physical science.
There must be a scientific question, research, hypothesis, experiment, results and conclusion. Each project must be clearly presented on a display board for the judges to review. Participants also should be able to field questions from the judges. The only restriction is that no live animals can be utilized as part of the project displays.
“The fair allows girls to pick whatever they want to do. That way, they'll find it more enjoyable, and it will allow them to be creative,” Mandell said.
The panel of judges will consist of researchers, graduate students, and other experts in the field of science.
“They'll be looking for students' understanding of the basic scientific concepts and evidence that the student is genuinely interested and has learned something,” Mandell explained.
She hopes to register 40 to 50 students.
“I don't want it to be super huge because I want the girls to have individual attention with the experts,” she said.
Jan. 1 is the deadline to register. Projects are due on March 4. Rules and registration are available online at www.GrowingGirlsRootsInSTEM.org.
“I think Lexi's Gold Award project is fantastic,” said troop leader Angela Arlia of West View. “She's not only raising the level of awareness for science, but encouraging young women to make a difference in the science world.”
Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributor.