Hello, I am Lauren Nank, and I am the first woman in NCAC to earn the Thomas Edison Supernova award. I joined GT1853 right before COVID put us all into lockdown. During that time, I was introduced to the multitude of STEM opportunities in scouts. It started with the Nova awards. A Nova award is a project-based activity, and each award covers one area of STEM. I completed Let it Grow, Splash, and Mendel’s Minions. Let it Grow, taught me how we get our food, how it is processed, and a lot about food science all around the world. When I was completing the Mammal Study merit badge for the Nova award, one of the requirements was doing a project that would benefit a mammal. I decided to build a bat box. A bat box helps bats sleep and mate safely. Now, one problem was my mom was afraid of bats; but I had the opportunity to go to someone’s farm and place the bat box there. Adding on, the owner took me on a tour of the farm as well!
After, I completed the Splash Nova award. I learned about water use, consumption, and how water gets recycled for use again at water treatment plants. Lastly, I earned Mendel’s Minions nova award. I had been interested in genealogy at the time, so it was the perfect choice for me. I learned how to extract DNA from a strawberry with just at-home ingredients, as well as create a 3D model of DNA. Who knew you can extract DNA at home? From there, I thought Nova awards were all I could do, but that wasn’t the case. With a friend of mine, together we completed the Bernard Harris Supernova Award. A Supernova, in basic terms, is a small STEM eagle project. This Supernova taught me leadership, communication, and self-discipline. My favorite thing I did during the Supernova is interviewing and shadowing a NASA Helio physicist. I learned a tremendous amount about work at NASA, what’s next for NASA, and the work environment for women. After the shadowing, I interviewed a woman in a neighboring program; and she shared with me about the lack of women around her when she first joined. Luckily, as time went on more and more women have been getting into STEM and changing the world with it.
Immediately after I started the Thomas Edison Supernova award. I started by completing the “Shoot!” Nova award. I learned about projectiles, aviation, and astronomy. One of the requirements was making a marshmallow catapult and doing a scientific experiment. While measuring the angle and distance projected. I enjoyed using the information I learned about the scientific investigation in school in real life, and of course eating a bunch of marshmallows.
After completing the Nova award, I started two STEM-related activities. I made a precipitate with Ammonia and Copper Sulfate. The activities require you to do write-ups that include preparation and research, then reflection after you’ve finished. My precipitate experiment went extremely well. I had done it before in school, and when I did it at home, I knew exactly what to do. It was fascinating to see how when the ammonia is dropped into the Copper sulfate, it turns into small flakes.
My math experiment was planting seeds and seeing if enzymes affect the growth of plants. I learned in science class that enzymes speed up chemical reactions, and plants use a chemical reaction to create food called photosynthesis. Each week, I measured the height of the seed and by the end, my hypothesis was proven true! Honestly, going into the experiment I just went off of background knowledge, and it was rewarding to see it was successful.
One of the other requirements is to complete a STEM fair, competition, or workshop. I decided to do a Nuclear Science workshop. One of the coolest things during the workshop was seeing both beta and alpha beta particles. Before, I didn’t even know the slightest thing about beta particles, cosmic radiation, and radiation found in food! This workshop allowed me to add to my knowledge about atoms and extend it further on how it relates to nuclear science.
Lastly, you have to present a Nova award or STEM activity to your troop or Cub pack. My friend and I organized a meeting where we made color-changing slime and a Carbon Sugar Snake. We led scouts through both activities, and both were very different from each other. We ran into a few roadblocks with the slime, but from a different perspective, it all went incredibly well. I was proud of the results, and the positivity on everyone’s faces.
All of these awards, merit badges, and experiences not only taught me more about STEM, but how the world works, discipline, leadership, and communication online and in – person. I learned that with being open – minded new experiences could come through. Even when you feel like things aren’t progressing, everything will turn out alright in the end. I encourage everyone to get involved in STEM in your troop, or anywhere around you. I guarantee you will learn something new, or you will meet and experience new possibilities.