Eight UCSB Department of Geography graduate students gave up their Valentine’s Day plans last month to participate in Tech Savvy, a daylong conference at UC Santa Barbara. This conference gives girls in grades six through nine an opportunity to explore STEM education and related careers through hands-on workshops. Two of these workshops were created and hosted by our own Geography department graduate students Heather Frazier, Nina Bingham, Sari Blakeley, Helen Chen, Sarah Harris, Fernanda Henderikx-Freitas, Susan Meerdink, and Rafael Ramos who represented the UCSB Department of Geography’s Visibility and Outreach committee.
The workshop titled “Selfies from Space” introduced girls to Landsat and aerial imagery through a trivia game. This workshop encouraged the participants to explore how we are using ‘selfies’ taken from space to study our one-of-a-kind planet and to flip through Earth’s own ‘instagram’ to see how places change over time. The girls worked through 10 different stations where they had to piece together aerial images, figure out what happened in the images, or guess what they were looking at in the imagery. The workshop emphasized the various areas of science that use satellite and aerial imagery and future careers that the participants could pursue.
The second workshop titled “Is it getting hot in here? Exploring your climate” was new for the Outreach committee this year and featured two experiments. In one of the experiments, the girls learned that melting land based ice contributes to greater sea-level rise than melting sea ice. The other experiment demonstrated the climate’s greenhouse effect using UCSB Geography Professor Dar Roberts’s FLIR camera to measure temperature. The participants were given background information regarding each scenario prior to the experiment and had the opportunity to make and test their own hypotheses regarding experiment outcomes.
“I really enjoy interacting with the young girls and sharing a part of my research through satellite and aerial imagery”, said Susan, who helped lead and design the project. “Tech Savvy is a great way to introduce these girls to geography and get them excited about science.” Nina concurs, saying “I think being excited about learning is important to staying involved in science. So seeing the girls break out of their shells and really get into the experiments we had them doing was rewarding.”
Supported at UCSB by the Women’s Center and Women in Science and Engineering, Tech Savvy is a program of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). This year’s Tech Savvy is the third to take place at UCSB. It is among 22 conferences in 2016 across the United States; only two of which are in California. This is the second year that the Geography department, through the Outreach committee, has participated.