Plugged In

Volunteer jumped into hands-on science learning - and teaching - as an ambitious high school student

Friday, November 9, 2018
Posted by
Rachel Wong

Research shows that women are traditionally underrepresented as leaders in STEM disciplines, and that girls are more likely to forgo study in them because they don't see themselves in science careers. This Saturday’s Girls, Science and Technology event shows visitors that woman can and do achieve big things in science.

We’re thrilled to partner with Fox 9 for this popular annual event, and we love the energy that this enthusiastic audience of presenters and visitors brings to the museum. But the influence of cool and interesting women in science isn’t limited to just this one day of the year!

In honor of this weekend’s event, we sat down with Petra Asani, a young science enthusiast who got her start as a high school volunteer in the Science Museum’s Play. Tinker. Make. Engineer program. The program, which happens most Saturday afternoons at the museum, gives young visitors a chance to interact with various science concepts through hands on activities like Electric Circuits, Stop Motion Animation, and Microscope Tiny Drawings. PTME volunteers are critical to the program’s success, and they’re as diverse as our visitors, ranging in age from high school students to retirees.

Petra sets a great example of curiosity, imagination, ambition, and dedication for the up-and-coming scientists and innovators we’ll welcome during tomorrow’s Girls, Science, and Technology event - and for all the visitors she touched through her time on the exhibit gallery floor. We’re pleased to introduce you to her!

What are some tasks you do for Play. Tinker. Make. Engineer.?
Before heading to college this fall, I volunteered for two years with Play. Tinker. Make. Engineer, which focuses on immersing visitors in STEAM concepts through hands-on activities. I served as a facilitator of activities, helping visitors make crafts or learn more about concepts like electricity, sound, and light. My favorite activity is paper folding, or origami, because I’ve been making origami since I was in fifth grade and I love sharing my hobby with museum visitors.

The Marjorie Bolz Allen Grant is a grant program named after a longtime Science Museum volunteer whose family wanted her legacy to live on through programs that improve the visitor or volunteer experience. Can you tell us a bit more about your grant proposal?

Last year, I submitted a proposal for a 3D Paper Flute activity to be incorporated into the Play. Tinker. Make. Engineer. program. This activity involves 3D printing a concert flute head and attaching it to a concert flute made out of paper to make a working flute. I came up with this idea when searching YouTube to see if I could make a flute out of paper. I have played flute for over seven years and wanted to see if I could make my own with the materials I already had at home. I found a few videos that were close but didn’t really hit the mark of what I was looking for. I experimented with several ideas and combined some to come up with the flute idea that I finally proposed to the Allen family. Since then, we have tested the activity on the museum floor and I have learned how to assemble and use a 3D printer, an opportunity only made possible through the MBA grant.

Which past or current exhibit is your favorite?
My favorite exhibit was Mythic Creatures in 2017 because I love mythology. I was also an exhibit volunteer, so I got to really immerse myself in the history of mythology and its influence on different cultures.

What is your favorite memory from volunteering?
My favorite memory was when I was volunteering for Mythic Creatures. I was three hours into my shift and hadn’t taken a break yet when a girl walked up to my table to try my activity - drawing a mythical creature and creating a backstory for the creature. As she worked, she spoke to me as if we were the oldest of friends and asked me many questions about the museum and what I did at the museum. When she was done with her drawing, she handed it to me and said, “Thank you for helping me! I know it must be hard working at the museum, so here’s a gift for you!” It was so nice to be appreciated, especially after several hours of interacting with visitors. I still have her drawing saved in a special spot at home.

Do you have a tip for visiting the Science Museum?
Check out the exhibits you are most interested in first, because there are so many areas to visit and you don’t want to miss out seeing something you were really interested in.

What is currently on your music playlist?
I am currently listening to a lot of Latin music, specifically by Álvaro Soler, who is a newer Spanish artist. I love the different tonal layers of his music and the varying styles across his songs.

What is something people are surprised to learn about you?
People are surprised to learn that I already have an Associate’s degree, even though I am only a freshman in college. I participated in the Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program, which allows high school students to take courses at a college in Minnesota instead of at their high school. I attended Normandale Community College for my junior and senior years of high school and earned my AA in Liberal Education, and a certificate in Spanish. I would highly recommend this program to all the high school students who want a head start and more flexibility when they get to college!

What are you most excited about in your life right now?
I am most excited about getting involved at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. There are so many great activities to be a part of and I am blessed with the opportunity to participate in a research project these next two years.

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