Malak Nomaan, a student at the Bayan Gardens School in Alkhobar, Saudi Arabia, never imagined that she’d have the chance to play forensic scientist for a day at MIT. But in the Edgerton Center activity, Crime Scene Investigation: MIT, she did, and discovered a newfound love for forensics.
One of 12 students who traveled from Saudi Arabia to MIT for three days of workshops, Nomaan analyzed clues found at a fictional crime scene looking at blood type, fingerprints, and examining hair and fiber samples under a microscope, isolating the one individual responsible for the crime.
Or rather, in true MIT fashion, the crime was actually an MIT hack, this one the case of an upside down living room installed, by the hacker, on the underside of a concrete arch next to Ames Street.
“I felt like a detective in a mystery novel,” wrote Fawzeyah Al-Dossary, a sixth grader. Another student noted that when she grows up she would like to be a detective and solve mysteries and murder cases.
Along with the Lego Car Rally activity, an overview of how 3-D printing works, and explorations in stroboscopic photography, the girls constructed a fairly sophisticated “skitter-bot” that required learning how to solder electrical wires. The end result: a small battery-charged vibrating insect-like bug with LED-lit antennas that they could take back home with them.
On the final day, the 4th through 7th grade girls assembled LEGO cars that they raced down strings – string racers – from the window of the fifth floor of Building 8 to the grass of Eastman Court outside of Building 18.
And at the end, dressed in their traditional clothing, the girls gathered a large unsuspecting audience in Memorial Lobby where they presented a Saudi Arabian dance forming a spiral to resemble the structure of DNA.
Al-Dossary noted the impact her time in Boston had on her. “I don’t really know how to say it but Boston changed me and MIT taught us a lot of things about engineering and I really loved it.”
The hands-on activities, organized by Robert Vieth, the Edgerton Center's K-12 STEM Outreach Developer, provided the girls with their first taste of engineering. “It was heartening to know that we were able to provide these girls from Saudi Arabia with an experience they will never forget.”