Annual STEM Meeting – Science Fair Awardees’ Presentations 2023

Do you know what a Trebuchet is? What food waste can you make paper from? How has climate change affected the honeybee population? How does axon diameter affect heart rate variability? What do you know about the transdermal permeability of anti-inflammatory compounds? Can you more successfully grow lettuce in a vertical aquaponic design? Well, had you attended the monthly AAUW Zoom meeting on April 17, you would know the answer to all these questions. We had an exciting and stimulating set of presentations from nine young women, the first and second place awardees from the Northern Virginia Regional Science Fair that was held on Saturday, May 4, at Wakefield High School. Barbara Smith, Sara Anderson and I, having read through over 100  different abstracts prior to that day, diligently interviewed approximately 40 young women at the fair, and decided on one first place and 3 second place award winners at both the high school and middle school levels. In addition, nine young women were awarded Honorable Mentions. Anna Mohanty, our first place high school winner, will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship for her project, “The Effect of Axon Diameter on Heart Rate Variability”. And our team, Kira Komlodi and Zeynep Seyran, will each be given $100 for their project, “The Effect of Global Warming on the Percent Loss of Honeybee Colonies”. 

Our guest speaker for the evening was Kate Spencer, an H-B Woodlawn graduate and Susan’s former student. Kate owns and operated Fast Raft Tours, whale-watching expeditions out of Moss Point, Monterey Bay, CA. She is a woman of many talents, having initially made her artistry her primary career. She was trained and worked closely with artists from the Smithsonian Institution early on. She has sailed on many commercial ocean-going ships to both Alaska and the South Pacific off the coast of South America as the primary naturalist onboard. But her studies of whales and other ocean mammals led her to buy the Fast Raft Tours business where she operates an ocean-going 10-seat Zodiac, along with her partner, every day the weather is agreeable. Her photos of all the whales she tracks every day for the last 15 years were a delight to see. As an aside, I encourage all of you just to go out to Monterey Bay and make one of her expeditions a must-see, must-do. 

It was an exciting and interesting meeting. I look forward to this event, same time next year. I hope all of you will plan to attend and be filled with awe at the intelligence and effort of all these young women.

Susan Senn, STEM Coordinator

April 2022 STEM News and Award Recipients

The Northern Virginia Regional Science Fair was held the week of March 8, once more on Zoom. Category and Society judges spent a week reviewing pre-prepared presentations in both video and PowerPoint formats, in their particularly assigned categories. We, AAUW-Arlington judges Susan Senn, Sara Anderson and Mary Beth Pelosky reviewed every project authored by a girl, approximately 85 projects. The 2022 Stem Scholarship was awarded to HB Woodlawn junior Julia Brodsky for her top outstanding high school project. See a list of all our STEM award recipients here.

On April 18, seven of the girls presented their projects to the membership who were attending the April Monthly meeting. Joining and presenting also were Kathryn Boerckel, currently an Arlington sophomore and a volunteer with Rosie Riveters, and Dr. Jennifer Bartlett, PhD Astronomy, who currently holds the Kinnear Chair in Physics at the U.S. Naval Academy and is a former Arlington student who discussed her STEM Career Pathways. We were held in wondrous awe listening to these young women who wowed us with their knowledge and study of such interesting and important topics for two solid hours. Congratulations to all of them for a job well done!

AAUW Awardees  – 2022 Regional Science Fair

    • *Julia Brodsky – Outstanding High School Girl’s Project – $1,000 (last year, 2nd place)“Anti-biofilm Activity of Isolated Bacteriophages for The Treatment of MDR Pulmonary Infections”
    • *Hannah Schons – Outstanding Middle School Girl’s Project – $100 “How Do Horses React To Violin Music?”
    • Ambica Sharma – 2nd Place High School $25 gift card “The Effect of Nicotine and Lead on Dopaminegic Neuron Morphology, Function, and Alpha-Synuclein Levels in a C. elegans Model”
    • *Katherine Schiells – 2nd Place High School $25 gift card – (Last year, 2nd place as well) “A Study of the Chemical Properties of The Leachate from Artificial Turf Infills”
    • *Layni Stroud – 2nd Place High School $25 gift card  “The Impact of Xylem Filter Thickness on the Effectiveness of Water Filtration”
    • *Erin Jacob and Noa Kammerman – 2nd Place Middle School – $25 gift cards “Which Worm Makes The Best Composting Soil Using Arlington Soil?”
    • *Camila Borisov – 2nd Place – Middle School – $25 Gift card “The Effects of Building Materials on Structural Stability During Earthquakes”
    • *Kyungsup Hwang – 2nd Place – Middle School $25 gift card “The Allelopathic Effects of Juglans nigra on the Growth of Invasive Pueraria montana var. lobata
    • Harriet Shapiro – Honorable Mention High School – $25 gift card “The Effect of Urban Heat Island Mitigation Strategy on Surface and Atmospheric Temperatures”
    • *Anise Smith and Malia Tavares-Bryant  – Honorable Mention Middle School $25 gift cards “The Effect of Moisturizer on Skin”
    • Josephine Van Hoey – Honorable Mention Middle School $25 gift card “The Effect of Distance Between Binary System Stars on Apparent Magnitude”

Susan Stem

Wearable Technology Summer Camp

Cohosted by Arlington AAUW and Qualcomm

Arlington AAUW co-hosted a Wearable Technology Virtual Summer Camp which took place July 12-16, along with Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus STEM programs and  Qualcomm, a company designed to create innovative technologies that transform how the world connects, computes and communicates. Qualcomm was our corporate sponsor. We connected through Jim Egenreider, a former APS teacher and technology guru, who is currently a professor at Virginia Tech, Northern Virginia campus, and the director of the Qualcomm Think-A-Bit lab, designed to teach young people of all ages electronic and robotic technology. Teri Doxsee and Susan Senn worked with Jim previously in APS. Qualcomm sponsored all fees for the electronic kits and other needed supplies that were distributed to 24 girls, ages 10-17, in the Arlington area who were recruited through APS Equity and Excellence Coordinators. Teri worked with the IT supervisor to ensure each girl had equal access to the Zoom platform. We offered participation to the eight girls who were the Science Fair awardees.

Throughout the week, these girls learned to program circuitry using Arduinos, Breadboards and LED lights to design hats that reflected themselves – who they were, what they loved to do, and what, perhaps, their future careers might be. One of the most creative hats was a magician’s hat. It was decorated with a pair of dice, a model of an 8-ball on the front which turned when you asked it a question, and a top with a stuffed bunny that popped out.

Susan arranged for three speakers during the noon hour of the camp on three of the days. They included Shaida Johnson, one of the directors of the Landsat IX project for NASA and Aerospace Corporation. The Landsat IX is due to launch in September. Second was Dr. Argyro Kavaada, a NASA earth scientist and consultant for Booz-Allen Hamilton. This was Argie’s third time presenting for an AAUW function. Third was Lynn Pressey, an electrical engineer who worked for years on managing Nuclear Reactors. All three presenters began by first describing how they came to do the job they do or did; second, the trajectory of their careers including personal stories; and third, by describing how all their jobs went beyond the initial work into sub-careers. Lynn even told the girls how happy she was that now, in retirement, she was able to do what she initially thought would be her career – being a vet.

Susan Senn, STEM Chair

AAUW Arlington STEM Initiative 2020

Science Fairs in schools today are the birthplace of most research performed by students all the way from 1st grade through high school. Elementary schools have adopted the challenge and are working much harder to foster scientific literacy by having children plan and conduct their own research projects.  Often, students’ research leads them to careers in scientific fields. Recently, Arlington was ranked #3 best place for Women in Technology.

We would like to raise the profile of our Branch of AAUW by encouraging young women to pursue studies in scientific fields.  Susan Senn and Sara Anderson have secured a place among the organizations who judge selected projects after the official judging is over at the Regional Science Fair on March 21. We propose one first place and three runner-up awards in each division (Middle and high school), for a total expenditure of $375.  The Branch Board of Directors gave preliminary approval to this proposal at its January meeting.

The Arlington AAUW Branch has been very active in STEM work. We have coordinated four STEM Conferences – in 2011, at Gunston Middle School, a conference for 100 girls and their parents; in 2012, at Kenmore Middle School, a conference for 200 girls and their parents; and in 2013, in conjunction with Marymount University, a conference for 50 3rd-5th graders from Hoffman-Boston Elementary School. Each conference included three hands-on workshops presented by 10-20 young women in various scientific fields, lunch, a keynote speaker and door prizes.

On October 24, 2015, we conducted a National AAUW Tech Savvy STEM Conference, in conjunction with the Alexandria Branch AAUW, at the Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale campus. It included 80 girls, grades 6-9. The girls attended three hands-on workshops on physics and engineering topics such as robotics, facial recognition, creating apps, and geospatial remote sensing, as well as two “Savvy Skills” workshops such as Internet Safety and Public Speaking. They also participated in a College Savvy workshop where they were “interviewed” by three college/universities based on their college applications they had submitted. The keynote speaker was Sandra Cauffman, NASA Deputy Director of the Mars Maven Project. The parents, as well, had a similar schedule with workshops on topics important to raising young women to study STEM topics in high school and college. The conference was sponsored by BAE Systems.

Susan Senn – Lead

“Grasses to Masses”  

From February through May, the third graders in the Extended Day Program at Jamestown Elementary, under the guidance of Anna Senn, supervisor, grew “celery”, an important Chesapeake Bay grass (SAV) which acts as a filtration system for nutrients and as a nursery for crabs and fish. The grasses were planted at Mason Neck in Prince William County on May 6 under rather adverse weather conditions.

STEMbox- New Subscription Service for Emerging “Steminists”


StemBox is a monthly subscription service that sends young girls a fun and educational science experiment each month. StemBox and Green Works have partnered up and will donate $1 to AAUW for every March 2016 box sold. This money will go directly to powering our national Tech Trek program. Order a STEMbox for a special young girl in your life!