BOSTON GLOW
Boston GLOW is a breeding ground for the modern day superwoman. GLOW fosters opportunities for women of all ages to become empowered community leaders and active world citizens.


Real Girl Leaders: Mei Mei Collins

It's Wednesday and we love Wednesday here at Boston GLOW because it's #RealGirlLeader Day!

Today's #RealGirlLeader is Mei Mei Collins.  Mei Mei is 15 and a student at Sommerville High School.  Her 2015 IGNITE Change Project on Renewable Energy will be implemented this year!  We are excited to see her project become a reality to empower women and girls in STEM!

If you would like to attend Mei Mei's class or if you are a professional in the field on Renewable Energy we'd love to hear from you.  Mei Mei will be implementing her project starting in March of 2016! For more details email leah@bostonglow.org

An Introduction to Renewable Energy

            As a young woman in today’s society, I can confidently state that there is no shortage of female teen scientists in the public school system. Some of the most promising students in my STEM classes are women- so why is the majority of the science and technology workforce comprised of men? I believe the answer lies in the academic relationship between males and females. From a young age, girls are exposed to the world through a viewpoint that makes them feel inferior to boys in

meimei1.jpgmost regards. With this prior exposure, when women are presented opportunities that allegedly are gender equal, they subconsciously address their own work as menial and lesser than that of men. On the contrary, boys are raised with expectations to succeed in STEM subjects based on previous stereotypes that should no longer be present in this world. When men and women collaborate, these social injustices are displayed on average in the low self-esteem of girls and the gaudy display of confidence from boys.

            To surpass this gender inequity, men and women must concur and recognize the commensuration of their abilities in
order to achieve even more prodigious results in their studies. Both men and women have unique a

bilities that they can offer the world, and the only way to truly prosper is to unite and implement each gender’s attributes to advance the globe. This

alliance should  be forged when students are beginning to fully immerse themselves in their studies during high school. One area of science that is becoming increasingly important is environmental engineering; the growing effects of climate change are forcing mankind to consider actions and change to accommodate these transformations. It is possible to both improve gender equality and inform the new generations of environmental science in order to provide more opportunities for students to improve the world.

            If I was awarded with one grand from Boston Glow, I would develop an introductory course on renewable energy to allow women to work with men and realize that their full potential is equal to that of males. It is vital for female scientists to prove to themselves that gender is simply a difference of one chromosome in their genes, something that doesn’t affect their intellect or capabilities. An in-depth lab setting would allow females to build a stable community with males in which they will be confident in future higher educational settings.

            The educational course would be held at the Somerville Public High School, which is an ideal location for all students in the greater Boston area because it is located near many MBTA locations, allowing easy transportation. In addition, the class being held at a high school is important because of the many resources in a high school- mainly the chemistry lab room. Although all the materials for the class would be funded within the $1000 limit, additional supplies such as safety equipment (gloves and safety goggles), Bunsen burners, and customary lab materials such as vials and beakers would be provided by the school. Other components that may be necessary such as advertisements for the course (an example is provided below) and participation awards could be created and printed by the Design and Visual Graphics Communications department in the high school. In addition to the $1000 provided by GLOW, a low $5 donation could be requested from each student in order to purchase snacks and drinks for each meeting. The funds would be enough to teach a class of 18 students, with at least half of the students being females. The class size of 18 would be ideal because it would allow the students to break into groups of two, three, six, or nine evenly if necessary.

In total, there would be five classes around two hours each for a five week period on a weekday. Although there would be an adult volunteer from the science department to oversee the classes, they would mostly be taught by interactive presentations that I would create- these presentations w

ould be stressed on student participation with encouragement for students with previous knowledge to teach the class as well. In the classroom that would be used for the class (a diagram is provided below), there are five lab tables in the classroom allowing four students to sit at each, with a supply tray on each table that would hold the necessary materials for the laboratory procedures of that class. In the center of the room would be an arrangement of regular desks facing a SmartBoard used for the informational presentation portion of class.

meimei2.jpgIn the first class, students would have an introductory period which would be followed by an overview of the types of renewable energy and their benefits and disadvantages. After a quick break, the students would learn basics of electronic terms and learn how to use multimeters, which they would test using silicon solar cells. The next class would be comprised of the first lab, but would begin with an in-depth look at the components of a silicon solar cell and its processes of electrical generation, as well as a short lesson on the visible light spectrum and its importance. The first lab would begin after a ten minute break, and students would investigate which wavelength of light would create the greatest amount of power in a silicon solar cell. Each person would have a lamp with light bulb, a silicon solar cell, and some different colored cellophane to change the color of the light shining on the cells. After the data was collected, a class discussion would be held on reasoning for the results. The third class would begin with an introduction to a new type of solar cell- a dye sensitized solar cell (DSSC), starting with its components and electric creation process. Next, the procedure for creating the cells would be explained to start the lab activity after a break. To begin the lab activity, students would start to create their own DSSCs by making the anode of the cell. Each student would make three DSSCs for a later lab activity- the three DSSCs would be formed with different organic dye extracts. Although students would have their own independent projects, they would sit in groups of two-four in order to brainstorm and work together, the females developing confidence through their projects working alongside males.

In the fourth class, students would complete their dye sensitized solar cells by creating the cathode of the cell and assembling all of the materials. Following a break, students would begin a lab activity involving the DSSCs in which they would test which type of dye would create the most electricity using lamps and multimeters. The results would be shared and compared in a class discussion, with hypotheses for the data received. In the final class, students would perform a lab similar to the first in which the DSSC with the best performance for each student would be tested to see which wavelength of light would create the largest output. After a break, the students would compare the results between the dye sensitized solar cells and the silicon cells throughout the experiments, with a celebratory party at the end of class to congratulate students. Students would be able to take home the dye sensitized solar cells that they would have created as well as their own silicon solar cell and multimeter. A more detailed description of the schedule is included below.

With funds from Boston GLOW, I would be able to create an impactful educational  program that would increase the confidence of women for the sciences by placing them in an environment where males and females are equal intellectual individuals. In addition, the free cost of this program (not including the $5 requested donation for snacks) would create an opportunity for low income students that are interested in environmental science but cannot afford conventional classes. The exposure to renewable energy may inspire students, especially women, to pursue a career in STEM science fields to better the world. The earlier students are presented different ways to innovate, the better chance the earth has to persevere through climate change. An introductory course of environmental science would be an amazing experience for many teens, specifically females, to discover gender equality and explore technological advancements to combat modern day obstacles that will be crucial in the future.

 

To learn more about Mei Mei's project or any of our #RealGirlLeaders, please contact leah@bostonglow.org.  We'd love your support.

 

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