News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 28, 2013

Young women mix it up in labs

TWIST hopes to get youngsters interested in science, technology

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — After Monique Bate Akoachere mixed sulfuric acid with a small container of table sugar, a blackened, charcoal-like material snaked out of the container, leaving a pungent smell in the science lab.

About 23 young girls, who wore goggles and latex gloves, watched with amazement.

Akoachere, assistant professor of chemistry at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, had performed a chemistry demonstration that showed dehydration of sugar using sulfuric acid.

She did it as part of a summer camp for girls aimed at getting them interested in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math).

The camp is called TWIST, an acronym for Today’s Women in STEM Tomorrow. The five-day summer camp concludes today at the Woods.

“We’re trying to do some fun, exciting things with STEM,” said Anneliese Payne, Woods associate professor of education and camp director.

The goal is “to make them comfortable and confident that they can do STEM” and get them interested in potential STEM-related careers, she said.

It will be important for them to take advanced science and math classes in high school if they hope to pursue STEM careers in college, Payne said.

Students, who will be entering grades 5 to 9, came from Vigo County, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio. Eight were from the 14th and  Chestnut Community Center.

On Monday, girls learned the difference between weeds and other plants and did some gardening. They also handled and learned about worms. On Tuesday, they went to the White Violet Center, learned about and fed alpacas and also felted items from alpaca fiber. Wednesday, they performed and watched chemistry experiments. Also during the week, they explored STEM careers and learned about scientific research.

One of the camp participants, Cayte Cramer, wants to be a pediatric oncologist; she recently attended a camp that explores medical fields. She will be a ninth-grader at Terre Haute South Vigo High School this year.

She attended the camp because, she said, “I thought it would be a good way to get better at math and science,” she said.

Trinity Montgomery, who will be a sixth-grader at Woodrow Wilson, enjoyed working with the alpacas and doing science experiments, especially one in which they froze roses using dry ice and then dropped them on the floor and watched them break into pieces.

She learned about edible weeds and had an opportunity to eat some, but didn’t think they tasted very good.

Neveah Thompson, who also will be a sixth-grader at Wilson, hopes the camp will help her with her math skills. She believes she might like to be a math teacher someday.

The Duke Energy Foundation is a camp sponsor.


Chemistry wasn’t the only activity at the Woods.

At a beginning Equestrian Camp, young girls were learning to ride and care for horses, which included cleaning the stalls in the barn.

Some of the campers had never ridden a horse before, said Sara Schulz, assistant professor of equine studies.

 The program included class time where they learned about a horse’s body, colors and markings.

Nine campers ages 6 to 11 participated.

Betsy Clark, 11, is attending camp for the second year and also planned to attend an advanced camp later in the week. “I like the fact we get to ride the horses and learn about them and take care of them,” she said.

Her horse for the camp, Taffy, “can be stubborn, but she’s sweet,” Clark said.

Danielle Kosowsky, 9, came all the way from Maryland for the equine camp.

 “It’s really fun,” she said. Her horse’s name was Bart. Her first horse at camp, Tony, “wouldn’t let me clean his feet or listen to me.” So she worked with Bart.

Maxine Bough, 8, didn’t mind having to clean out stalls. “I like spending time with my horse,” she said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or