Staff and students prepare for FIST Conference

Nov. 6, 2003, midnight | By Katherine Zhang | 20 years, 7 months ago

Annual conference to be held Nov. 8

Magnet staff and students have been making preparations for the annual Females in Science and Technology (FIST) conference, to be held at Blair this year on Nov. 8.

FIST is coordinated by Magnet staff members Judith Bishop, Marguerite Berardi and Mary Ann Dvorsky. According to Bishop, FIST is "an annual conference sponsored by the Magnet Program whose audience is seventh-grade girls from all over Montgomery County," and the conference's goal is "to encourage and excite the curiosity of the girls in math, science and technology."

According to Berardi, FIST was created about 15 years ago. Bishop said "the Magnet staff [created FIST] as an outreach program to the county."

The main reason for the creation of FIST was that studies have shown that girls were not interested in scientific fields, according to Berardi. "[The purpose of FIST is] basically to get girls interested in the sciences and technologies," she said.

FIST always takes place on a Saturday in November, and each year about 200 girls participate. This year, girls from 36 middle schools were invited, and so far 158 have returned their applications, said Berardi.

The conference will start at 9:00 a.m. with a keynote speaker. "Usually our keynote speaker is a female in the science field," stated Berardi. Afterwards, students will participate in three workshops with topics from the math, science and technology fields, with a lunch break around 11:30 a.m.

According to Bishop, the workshops are given by individuals who are familiar with math, science and technology. "Our presenters are professionals in science fields as well as teachers in Montgomery County and students in the Magnet Program," she said. She added that the workshops are always hands-on, with a variety of topics and activities. This year, activities include building and launching rockets, constructing and testing egg holders, making boomerangs and creating web pages. "They do so much stuff," Bishop said. "It's always fun, for the presenters as well as the participants."

Preparations for FIST generally begin over the summer, said Berardi. The coordinators found a keynote speaker, individuals interested in doing workshops and helpers to assist in the workshops. They also put together applications, sent the applications to schools, assigned individual students to workshops and more.

Hurricane Isabel posed a minor inconvenience for FIST coordinators but did not create a significant setback. "With the weather, we lost a week in preparing, so the applications went out a week later than they should," said Berardi. She maintained that overall, the delay did not affect the actual conference.

Junior Kendra Leigh took part in FIST as a participant in the seventh grade and as a workshop leader last year. This year, she is heading another workshop, which will focus on cryptography and include activities such as making a Caesar cipherwheel. "I've done a lot of cryptography stuff in the past [because] it interests me," she stated. One of the reasons she enjoys participating in FIST is that it gives her the chance to share her interests, she said.

To prepare for her workshop, Leigh has conducted some research, put together handouts, and made templates for Caesar cipherwheels. "It's pretty easy to prepare the material. The difficult part is when you have to teach it," she said. Leigh added that she hopes her workshop will help the seventh-grade girls become interested in computer science and cryptography.

FIST coordinators believe that the conference is overall successful in attaining its goal of interesting girls in science and technology. "The girls all seem very excited," said Bishop. "We have gotten very good feedback from them."

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Katherine Zhang. Katherine Zhang likes French baguettes, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, bookmarks, fresh boxes of rosin, Brad Meltzer novels, and of course, "JAG." In her free time, Katherine enjoys knitting, playing the violin, and reading - especially legal thrillers and books about people in faraway places and long-ago times. … More »

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