Solar s’mores and blocks of ‘bots: Young women empowered at Wilkes

By Mark Guydish - [email protected]
Kaydi Lopez, 12, of Wilkes-Barre, inspects a seed Monday during one of several sessions on opening day of Wilkes University’s week-long Women Empowered By Science camp. - Sean McKeag | Times Leader
Julia Darby, 11, of Wilkes-Barre, waits for marshmallows to melt on graham crackers in her solar oven outside Wilkes University’s Cohen Science Center on Monday. - Sean McKeag | Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — Abby (definitely not “Abigail”) Davis had a simple question as she fashioned a pizza box, tinfoil and clear plastic into a solar oven to heat up pizza and make S’mores.

“Are we going to eat what we make? Because if we can’t, it won’t be worth it.”

Wilkes University biology student Neha Kansal laughed while agreeing. “I love this camp even more!” Neha said of the university’s annual Women Empowered By Science, or WEBS event, that began Monday and runs through Friday. Area middle school students get a healthy sampling of experiments in hopes of encouraging more women to enter the science professions.

“Food makes everything better,” Neha said with another laugh, prompting Abby to add:“Food, and science!”

Despite Abby’s obvious enjoyment of the experience, when asked what she wants to be when she grows up, the Crestwood School District student only put science — especially chemistry — third on the list, behind singer and composer. Of course, she could always be the singing chemist.

Along with building a solar oven, opportunities include programming Lego robots, catching and measuring small birds, making their own lip gloss and personal perfumes, and learning how squirrels shape the forest, including a look inside acorns.

That’s where Julia Darby, 11, of Wilkes-Barre, found the weevils she had stashed in a clear plastic container about the size of a lab petri dish. Asked what she planned to do with them, she contemplated “throwing them at the next oak tree I see” once they got outside.

She didn’t seem to do that, at least not right away, but while students waited for their solar ovens to melt chocolate for S’mores and cheese on their pizza, Jessica Czuba, a Wyoming Valley West student, ran off upon spotting a squirrel.

“I don’t know why but she hates squirrels,” Abby explained.

“It’s her inner dog, she says,” Julia added.

“It’s my inner wolf,” Jessica corrected. “I’ve been studying wolves for years.”

And to those wondering if the solar ovens of cardboard and tinfoil successfully melted chocolate, marshmallow and cheese in 30 minutes, well, seriously, it didn’t matter.

“We’ll eat it anyway,” Abby admitted.

Kaydi Lopez, 12, of Wilkes-Barre, inspects a seed Monday during one of several sessions on opening day of Wilkes University’s week-long Women Empowered By Science camp.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/web1_TTL072517web1-1.jpgKaydi Lopez, 12, of Wilkes-Barre, inspects a seed Monday during one of several sessions on opening day of Wilkes University’s week-long Women Empowered By Science camp. Sean McKeag | Times Leader

Julia Darby, 11, of Wilkes-Barre, waits for marshmallows to melt on graham crackers in her solar oven outside Wilkes University’s Cohen Science Center on Monday.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/web1_TTL072517web2-1.jpgJulia Darby, 11, of Wilkes-Barre, waits for marshmallows to melt on graham crackers in her solar oven outside Wilkes University’s Cohen Science Center on Monday. Sean McKeag | Times Leader

By Mark Guydish

[email protected]

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish