Saturday, November 12, 2011

Volunteering at the Expanding Your Horizons event at the University of Geneva

I was poking around some Geneva specific websites (I think it was Glocals) and found a reference to the Expanding Your Horizons event this weekend (event link), at the University of Geneva.  It's a set of workshops for girls ages 11 to 14, designed to interest them in pursuing science and technology careers.   I contacted the woman responsible for organizing it late on Thursday evening, saying that it was too late for this year, but perhaps she could put me on her contact list for next year.  Lo and behold, she emailed me back, saying it wasn't too late and that I should come and volunteer this Saturday!  So I did, and it was a very interesting and worthwhile experience.  I got up and ready earlyunfortunately Kenny woke up just as I was leaving, and was a little distressed about my not being around today.  I managed to distract him with permission to play on his Nintendo DS.

I started walking towards the University of Geneva, where it was held, around 7:00 am, as the sky lightened (it was fairly dark when I started).  The bus connections would have been really inconvenient, so I just walked, and that worked quite well, using my phone's navigation.  I had missed the orientation the night before, so I was coming into the situation without much background.  The main task for the last-minute volunteers such as myself was to help with registration.  I pity the girls that I helped with the registration, though, because other volunteers who spoke French far more fluently were doing a much more thorough job.  I was hoping that there would be some kind of forum where the girls could ask questions of the women who were working in science and technology, such as myself.  But it was all workshops, such as "The Kitchen as a Laboratory", "Build your own Solar Car", and "Robot Academy".

I can't say that I helped further the girls interest in science and technology very much (my French is too limited for something like that) but I did help out a bit with the registration, and made some good contacts with some very friendly local women, whom I'll try to connect with later.  I also met a lady from Zimbabwe, whose parents left that country (with nothing, but she's happy they made it out—about half of their friends died under the Mugabe regime) when she was 12 years old.  She told me about her planned trip to the west coast next summer, where she planned on climbing Mt. Rainier.  I was a bit taken aback, and told her that it was a pretty serious mountain to climb.  But it turns out that she had been a climbing guide in Uzbekistan for 7 seasons, so I think she'll do just fine!  You meet a lot of interesting people here.

I came home a bit earlier than planned, because I didn't want to leave Eric and the kids on their own all day. We ended up taking the bus to the Perle du Lac park, where the Museum of the History Of Science is located.  It was a little difficult keeping the kids engaged, but the old scientific devices and instruments were quite interesting.  What they like best are the parabolic sound reflectors just outside the museum, where you can whisper to one another quite easily from about 30 meters apart.

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