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Girls in Science aim for the sky in Greencastle

October 13, 2006|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - While some believe the sky is the limit, a group of young girls in Greencastle have set their sights on outer space.

Aspiring to work in the male-dominated field of science, these young females are determined to rocket through the glass ceiling and discover a new world that doesn't belong to men, where Bill Nye the Science Guy is replaced by a science girl.

"We want girls to see that anything is possible," said Heather Slatoff, leader of Girls in Science.

Anything was possible for the young members of the group Girls in Science when their experiment was selected to ride into outer space aboard the SpaceLoft XL rocket.

Launched from Spaceport America, a private port in New Mexico on Sept. 25, the rocket contained numerous experiments, including "Sticky Sisters," the experiment conceived and constructed by Girls in Science.

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"Sticky Sisters" was designed to test changes undergone by Maple sap and Maple syrup on the journey into and home from space.

"We did it to see what happened to the sap and syrup," sixth-grade student Savannah Fritz said.

"Sap can change into certain things," added Mary Ward, a sixth-grade student and self-described "science freak."

"We wanted to see if it would change as it went into space," Mary said.

Slatoff said the girls chose the experiment partly because it was "something homegrown" that they could relate to personally.

The group worked for months with Slatoff, high school science teacher Tara Clopper and her group Women in Science to create the experiment, collecting and boiling sap, and drafting methodology. Once finished, the experiment was shipped to New Mexico in April for the launch.

Ashley Spies, a freshman at Shippensburg University, was a member of Clopper's Women in Science group and worked on the project. "We taught the girls things they never heard of before and it became an adventure," she said.

But the adventure ended early for the girls. The Associated Press reported on Sept. 26 that the rocket launched on Sept. 25 only to experience problems and crash after reaching 40,000 feet.

While the experiment would not hold the success the group had hoped for, Clopper said the girls will still analyze its results.

Girls in Science will not be submitting an experiment for launch this year, members Callie Coleman, Fritz, and Ward, have something else in mind.

"I want to learn about robots," Ward said. "They have robots on Mars that are like humans of a smaller size."

Coleman said she wanted to focus more on what the robots in space might find saying, "I think we should study moon rocks. It's been done but we could go into it with another point of view."

Slatoff and Clopper said the group will choose its central focus in the coming months but will definitely continue its tradition of field trips.

Last year, Girls in Science visited the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and Whitaker Science Center in Harrisburg, Pa.

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