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Star Wars Day did not go unnoticed here at The WFC. The fourth… or force was definitely with our afterschool STEAM program students. For fun, they took a look at a diagram of Jabba the Hutt’s repulsorlift luxury sail barge. According to its specs, the Ubrikkian Industrian’s ship could reach speeds of thirty km/ hr with its large sails alone. With this information and knowledge acquired while sailing aboard our 23’ Sonars, the students set to work designing their own sail barge model from K’Nex. The engineering design process expanded with a model of Luke Skywalker’s speeder as well! The students, grades 2, 5, and 6, worked together to test out different sail materials, sizes, and shapes in order to determine which worked best. A fan was used to mimic the wind, and by marking the distances traveled during each trial, the students were able to clearly differentiate the success of different sails. Yet, the fun hasn’t stopped there. Students solved a “who-dunnit” mystery to determine who wrote a ransom note for the Christeen. By using paper chromatography, a method for separating out mixtures of colored dyes, the group determined which marker was used to the write the note and therefore pin-point the culprit! The discussion continued with examples of how scientists use other forms of chromatography in their work. One particular paradigm was how scientists have used chromatography to map out the different chemicals in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Why? Determining what compounds, and the abundance of those compounds enables scientists to “fingerprint” where an oil spill originated. Then we switched gears another week to learn about a strange creature of the sea: the nudibranch. Nudibranchs are sea slugs – but don’t let that description deter you from liking them. They are actually kind-of cute. Google “sea bunny” or “leaf sheep” nudibranchs and you’ll see what I mean. Nudibranchs come in a variety of colors of forms. While they are most often located in shallow tropical waters, they can be found all over the world, including in Long Island Sound. These unique creatures remind us that our planet is full of magical discoveries. We currently know of about 3,000 species, but scientists estimate that another 3,000 might still be unknown! After looking at some photographs, and even realizing that the Pokémon Shellos was based on nudibranchs, students played a trivia version of Bingo to learn more. We then went outside to create our own nudibranch sidewalk chalk art. Not only did the students take time designing their creature, but they named them as well! These are just some of the highlights of afterschool STEAM this spring. We’ve been a busy crew – conducting an impromptu beach clean-up, learning how to use compasses and anemometers, and even practice our skippering skills! We only have two more meetings this year, but we hope that you’ll join us next time!