Program mentors girls
BENTONVILLE — Jade Hourigan leaned against a wall in an Amazeum studio playing her ukulele. The fret bar lit up with all the colors of the rainbow as she picked the strings, just the way she programmed it.
Hourigan, about start her freshman year at Bentonville High School, was one of five participants in Amazeum’s inaugural MakeHER Squad program, which allows high school girls to enhance their STEAM skills and give them an opportunity to mentor younger girls.
Research shows girls lose interest in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics as early as fifth grade if they aren’t encouraged and mentored to pursue those fields long-term, said Shannon Dixon, Amazeum development and communications director.
“Not only did the Make- HER Squad girls spend time making their own projects, they spent time with our STEAM girl camps to help mentor them along,” she said.
About 44 percent of fulltime workers in the United States were women in 2016, and 25 percent of those were in computer and mathematical occupations and 14 percent in architectural and engineering occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of
Labor and Statistics.
Amazeum staff asked the five MakeHER participants at the beginning of the summer to create whatever they wanted from scratch.
“We didn’t really hold anything back from them,” said Jason Quail, an Amazeum employee who worked with the program participants. “If they wanted to do something, we tried to find a way to do it.”
Projects included a mannequin mirror, a bookcase shaped like a rocket ship, a fish bowl table, a cactus-inspired table and the unique ukulele. Participants showed off their projects in a science fair-type setting to their families and a few educators Monday.
Hourigan plays the ukulele and said she thought it would be cool to build one.
“I didn’t want just a normal ukulele,” she said. “I wanted to add my own spin on it.”
Hourigan, who came into the program with no electronic or coding experience, built the instrument from a kit and customized her fret bar using a laser cutter so the colors of the LED lights could be seen. She programmed a circuit so a mini microphone translated the sound of the strings to the lights.
“I feel very accomplished,” Hourigan said of her final piece.
Her parents, Erica and Nick Hourigan, said they were very pleased with their daughter’s handiwork.
“She built that whole thing. I was really amazed and proud of her,” Erica Hourigan said. “It was all her. I think that gave her confidence. I’m glad she got this opportunity.”
Getting into the program was like applying for a job, Quail said. Those interested filled out an application, interviewed and made sure they could attend several mandatory meetings as well as schedule time to work on their project with staff members.
Most participants worked an average of 15 hours a week throughout the summer on their project. Some weeks saw more hours and girls could also work on their projects at home, Quail said.
Participants were exposed to tools not usually available at schools or in homes, such as a laser cutter and a computer-controlled cutting machine.
MakeHER Squad girls also worked alongside Amazeum’s education team during its week-long Girls STEAM Camp this summer. The Squad girls spoke about their projects and their creation process to campers ages 6 to 11. “I’ve always loved science a lot, but it’s perceived as a male thing. I wanted to let girls know it’s not just a guy thing, girls can do it too,” Hourigan said.
A grant from Cognizant’s Making the Future Education initiative paid for the MakeHER Squad and Girls’ STEAM Camp.
Amazeum’s 11 “curiosity facilitators” were also recognized at the event. The facilitators’ job is to create an exceptional guest experience by operating “pop-up activities and demonstrations” throughout the museum.
The facilitators were from nine area high schools. This was the first summer the museum employed curiosity facilitators.
Jade Hourigan of Bentonville High School displays Monday a light-up ukulele during a celebration for students who participated in the MakeHER Squad programs at the Amazeum in Bentonville. The squad participated in in-depth learning and production in science, technology, engineering and math fields. Each participant created a unique project during the summer program.
Maggi Hourigan, 6, uses the Bird Beak Buffet on Monday with its creator Rebecca Vukin, a graduate of Bentonville High School, during a celebration for students who participated in the MakeHER Squad programs at the Amazeum in Bentonville. The squad participated in in-depth learning and production in science, technology, engineering and math fields. Each participant created a unique project during the summer program.