Madison Russell, a 7th grade student at Portsmouth West Middle School, shared the many positive STEM learning experiences she had at the Be WISE Camp at Denison University through a scholarship offered by the American Association of University Women and sponsored this year by SOMC.

A bright, confident, and articulate Portsmouth West Middle School student opened the first gathering of the American Association of University Women/Portsmouth branch at a picnic held at Riverside Park. Madison Russell regaled AAUW/Portsmouth members and guests with her experiences at Be WISE Camp at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. Russell, a 7th grade student at Portsmouth West Middle School is the daughter of Amy and Thomas Russell. She received first place honors at the Scioto County Fair as a 6th grader with a superior ranking all the way to the state level. She is a peer tutor at PWMS, is active in her church and was this year’s Junior Miss Portsmouth.

The STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) summer camp that Russell attended in June is an AAUW initiative and was sponsored by the Southern Ohio Medical Center. AAUW/Portsmouth has been offering this annual scholarship for over 10 years with SOMC’s help this year. The week long camp is geared toward girls entering the 7th or 8th grade in the fall of the same year the girls attend the STEM summer camp.

Be WISE Camp at Denison University opened its doors to middle school girls in 1990. This past June the camp celebrated its 27th year milestone. The STEM camp deepens the participants’ problem-solving and analytical thinking skills while relying on hands-on experiences dealing with issues of real life experiences and those with a global impact.

Russell expressed her excitement living in a college dorm and the STEM experiences that stimulated her knowledge base. She was particularly interested in the science and math portions that explored the results of the lack of light on bubbles produced by various brands of bubble gum, and using linear, area, and volume measurements to create tetrahedral kites. She reveled in the math she had to use to produce soap and lip balm where precise measurements meant the difference between a usable product or one that failed. Math skills became critical in another instance when Russell’s group was charged with making snacks for the entire camp. Exact proportions had to be followed and formulas calculated, particularly when 20 ounces were needed, but the item was packaged in six ounce portions.

In science Russell filtered dirty water using various methods, dissected a crayfish, ran a number of different tests on stream water, examined and did a comparison study of the impact oil spills have on birds, visited a recycling facility where she received a bag made from recycled materials, created new paper from old paper, and even made decorative pins by melting plastic.

Russell completed her presentation by briefly sharing her award-winning science project titled “Bacteria Strong, But Not For Long”. Her goal was to determine which cleaning agent worked best on destroying bacteria: bleach, lemon juice, Lysol, or peroxide. She hypothesized that peroxide would work the best because of her experience with peroxide. She collected germs from the school office phone, the girls’ restroom floor, the principal’s keyboard, and a drinking fountain that had not been used in two months. After looking at her data and reviewing her results, she concluded that bleach killed the most germs, Lysol came in second with peroxide and lemon juice following in that order. Her data pointed out that the water fountain had the most germs even though it hadn’t been used in two months. The young student expressed her desire to enter a career field dealing with math or the medical profession.

Russell thanked AAUW/Portsmouth for the Be WISE Camp scholarship with a note that read in part, “… The camp has inspired me to dream big for my future. The sky’s the limit!”

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