2016 Operation SMART Program

The 2016 Operation SMART program took place from September 10th to November 5th and hosted 23 girls aged 9-14. These girls ranged from grades 4 to 9 with an average age of 11 years old. Each week of the program the girls were introduced to a different engineering discipline, exploring engineering design concepts and hands-on learning activities.

All of the activities were facilitated by local engineers. 2016 had the largest number of volunteers registered with a total of 36 spread out over the 8 week program. The volunteers were from a diverse engineering backgrounds.

Each week the volunteers instructed the girls in different activities related to their engineering discipline.

Date Topic
September 10th Introduction to Engineering
September 17th Mechanical Engineering
September 24th Building & Civil Engineering
October 1st Electrical Engineering
October 8th No Class – Thanksgiving Weekend
October 15th Chemical & Materials Engineering
October 22nd Mining Engineering
Oil Sands Discover Centre
October 29th Halloween Theme
November 5th Computer Science


Week 1: Introduction

The first week the girls were introduced to engineering design and project management principles. The girls were first tasked to build the tallest structure with only newspaper! They then did a second iteration where they could use tape but only had 2 minutes! The girls learned the concept of balancing time and resources.

Then the girls used the engineering design process to build a contraption to protect an an egg from a drop of 10 ft! Girls split into teams for their designs.

Girls designed and then tested out their contraptions. Some stood up to the test, others had their eggs splat! The girls discussed what worked well, what didn’t work and how to improve.


Week 2: Mechanical Engineering

In the second week, the girls learned about potential and kinetic energy and made rollercoasters! The girls calculated the energy based on the height of their rollercoasters.

Then they used balloons and rubber bands to make cars converting potential energy to kinetic energy.


Week 3 : Civil Engineering

In week 3, the girls learned civil engineering concepts. First they learned about road design by trying out different road intersections. The girls tried to determine which would be the most efficient and which would be the most safe.

The girls then learned about the porosity of materials, testing the drainage rate of water through soil, sand and rocks.

Finally, they learned about stable shapes, making towers out of marshmallows, wooden skewers and other materials to hold a weight of 250g a minimum of 3 inches off of the table.


Week 4 : Electrical Engineering

In week 4, the girls learned about electrical circuits, calculated resistance of different resistors and drew circuit diagrams.

Then the girls applied the circuits to build their own fans using electrical motors, corks as the fan hub and designing blades from card paper.


Week 5 : Chemical / Materials Engineering

In the 5th week the girls learned about the material properties of different objects and how when combined to form a chemical reaction they make a new material with completely new properties. The first reaction they performed was with glue, borax and water to form ‘slime’.

The girls also did a chemical reaction to make soap and drew Process Flow Diagrams for their chemical processes.


Week 5 : Oil Sands Discovery Centre

In week 5, the girls went to the Oil Sands Discovery Centre and learned about the process to extract oil from the sand. They began by doing their own oil sands extraction experiment.

The girls then went on a scavenger hunt around the museum, learning about all the steps of the extraction process, from mining with haul trucks to upgrading into usable products.

The girls did a rock porosity experiment learning about different geologies when mining. And they also did a Play-Doh core sampling experiment, where each color of Play-Doh represented a different material underground (rock, water, oil sand) and had to determine which sample would be best for a well vs. a mine.

Finally the girls did a Cookie Reclamation activity, mining the chocolate chips from the cookie and reclaiming the cookie. They also got points for the weight and quality of the chocolate chips they mine.


Week 7 : Halloween

In Week 7, the theme was Halloween. First the girls learned industrial engineering concepts with a candy bag assembly line, working in teams to make candy bags the most efficiently.

Then they used circuits to make paper light up jack-o-lanterns and applied vibration theory  and kinetic energy to make ‘screaming ghost balloons’.

Finally we attempted to make a newspaper geodesic dome pumpkin.


Week 8 : Computer Science

In the final week the girls learned about programming concepts by designing their own board games. Their games used programming elements like ‘random variables’ (e.g. rolling a dice) and ‘if this then that’ (e.g. if you land on a yellow square you get one point).

The girls then applied these fundamentals to program a board game using Scratch programming tool. A sample of the board game they coded in scratch can be found here: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/128250526/


The girls learned a lot of new engineering concepts in this program. Join us next year with Operation SMART!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s