May 1, 2018: Force, Motion, and Pull-back Toys

Ladymaker Erin Salter taught the mothers and daughters of Make-HER how to harness the potential energy of a wound rubber band to make toy cars that move on their own. Teams first used recyclables to make basic toy cars with axles, wheels, and car bodies. Then girls attached a rubber band between one car axle and a fixed point on the car body. When the axle or wheels were turned, the rubber band wound around the axle. When the car was released, the rubber band unwound and spun the axle, moving the car forward. This simple concept left plenty of room for the mothers and daughters to explore all the variables that made the car move, including wheel size, wheel material, car design, rubber band size and length, and how to attach the rubber band to the car or axle. Some teams added weights to their cars or put rubber bands on the wheels to increase the wheel grip and move the car further. There were lots of different designs, but by the end of the night all of the cars managed to move on their own.


April 3, 2018: Light, Photonics and Fun

Make-HER welcomed back the ladies from the Silicon Valley chapter of IEEE’s Women in Photonics for an evening of light. These engineers, scientists, and industry professionals led moms and daughters through experiments and demonstrations illustrating key topics in optics and photonics. Participants learned about refraction, reflection, and diffraction as they bent, bounced, and split light. They learned the science behind Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility and made marbles disappear. They played with lenses and pinhole cameras, experienced how visual perception is tricked through optical illusions, and discovered how solar powered LED lamps are improving quality of life in rural communities. The evening ended with girls playing nighttime Frisbee and lining up to view stars through a telescope.

March 6, 2018: 3D Print Sea Creatures

LadyMaker Corinne Takara introduced moms and daughters to CAD and 3D print technology by anchoring it to Ultimaker’s Ocean Plastic Community Project. Corinne first discussed the history of plastics, and more recently, their impact on the health of our oceans. Participants sketched their own real or imagined sea creatures, and then used the free, web-based program Tinkercad to model them in 3D.


Each design was then printed on the Library’s UP2 Mini Printer for later pick-up. Finally, Corinne invited mothers and daughters to submit their designs for inclusion in a collaborative student art installation at the 2018 Construct3D Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Check out a few samples of our Make-HER participants’ work!



February 6, 2018: Rattan Globe Lamps

Ladymaker Alba Cardenas combined circuitry and papier-mâché to create Rattan Globe Lamps. Mothers and daughters began by inflating small balloons while string was soaking in glue. Participants used papier-mâché techniques to cover their balloons with tissue paper, while being careful not to glue the tissue to the balloons so they would be free for later removal. Once the first layer of tissue was set, mothers and daughters carefully wrapped glue-soaked string starting at the knot of the balloon while leaving space for the insertion of LED lights. Makers could choose to wrap their string in any pattern, so every globe was unique. Mothers and daughters repeated the papier-mâché technique to add a third layer to their lamps, and then used blow dryers to speed the drying. Once the globes had dried and hardened, it was time to remove the balloons. All hearts pounded a little harder as moms and daughters wondered whether the globes would hold shape or collapse into blobs of tissue and string. Moms and daughters did an amazing job working together – one holding the globe and the other carefully slitting and extracting the balloon – and everyone was left with a beautiful intact sphere.


Once the globes were ready, the circuitry activity began. Mothers and daughters used felt squares, coin cell batteries, LED lights, conductive thread, and electrical tape. Careful not to cut all the way through, participants cut slits in their felt squares to make switch covers. Moms and daughters adhered the negative legs of their LEDs to the negative side of their batteries using electrical tape. Makers looped the positive legs of the LEDs with pliers, tied them with conductive thread, and then hooked the other end of the thread to safety pin loops. Once done, makers used hot glue to affix LEDs to the inside of the globes and secured felt squares over the batteries. With this switch completed, mothers and daughters could turn their lamps on and off by sliding their safety pins through the felt slits.

Decorating was next! This seemed to be the the daughters’ favorite part; they used gems to decorate their Rattan Globe Lamps and give them a bit more color.

At the end of the evening, the darkened room was filled with the light of colorful globe lamps.


June 26, 2017: Earthquake Engineering

In an earthquake, what stands, what falls, and why? Mothers and daughters explored seismic engineering in this real-world design challenge. Using an earthquake shake table, Ladymakers Erin Salter and Lauren Cage discussed some of the design approaches used to build earthquake-proof structures and then let girls experiment with the shake table.

Then it was time to build a city. Each mother/daughter team received a client request to design a building that would withstand an earthquake of increasing intensity, and then to use recycled materials to create a scale model. Here are Gimme Candy Company’s requirements for their newest candy store:


Once they had their clients’ building requirements, moms and daughters began to construct.


In the final step, teams presented their designs and gave the models a ten-second test on the earthquake shake table.


If you’d like to see the designing, building, and shaking in action, see San Jose State’s iSchool video highlighting the Make-HER program.


June 6, 2017: Hexa-Flexa Fun – Math Making with Hexagons

In celebration of 6/6, a day of many 6’s, somewhere around the 6:00 hour, Ladymaker Bridget Rigby helped moms and daughters make many fun, creative, colorful, and even tasty things out of hexagons, everybody’s favorite 6-sided shape.

We started by making tessellations out of regular hexagon shapes, cutting negative shapes out of one side and attaching them to add the corresponding positive shape to the opposite side. Some even tinkered with rotational symmetry, flipping the shapes and adding them to an adjacent side, creating a very cool-looking kind of rotating tessellation. Once we finished making our tessellating shape templates, we traced them on paper multiple times, interlocking all the different negative and positive shapes together like puzzle pieces, and then colored them to make gorgeous tessellating designs.

Then we made hexaflexagons, folded paper origami structures with many surprising hexagonal surfaces to discover as you keep folding them inside and out. We added colorful designs to all the different surfaces so you could really see what what happening as they got folded through. For some extra fun and colorful inspiration, we watched many of Vi Hart’s hexaflexagon videos, even one that used tortillas instead of paper with taco fillings to make hexaflexamexagons!

We also watched Vi Hart’s cookie shapes video, where we saw more hexagons being turned into 3D cookie shapes, and after all these math videos started making us hungry we tried our hand at building our own with hexagon-shaped graham crackers + slightly thickened icing. Some tried making the simplest shape out of 4 hexagons, a truncated tetrahedron, and others the next one out of 8 hexagons, a truncated octahedron. Next time, we’ll have to combine the whole group to take on the truncated icosehedron with 20 hexagons, aka a Buckyball or soccer ball shape!

We’d say everyone left with a very sweet taste for mathematics and the #6.


April 4, 2017: Light, Photonics & Fun

Engineers, scientists, and industry professionals from the Silicon Valley chapter of IEEE’s Women in Photonics brought their passion for physics, optics, and LIGHT to Make-HER moms and daughters in an expanded, multi-activity workshop. We thank these remarkable women for sharing their knowledge and for being such strong female STEM role models!

Attendees  circulated among four stations, each illustrating key topics from optics and photonics. At the first station, a team of optical telecommunications experts, Dr. Shalini Venkatesh, Dr. Diane Larrabee, and Dr. Maria Anagnosti explained the guiding of light through total internal reflection with hands on experiments and telecommunications equipment. At the second station, Stanford Ph.D student Fariah Hayee and Dr. Hanxing Shi explained the basics of spectroscopy and diffraction. Unite to Light Board Member Suzanne Cross described her work bringing light to remote South African villages and showed how solar powered LED lights can be used to improve quality of life in rural communities. Girls then added a personal touch to this work by writing notes to include in the next overseas shipment of solar lights. At the third station, Dr. Maria Miriashnivili, Stanford graduate student Katherine Sytwu and Dr. Patricia Ramirez explained lenses and pinhole cameras and their application in photography. At the fourth station, Dr. Emel Tasyurek and Cisco engineer Fan Yang explored how visual perception can be tricked using various optical illusions.

April 4, 2017: Paper Plate Pachinko

Ladymaker Corinne Takara merged circuitry and game design in this Paper Plate Pachinko challenge. Beginning with a short lesson about the history of Pachinko in Japan, Corinne then asked moms and daughters to visualize themselves as game designers. Using a brainstorming wall for inspiration, game designers chose themes for their Pachinko mazes.


Mothers and daughters next wrapped a marble in conductive foil, built a single circuit with copper tape, incorporated a gap in the circuit, and then connected the circuit to a MaKey MaKey hooked up to a laptop. By bridging the gap with the now-conductive marble, teams found they were able to trigger sound through the MaKey MaKey device.

Once moms and daughters completed their single circuits, they added branches to build additional circuits and obstacles to create their mazes.

There were so many creative Pachinko mazes to see! Moms and daughters lined up for a gallery walk throughout the room and then shared what they found most surprising, most challenging, and most inspirational. Click through the following slide show for your own virtual gallery walk.

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We closed the session with a group shot.





February 7, 2016: Fabulous Fibonacci – For the Love of Mathematics

Ladymaker Bridget Rigby merged Fibonacci, fractals, art, and nature in this playful exploration of mathematics. Bridget gave an overview of binary – or base 2 – numbers by comparing them to the familiar base 10 numbers used in everyday math. Whereas base 10 numbers are expressed in 0 – 9, binary numbers typically are expressed only with 0 (zero) and 1 (one). Bridget led participants through an exercise converting base 10 numbers into base 2 numbers and then introduced an activity to turn math into jewelry.

Moms and daughters picked a personal power word and using base 2 math, converted each letter into a binary number. Using two colors of beads – one color representing “zero” and the other representing “one” – moms and daughters created a beaded segment for each letter of their power words.

Once their calculations were done and their beads in order, moms and daughters strung these beaded segments into binary power necklaces. Binary has never been more beautiful!

Bridget then took moms and daughters through an exploration of Fibonacci spirals and their representation in nature. From pine cones to pineapples, sea shells to galaxies, and daisies to sunflowers – Fibonacci spirals can be found everywhere!


Still more math fun was in store. Bridget opened a discussion about fractals. Fractals are created by repeating a simple process over and over, resulting in a never-ending pattern across different scales. Like Fibonacci spirals, fractals can be found throughout nature. Snowflakes, dandelions, lightning bolts and peacock feathers – these all are examples of fractals.

In the last exercise, participants used scissors and paper to apply a single cutting and folding rule repeatedly to create a fractal Valentine’s card.

This was a challenging project, but before long these flat sheets of paper were transformed into intricate three-dimensional pieces of art.

For those who want to keep their mathematical creativity going, Bridget recommends these resources:

Fractal pop-up cards

Vi Hart math videos

Margaret Wertheim’s TED talk on the beautiful math of coral







January 3, 2017: Puppet Physics

Ladymakers Erin Salter and Lauren Cage explored the translation of movement through the mechanics of puppetry. First, moms and daughters learned about a few different kinds of puppets. A rod puppet is constructed around a central core. Appendages are attached to that structure and controlled by separate rods. A pull string puppet (or jumping jack) is a figure with jointed limbs connected to a single pull string. When the string is pulled, the limbs move. A marionette is a figure with limbs attached to separate strings controlled from above.

After handling samples of these puppets and examining their mechanisms for movement, moms and daughters began planning their own puppets – each with its own story. What kind of motions and expressions would the puppets need? Which style of puppet would best tell the story? Which materials might bring the puppet to life?

Once they had selected their supplies, moms and daughters began creating their puppets.

Moms and daughters explored many different ways to build joints and control movement.

At the end of the evening, girls took the microphone to describe their puppets and stories, and then gathered for a group shot.