GEMS gives 8th-graders chance to explore

Eighth-grade girls are being offered a hands-on opportunity to explore intriguing areas of science and engineering at a one-day workshop March 25. 

GEMS (Girls: Engineering, Mathematics and Science) is offered annually by the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering at South Dakota State University. The workshop begins at 9 a.m. with registration ($35). The closing ceremony wraps up at 4:50 p.m. in Crothers Engineering Hall.

“This workshop gives girls a chance to see college and professional women who have found engineering to be an ideal fit for their interests in math and science,” according to Rich Reid, associate dean with the college.

Among the students assisting with GEMS, which is now in its 12th year, will be students with the SDSU chapter of Engineers Without Borders, which has a five-year commitment to work with a university in the mountainous Brazilian farming community of Carmen Pampa to design and construct a water purification system for the campus and the community.

Other volunteers typically include members of the Society of Women Engineers, other engineering clubs, alumni and select faculty members.

Activity sessions focus on robotics, bridge building and forensics.

Participants will build a Lego-Mindstorm robot car from Lego parts, program the car to navigate a maze and then program the car to dance. Organizers describe this session as a great lesson in the adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.”

In bridge building, students design, construct and test different types of wooden bridges and learn about the physics of trusses.

Participants in the forensics session take fingerprints, classify fingerprints and dust for fingerprints. They also will analyze mystery powders and study teeth imprints as well as measure the culprit’s footprints to extrapolate the height of the person. Then they use deductive reasoning to eliminate suspects.

Lunch, an ice cream break, supplies and instruction are all included in the registration fee thanks to underwriting by nine business that support the college’s outreach activities.

Parents and teachers can take advantage of three free sessions: “Preparing Your Student for College and STEM Career Opportunities” by Reid and Daktronics’ Leah Brink; “STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) Student and Professional Panel,” and a tour of some of the college’s 30 engineering labs.

Registration is online at For questions, call the engineering office at 688-4161.

About South Dakota State University
Founded in 1881, South Dakota State University is the state’s Morrill Act land-grant institution as well as its largest, most comprehensive school of higher education. SDSU confers degrees from six different colleges representing nearly 200 majors, minors and specializations. The institution also offers 35 master’s degree programs, 15 Ph.D. and two professional programs.

The work of the university is carried out on a residential campus in Brookings, at sites in Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City, and through Extension offices and Agricultural Experiment Station research sites across the state.