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SMC Hypatia Day encourages learning in math & science

Taylor Couillard-Rodak | Sunday, February 26, 2012

­DNA extractions, Fibonacci numbers and bouncy ball polymers were the main attractions of Saint Mary’s 21st annual Hypatia Day on Saturday.

The event, named for the first female mathematician and scientist in recorded history — Hypatia of Alexandria — is aimed to inspire local seventh grade girls to study math, science and engineering.

“The event

is for the seventh graders to get them involved in doing fun math and science activities led by all of our student clubs,” Kristin Jehring, mathematics professor and director of Hypatia Day, said.

To qualify for participation, Jehring said students apply for the event after their teachers nominate them.

“We send out materials to the math and science teachers to the schools in the greater Michigan area,” she said. “They nominate a couple students that they think would benefit and should be encouraged to continue their math and science education.”

This year, 95 students were selected.

The students, along with their parents, started the day with a welcome from Jehring and a keynote address by Abby Weppler, local meteorologist for WSBT-TV.

From there, students from various clubs lead hands-on activities for the girls, Jehring said.

“The chemistry club [lead an activity with] bouncy balls to learn about polymers,” she said.

In addition, the Biology Club worked with the girls on extracting DNA from strawberries and learning about dissection to experiencing working in the lab.

The Nursing Club taught students how to perform Triage and basic CPR, the Engineering Club built bridges with K’Nex and the Math Club showed students how to manipulate a JAVA program.

“[The students received] a taste of programming and seeing how little changes will affect the system,” Jehring said. “[They also played] with math theory, Fibonacci numbers and sequences to [observe] patterns.”

While the girls conducted experiments, parents attended lectures by mathematics professor Mary Connolly, Director of Admissions Kristin McAndrew and financial aid counselor Lonnie Kizer.

The lectures featured information about college affordability, classes women should take in high school to prepare them for college and why a life in science or math is a good option, Jehring said.

The day concluded with closing remarks from College President Carol Ann Mooney.

Despite the number of hands-on activities offered by the event, Jehring said the most exciting aspect of the event was the participation.

“[The seventh graders] get involved, and they’re actively doing things in these sessions,” she said.