This week at Imagine That, we have been focusing on some of the different contributions women have made to science.
We started with a continuation of our slime class. After making slime and reminding the students how the boric acid helps to create longer, stronger polymer chains out of the glue as we work with the slime, we discussed a different way we could use this process. We discussed Stephanie Kwolek, who worked with polymers as a chemist at DuPont. A happy accident led her to the discovery of Kevlar and other similar fibers. We furthered our work with polymers by dropping a solution of glue and cornstarch (2:1 ratio) into borax water (1 T per cup of warm water). We allowed our glue to sit in the water for 30 seconds then used a fork to remove it. We worked it by hand and dipped it in the water again as needed to shape them into bouncy balls. They don’t perfectly hold their shape, but they do bounce well.
We explored some ideas in medicine while discussing June Almeida and Alice Ball. June Almeida was a virologist who worked with electron microscopy and the identification of viruses. She identified rubella, the structure of hepatitis B, and the first human strain of coronavirus. We modeled the size of a germs, using a scale model. We measured 10 meters of string, and used that to represent the size of a pencil dot, 1 millimeter. Then we used a list from science buddies to model e.coli, coronavirus, strands of hair and a red blood cell. Alice Ball was a chemist who worked in medicine. She developed an injectable treatment for leprosy. We asked why all medicine couldn’t be in pills. We made some plain gelatin to model insulin. We put a few small pieces of the gelatin in red colored water to represent medicine in blood and some pieces in water with meat tenderizer inside to represent stomach acid. We compared the insulin after a few hours to see how it had changed.
Andrea Ghez is an astrophysicist who won the 2020 Nobel Prize in physics for her work with her partner in research suggesting a massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. We made our own black hole with by pulling a sheet taut. We first tested a marble on the flat surface. Then we created a black hole by weighing down a portion of the sheet with a heavy, larger marble. We rolled the first marble again and noticed how it kept falling into the hole.
Finally, we made our own ice cream in a bag in honor of inventor Beulah Louise Henry. She created more than 100 inventions, one of which was a vacuum ice cream freezer which was the first of her 49 patents. We used a simple recipe that requires half and half, sugar, and vanilla in a small bag, and ice and large salt in a larger bag. We observed how the salt made the ice much colder. Shaking the bags meant more of the cream could get in contact with the ice and added the benefit of adding air.
For more great women in science and experiments to go along with them, Science Buddies is a great source. Most of our activities came from there, so for more details on how to make these projects on your own, check the link.