The 14th Annual Women of Science Competition was held on December 10th, at Bedford High School. The team representing Malden High prepared for the competition by working on their pre build project. They built a device that was required to roll down a ramp without stopping, using specific materials and had to meet the design requirements. The group had to do a series of challenges in the morning with their pre build project. In the afternoon, the girls were given 40 minutes to build a device that had to be tall enough to have a small flag and could withstand a fan on high for at least 30 seconds, which was described as challenging by coach Brian Morrison. Malden won fifth place out of 40 other teams.
The students who represented MHS were senior Cleverina Cong, senior Ashley Kang, senior Karen Poon, junior Alicia Tan, senior Phuong Nguyen, and junior Sydney Addorisio. According to coach Brian Morrison, the events are structured the same way every year. Previously, Malden has usually won fourth and fifth place. “Since it’s a scholarship competition, [he] would love the girls to get into the top three places so they could get scholarship money,” he says. Morrison credits his wife into getting him into coaching the team. “She is a science teacher and her school hosts the event. She asked me to bring some teams of girls several years ago and we have been attending since,” he explains. He says that if you’re a woman who wants to pursue a career in the science/technology field, you shouldn’t hesitate to pursue it. “There are plenty of jobs, different majors to choose from and a lot of smart/interesting people to meet in the STEM fields,” Morrison says.
According to Cong and Addorisio, the purpose of the competition was to foster a greater interest for female students in science-related fields, an area where women are often underrepresented, and promote and honor women in the sciences, “because the sciences are, for the most part, a male dominated field,” says Addorisio. “This year the focus was on women in chemistry in particular. A variety of female professionals in STEM fields had lunch with us to tell us about their experiences and the many opportunities there are for women in science,” Cong adds.
The team started preparing for the competition in November by talking about ideas for the pre-build engineering event, in which they had to create the slowest possible object to roll down an incline. They didn't start actually building it until the week before the competition. “This event was challenging because it involved a lot of trial and error. [They] probably ended up making at least 10 different models before finally designing a roller that worked best, which [they] finished the night right before the competition,” Cong states. To Addorisio, however, the most challenging part would have to have been the build at the competition, even though it was the most fun. “Teams got more points if the structure stayed within a certain area. But, none of the teams knew about the logistics of this build in advance. All we knew prior to the competition date was that it was called ‘Last Flag Standing.’ We were also only given 40 minutes to build the structure which is what made it the most fun! It was a race against the clock,” she explains.
Cong participated in the Women in Science competition last year and that team placed 4th out of 40 teams. She explains that, “Even though [they] didn't finish top 3 this year, [she’s] extremely pleased with [their] 5th place finish. [They] competed against 40 teams from some of the best schools in the Boston area, so it was pretty amazing that [they] were able to place so high and make a name for ourselves.” Addorisio says that, “Malden actually entered 2 teams and [she] was not on the one that came in 5th place, but it was really rewarding to hear that my peers had achieved such a high ranking in the results of the competition. [she] was overjoyed for them and was also proud of the effort put into the competition by both teams.”
Cong states that she likes the entire competition in general, since she had a passion for science, and being able to utilize it in various fun and competitive events was an exciting challenge for me. She also liked being able to talk to the woman professionals in STEM because their inspirational stories of success motivated me to continue to pursue a future in science. For Addorisio, she was excited before the competition, because she wanted to see what kind of questions they going to be asked as well as to see the ideas of other teams for the building events. She admits that she was a little nervous must say though, because “[she] didn't know what to expect.” She also always had a strong passion for the sciences (particularly biology) and being a part of this competition exposed her to more areas of the scientific field, allowing her to expand on her knowledge and experience in the sciences. She also said that the best part about being a part of the competition was being able to work cooperatively with her peers, both at the same level as her as well as seniors. “[She] only knew two of [her] other teammates, so participating in the competition allowed [her] to get to know more people as well.”