SK Day 2018

Another fall break, another Sonya Kovalevsky Day at Hood. I’ve written about this before, but it’s a big deal for us and we’re proud to have pulled off another successful event. This year we brought another few dozen local high school girls to campus to learn about math and careers in math and related fields.

SK Day Participants. Photo courtesy of Tommy Riggs

The girls spend the morning attending two of four workshops. This year Carol Jim in our Computer Science department ran a workshop on Python Turtle, an introductory programming environment based on Logo. Which, if you happen to be about my age, is about as pleasant a descent into nostalgia as you can get. Our department chair Ann Stewart¬†got the students playing with ratios and irrational numbers on monochords, former Hood professor and current NSA mathematician Gwyn Whieldon taught students about South American mathematical history, and Hood chemistry professor Dana Lawrence talked about math in the sciences, and what’s in a mole.

In the afternoon our students ate lunch with the girls and answered their questions on math and what college is like, one of our seniors gave a presentation on the life of Sonya Kovalevksy, and we concluded with a panel discussion from local women in math-affiliated careers.

We had generous sponsorship from PNC Bank and US Silica, with additional financial and other assistance from Frederick County Public Schools.

Van Nguyen, Me (plus epsilon), and Jill Tysse. Photo courtesy of Tommy Riggs.

I didn’t have a ton to contribute this year, to be honest – at 8 months pregnant I didn’t want to take on too much responsibility in case things got going early. But the other organizers, Jill Tysse and Van Nguyen, made all the planning look easy. And I picked up the donuts and coffee.

We had one new addition this semester: an essay contest for a generous Hood scholarship from our admissions department. They’d been looking for ways to get departments more involved with admissions, and were dangling scholarships for any departments who could figure out how to use them. We didn’t want to make the day itself into a competition, since that seemed counter to the spirit of SK Day, but we thought an essay contest would work nicely. We look forward to selecting winners in a month or two.

Jill wrote a great article for our local MAA section newsletter on how to run your own SK Day – pages 8-10. She covers everything from big-picture planning, to funding, to logistics. It’s a lot of work, but a valued tradition for us. It’s great exposure for Hood and the math department, helps to broaden the mathematical horizons of local girls at a time when many start to drift away from math, it boosts our students resumes and our dossiers, and it’s pretty fun too!

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