Chicks in Science

March 03, 2012 8:30 pm • By CARMEN DAYE IRISH

LLOYD BLUNK/Gazette Staff
The 5th annual Chicks in Science was held at MSUB. Area girls were able to dabble in the various fields of science at the numerous hands-on exhibits designed to make science fun and interesting.

Chicks in Science
Although girls were given free manicures, it was far from a day at the salon.
Special ultraviolet fingernail polish that changes color in the sun waved from participants of the fifth-annual Chicks in Science event held Saturday at Montana State University Billings’ Alterowitz Gymnasium.
Chicks in Science was designed in 2008 to introduce fourth- through eighth-grade girls to science and math in an appealing way. The event attracted nearly 2,000 participants, 250 volunteers and 50 booths of science- and math-based exhibits.
Girls were given pink hard hats for construction projects and cooking books based on what Albert Einstein may have cooked. They pedaled bicycles that generated light bulbs, and explored scientific principles with a NASA scientist.

Kim Schweikert, who organizes the program through the MSU Billings downtown campus, said the event shows girls how science directly relates to their lives through interactive and engaging role models and hands-on exhibits.

“It is awesome to see how science affects each of our lives in every single aspect,” Lewis and Clark student Krystal Myers said. “We all just turn a light switch on, and never think about how the electricity is created. But, the thought behind it is very important.”

The event booths featured everything science and math — gardening and composting, forensic science, architecture and engineering and animals — to name a few.
Chicks in Science has become so popular since its creation in 2008 that next year organizers will expand to both the upper and lower sections of the university’s gymnasium. And Schweikert also hopes to expand the program to other locations by creating a model for others to replicate.
Organizers are also excited about designing a mentoring program for girls to spend time with female role models in their fields of interest.
“The event really is a unique science experience,” Schweikert said. “Studies have shown that girls tend to lose interest in science and math as they mature. But, once these girls meet women role models in the science and math fields, they see that it’s a real possibility for them. The interaction breaks down the intimidating factor for them.”
Dr. Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, and Dr. Elizabeth Ciemins, research director for the Billings Clinic Center for Clinical Translational Research, were honored at the event for their work as role models for young girls interested in science careers.
Jessie McInelly, of ZooMontana, was a guest speaker at this year’s event. McInelly studied biology and ecology at the University of Montana. She has been with the zoo for 10 years starting as a volunteer. She’s now a senior staff member working as a zookeeper.

“You can do things in your own lives and make big differences,” McInelly said to the audience made up of mostly young girls. “I encourage you to follow your interest in science. Get involved. You, as scientists, can start to educate yourselves, and you will make a big difference. Start now.”
Ella Thompson, a fifth-grader at Joliet School, wants to be a pediatrician when she grows up. She thinks it is important for girls to be interested in science because most likely, “what you want to be when you grow up will be science-y.”