“The best part of AmpItUp? Learning! I honestly
didn’t know a thing about batteries when I first came
to the Science Center and now I can leave knowing
how to make one, so I feel really good about that.
I’m graduating from middle school and know
I am on my path to success. I’ve met new people,
expanded my network of adults and had
great new experiences.”
“My project is about electricity. We’re working on making a lamp using lemon juice, copper, and aluminum,” explains Gabby, 14, from KIPP Charter School in West Philadelphia, who participated in AmpItUp, a new program run by FirstHand at the Science Center. “We’re trying to increase the voltage so we can actually have it light. Hopefully! We’re using natural resources so we don’t have to replace batteries and it’s easier to replace lemon juice. We started out by doing some brainstorming on our own. Then they put us in groups and we all had different ideas; one was a flashlight and one was a lamp. So we combined the two and that’s how we got our ’camp lamp!’” AmpItUp inspired Gabby to learn more about batteries and electricity and explore STEM subjects that had previously intimidated her. “Now I want to go to a high school where I will feel challenged,” she says.
“The hardest part was figuring out what to do, planning jobs, and actually putting the circuit together” Gabby says about her experiences during AmpItUp. “At first it seemed like it was failure after failure, but in the end it worked out. We learned that failure is a big part of science. Scientists expect to fail. But it’s okay, because you learn from it.” This process of trial and error is a major component of FirstHand programming. AmpItUp lets students explore the inner workings of the batteries and circuits that power their daily activities. Gabby stepped into the world of electrochemistry and tinkered with designing different types of batteries as she and her classmates experimented with electrical circuits. AmpItUp empowers students to ask tough questions, prototype out answers, and see their failures as opportunities to learn more.
Programs like AmpItUp give FirstHand students a view into the world of real-life science and entrepreneurship. Gabby and her classmates visited with scientists at Avid Radiopharmaceuticals at the Science Center. “It’s a company that works with Alzheimer’s. That really touched me because my grandfather died from Alzheimer’s. I felt that them trying to find a cure was very interesting and it helped me understand it better,” she says. Gabby also had a chance to test out her leadership skills with her classmates during the group projects and bounce ideas off of adults as she built her network. “I talked to my teammates first,” she explains. “Then I took some time to think. After that, if I still couldn’t figure it out, I went to Ms. Danielle, Mr. B., or Ms. Maya, or any adult. They never really gave me the answers, but talking through ideas with them really helped.”
“It’s hard to think about where I’ll be in 10 years. I’ll be 24, so hopefully I’ll have a successful job and maybe be on the road to becoming a psychologist. But I’m not really sure yet. After all, I’m only 14.” But when asked if she felt prepared for high school, Gabby responded with a definitive “Yes!” Specifically, she feels confident working with “plastic and chemicals and other materials.” And that confidence has led her to develop her leadership skills. “If I took a science course, I think I would take on a leadership role because I have some background knowledge based on AmpItUp,” she explains. “The leadership role kind of naturally happened for me.” That’s no surprise. After all, participating in AmpItUp taught Gabby the value of asking (and answering) questions, brainstorming to solve problems, and pursuing ideas and activities in support of her project—and her intellectual growth.