Science, math dominate Sister to Sister Summit

JOHNSTOWN – Girls from local junior high schools met Tuesday at the Fulton-Montgomery Community College to learn about exciting professions that require advanced knowledge of science, mathematics or engineering.

The Amsterdam-Gloversville-Johnstown branch of the American Association of University Women has organized the Sister to Sister Summit for the last 14 years, promoting higher education and future careers for girls in junior high.

This year, the event focused on showing girls the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Splitting the students up into several groups, the girls went to workshops that included information on topics such as DNA testing, business classes, engineering, robotics and even building houses – with Lego bricks.

Linda Bumpus, co-chairwoman of the Sister to Sister Summit, said many girls quit the hard sciences when going into high school. Bumpus said the main point of the seminar was that science can be fun.

“From the time you get up in the morning to the time you go to bed, you are exposed to technology,” Bumpus said.

Shiann Lamphear, an eighth-grade student from Northville, said she thinks many girls drop out of the sciences because most don’t like to put a lot of effort in.

“They don’t think they need to do it because they have their husband to do most of it,” Lamphear said.

Lamphear, who aspires to be a surgeon, said many students should be more involved in STEM programs

Jeremy Spraggs, an electrical and computer technology instructor with FMCC, spoke with the students about how the field of robotics is simpler than people think.

Spraggs said robotics has advanced far in the last 20 or 30 years. Spraggs gave a PowerPoint presentation showing how years ago, robots were large, clumsy and plodding creations that had trouble stepping over a pencil on the floor. Spraggs then showed the class some of the newer robots, such as the Honda ASIMO, a bipedal humanoid robot capable of walking over bumpy terrain, walking up steps and moving while avoiding other people.

Spraggs demonstrated how robots are used in the classroom with “Clancy,” a robotic arm meant to demonstrate the industrial applications of robots. Next to Clancy was a long assembly line, where blocks would have a screw placed in them.

Placing a few plastic or metal blocks in the assembly line, the machine sorted out the two types of blocks before moving them down the line, screwing a spring and a bolt into place. Then, Clancy would whirl around, picking up a block and moving it to the next portion of the assembly.

Students were then able to use Clancy on their own to program it to pick up a block and move it over to another spot.

The keynote speaker for the event, Johnstown City Engineer Chandra Cotter, shared how she became an engineer, and the importance of people moving into the career.

“Ever since I was young, I was a fan of taking things apart and putting them back together,” Cotter said, “Furniture, toys, and cars. My father was an electrical engineer, big into classic cars and we spent hours in the garage taking them apart and seeing the problems.”

Speaking to the students, Cotter said it was important for students to take science, technology, engineering and math courses as soon as possible.

“Start taking those classes now,” Cotter said. “If you take those STEM classes now, they look good on your college application.”