Workshops 2020

Workshops for Girls

Track 1

Fun with Flu

Qixin He and Rahul Subramanian

Have you ever had the flu? Have you ever wondered why people get a flu shot every year? In this workshop, you’ll learn how infectious diseases like influenza spread in human populations by “infecting” your classmates (don’t worry, you won’t actually get sick) and how your body’s immune system fights back! We’ll explore how getting a flu shot protects both you and the people around you from getting sick, and how preventing outbreaks of diseases like the flu requires a combination of biology, medicine, public policy, and a little bit of math!

Code and Decode codons

Raji Arora, Sharon Sintich

Codons are sequence of 3 nucleotides that code for proteins. We will learn to code an App that will help us encode simple messages using amino acid alphabets and convert them into a sequence of codons. As a next step, we decode messages by converting codons into their amino acids.

Plantastic! The wonderful world of plants.

Christina Carrero and Alissa Brown

If you look around, plants are everywhere! You are probably aware that plants give us oxygen, food, shelter, clothes, and more. It would not be possible to live without plants. In this workshop, we will guide you through your exploration into the wonderful world of plants. We have designed several fun activities to introduce you to 3 important aspects of plant biology. You will learn : (1) How do plants drink water? (2) How do plants grow and how can we tell their age?, and (3) How do plants move around? Come join us and become a budding plant scientist.

Track 2

Think Like A Digital Designer: Unplugged

Sara Neiman & TBA

Students will learn how researchers, designers and developers use design thinking to create digital experiences like the ones in their favorite apps! Guided, unplugged activities will show students how to put themselves in the mind of users that may not be the same as them and brainstorm ideas for improving the user experience of real apps.

Cheese Rind Microbes: Introducing A Taste of Science

Dr. Laura M. Sanchez, Gordon T. Luu

Many people eat fermented foods, including kimchi, yogurt, and cheese. Have you ever wondered why these foods taste so good? Step into the shoes of a food scientist by joining our workshop to explore (and taste) how bacteria and fungi add flavor to your favorite cheeses!

Make a Motor: Convert Electricity into Mechanical Power!

Casey Frantz, Kristin Dona

Do you ever wonder how electricity can make phones vibrate, headphones play your favorite music, or electric cars move? In this workshop you’ll learn how electric energy is converted into mechanical power, and harness the physics of electromagnetism to build your very own electric motor!

Track 3

Getting the Dirt on Urban Soils and Plants

Allyson Salisbury, Michelle Catania

Soils are critical to life on earth, yet people take for granted this precious resource right under our feet. Construction activities degrade soil, which limits our ability to grow plants in urban environments. In this workshop you will learn techniques to assess the quality of soil and its effects on plant health. We will also learn about ways to improve soil quality to create a better environment for plants, animals, and people.

Magnet Magic

Liz Moog and Laura Boon

When you hear of magnets, you think “opposites attract, same repels”, but in this workshop we’ll go beyond that. We’ll see an electrical current produce a magnetic field and, inversely, see a magnetic field produce a current. We’ll speed things up and slow things down with magnets, and even make a battery move by itself. Some of these demos will look like magic tricks, but there’s no magic — only physics! And, unlike a magic show, you will learn why and how it all works.

Fun with Polymers

Naneki Collins-McCallum, Meghan Ward

Ever heard of polymers? Polymers are long chains of molecules, and they are all around us, from plastics, to rubbers, to foams. Polymers are even in our bodies! Come learn about polymers, make real nylon from scratch, extract DNA (a biopolymer) from strawberries, and make a polymer bracelet which you can take home with you!

Track 4

Make Your Own Radio!

Pratiti Deb

Ever wonder how or why your radio works? How does it mysteriously manage to play your favorite tunes with nothing more than a small piece of metal? Come find out in this fun, interactive workshop where you can build your own radio and use it to listen to real radio stations. Take your own radio home to show your friends and look for radio waves around your home!

Disease Detectives

Min Lee, Reba Abraham

In this workshop, you will learn about how doctors use microscopes to detect disease! We will talk about how microscopes work and how to use a paper microscope (Foldscope). With these tools, you will get to see what organs, like bone marrow, intestines, and blood, look like when you zoom in. At the end of the workshop, you’ll get to take the Foldscope home and use your new skills to explore the world around you.

Bacteria are everywhere! But that’s a good thing

Ande Hesser, Evelyn Campbell

You can’t see them, you can’t feel them, but there are millions of bacteria and other tiny organisms that live in and on your body all the time! But don’t be scared, most of them are actually working hard to help you stay healthy! The collection of these protective bacteria and other microorganisms is called the microbiome, and we’ll learn all about what these protective microbes are and how they interact with your body. In this workshop we’ll show how your body recognizes and good versus bad bacteria, how different foods you eat can hurt your microbiome and actually cause you to get sick, and how bacteria spread from person to person. You’ll learn what you can do to help your microbiome stay healthy, and how this will help you stay healthy too!

Track 5

The amazing human brain

Pantea Moghimi

Come learn about the brain and how it allows us to move, feel, and think. We will measure how fast your brain can feel someone squeezing your hand. We will also explore how the brain moves your muscles. You will listen to your muscle contractions on a smartphone and see how you can use that to move a robotic claw.

Plaque Attack!

Isabell Lazar

Your dentist might tell you that candy and soda are bad for your teeth, but have you ever wondered why? Learn more about how sugar and acidic foods affect your teeth by making your own chemical reaction! Spoiler alert: skipping the brushing and flossing is not a good idea!

Atomic Candy – measuring half life using M&Ms

Karri DiPetrillo

What do you think when you hear something is radioactive? You might not realize it, but it turns out we encounter radioactive materials every day. Bananas, smoke detectors, and even your own body are radioactive. These substances contain unstable atoms, which emit radiation when they decay. In this workshop we’ll test some common objects for radioactivity, and even do an experiment with M&Ms to demonstrate the process of radioactive decay.

Track 6

Viral Infection and How Your Body Fights Back

Omar Abdel-Rahim

Have you had the flu before? Are you interested in health sciences or becoming a doctor? Do you want to understand how your body fights viral infections like the flu or how vaccines work? If you said yes to any of these questions, sign up for “Viral Infection and How Your Body Fights Back” to conduct experiments to learn first hand how viruses spread between people and how your body and vaccines fight infection!​

The City of the Future

Amanda Lo

What issues will people face in the future? How will they have fun? Your mission is to help envision and build a city 100 years in the future: select a plot of land in a city and put a building on top of it! Your ideas will be conveyed through drawings and 3D models, and you’ll work with the whole group to make sure the city has everything it needs to function.

Machine Learning: You’re the teacher and the computer is the student

Mary Kate Nawalaniec

Do you think a computer would say hi to you if you waved at it or say your name if it saw your face? Maybe not at first, but what if you could teach it to recognize these things? In this workshop, we’ll explore how you can teach a computer using tools from Amazon and Google.

Track 7

Think Like an Engineer

Liz Miller

Chicago is known for its impressive buildings, and while most buildings are made of concrete, metal, and other heavy materials, everyday items can also be used to build. In this workshop, we will make our own table top structures out of newspaper, test how much they hold, and will see if they stand up to an earthquake.

Introduction to Neuroscience

Amy Kristl

Ever wondered how our brain allows us to move, sense, and think? Neuroscience is the study of the brain and nervous system and how they function in our daily lives. Join our workshop to learn how the brain controls movement using prism goggles, how our brain senses taste and smell with jellybeans, listen to real neurons talk to each other in a cockroach leg, and touch a real live brain!

Girls Learning About Microbiology (GLAM)

Amanda Naylor & Travis Nielsen

What the heck are Lyme disease and Malaria?! Come to GLAM where you’ll travel to the microscopic world and catch a glimpse of the germs that cause these infections and the insects that spread them. At the end of the workshop, you’ll walk away with a creepy crawler plush toy one-million-times bigger than the real thing!

Track 8

Can You Dig It? Fossil Finding 101

Hannah Farrell

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to hunt for fossils? Come join us and learn how a paleontologist looks at fossils from discovery to analysis and everything inbetween! In this workshop you’ll get to learn how to pick a dig site, dig for your own fossils, and explore how to make inferences about the past based on what you find. Get ready to dig up the past!


Erin McGinnis, Heather Willems

Have you ever wondered how scientists get a sample of DNA from a plant, animal, or other organism? All living organisms have DNA. DNA, which is short for deoxyribonucleic acid, is the blueprint for almost everything that happens inside the cells of an organism — overall, it tells the organism how to develop and function. DNA is so important that it can be found in nearly every cell of a living organism. In this activity, you will extract DNA from strawberries and visualize its DNA with your own eyes!

Foam Gnomes Polymer Reactions

Dr. Crystalann Jones

Be a polymer chemist for the day and help us to form Polyurethane Foam through the crosslinking reaction of two polymer chains. We will combine materials to form gases, generate heat, change colors and expand liquids in our quest to understand all the chemical and physical changes that occur during this chemical reaction. We will determine if these changes can be reversed and create a Foam Gnome character for each student to take home as a reminder of all you learned in your day as a polymer scientist.