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Girls Engaged in Making (GEMs) Take on Paper Engineering!

Updated: Sep 30, 2020

Our first GEM workshops inspired young females to engage in science by creating recycled paper and engineering paper that, when heat is added, folds into any design they imagine.

Paper from the shredder goes from junk to art when the GEMs turn it into the recycled paper. The process includes soaking the paper in hot water and then using a blender to mix the water and paper together. Once the paper and water are at a smooth consistency, the mixture is moved to a larger container. In the container, the girls add glitter or food coloring to change the look of their piece of paper. The GEMs then utilize their handmade screens by placing it under the surface of the sludge-like mixture, and then slowly lifting the screen to make sure that pulp the screen collects is evenly layered. After towel drying the pulp, they remove it from the screen and voilà: they have a recycled piece of paper! After a day of drying, and then a few sprays of liquid starch, they are able to write on their very own designed (and recycled) piece of paper.

At our second GEM workshop, girls enjoyed tackling the task of paper folding to create hexaflexagons and weaving paper to make a wristband.

For this paper project, our Educator, Reiko, drew from history itself. Around the 1960s kids used similar weaving techniques to turn old gum wrappers into bracelets. The girls created their wristbands using origami-like folding to create the small V-shaped links. These links would then be connected by placing one link's arms into the openings of the other link's arms. The girls were able to customize their wristband with different patterned origami papers, as pictured above.

The GEMs enjoyed making hexaflexagons, which were introduced to the general public by the recreational mathematician Martin Gardner in 1956. In fact, the girls were able to make these hexaflexagons on his birthday, October 21st! The intricate folds of the hexaflexagon allow there to be three different designs or illustrations that can be seen as it is flipped. The girls learned that the folds of the hexaflexagons are very particular because accidentally folding the wrong way can cause the designs to flip and have them intermingled with each other.

Our goal for these GEM workshops is to build a space for young females to explore and discover different forms of science while having a marvelous time. We intend to reveal to these girls that they, too, can do wondrous things in any Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) field, and that science is something that can be both challenging and invigorating at the same time.

Check out this sneak peek of what the GEMs will be doing at our November workshops-Wool Felting!

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