After a Mars lander replicate was dropped over a staircase railing at the UW Space Place, Girl Scout Lexi David held an unbroken egg cradled in a paper cup.
The intact egg was testament to her group’s successful build of a Mars lander with everyday items like bubble wrap, popsicle sticks and string.
“We had a cushion all around it,” said Lexi, a seventh-grader at Horicon Junior-Senior High School and a member of Troop 7340.
She was one of about 50 Girl Scouts in grades 6-8 who participated Nov. 19 in a program called “EngineerGirl: Mission to Mars.” It was put on by the Girl Scouts’ Badgerland Council and it led to earning a patch.
Claire McLellan, an eighth-grader at Kromrey Middle School in Middleton, and Natalie Boehmer, a sixth-grader at Van Brunt Elementary School in Horicon, both said the day proved to them that “girls can do anything.”
Claire is a member of Troop 1109 and Natalie belongs to Troop 7340.
EngineerGirl represents one step toward achieving a national pledge and $70 million fundraising initiative just launched by the Girl Scouts to put 2.5 million girls through a STEM pipeline by 2025 to reduce the gender gap in those fields — science, technology, engineering and math.
The announcement followed this summer’s rolling out of 23 new STEM and Outdoor badges for girls in kindergarten through fifth grade. Next summer, another 23 badges will be released with the same content but for girls in grades 6-12. Over the next two years, the Girl Scouts also will launch 18 cybersecurity badges and a series of space science badges.
In addition to the Mars lander project, EngineerGirl featured a talk by Rebecca Williams of Waunakee. Williams works on NASA-funded projects as a senior scientist for Planetary Science Institute, such as looking at the geology of Mars with the Curiosity rover.
Then they worked with members of the Madison West Rocketry Club. They each built a pneumatic rocket and launched it down the hallway.
Finally they worked with members of the UW-Madison robotics team on a Mars rover robotics activity.
Anastasia Leffel, an eighth-grader at Kromrey Middle School and a member of Troop 1109, said she went to the event to do something with friends and earn a patch.
“It ended up being a lot more,” she said. “It presented to me a lot of opportunities. I’ve never tried robotics (and) dropping eggs from the balcony. There are a lot of things that I never would have explored if I hadn’t gone.”
She said it was a confidence booster to have her idea used by her group for the robotics activity, which was successful.
“It showed me I am better at this than I expected,” she said. “I am now actually more interested in engineering and exploring my options for that in classes at high school.”
The Mission to Mars program was part of a three-year EngineerGirl series that Badgerland designed, said Allison Martinson, STEM program manager. The series started with a program focusing on electrical engineering and last spring the Girl Scouts looked at civil engineering.
Badgerland also started its own patch program called STEM Sisterhood in 2015. The goal of the program is to connect girls to women who have STEM jobs by interviewing them and in some cases also job shadowing.