Building Bridges – Jazmine Darden ’13

Majors: physics and mathematics

Scholarships: Regents’ Scholarship, Floyd V. and Ruth M. Case Scholarship, Leola G. Anderson Scholarship, NASA Space Grant, Minnesota Private College Fund Scholarship, Tekne Scholarship

Activities and interests: McNair Scholar, Phillips Scholar, North Star STEM Scholar, GEMS/GISE summer camp leader, residence life student staff

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Jazmine sits on the wooden bridge painted by GEMS students.

Gifts to Augsburg College provide opportunities for students to learn inside and outside of the classroom. For students like Jazmine Darden, this means building bridges—bridges from popsicle sticks and a bridge toward her future as a scientist.

An African American female physics and mathematics major, Darden is part of a minority that she hopes to change. One way she can influence young girls is by mentoring and teaching them in the Girls in Engineering, Math, and Science (GEMS) program, a summer camp held at Augsburg for Minneapolis public school students.

This past summer in GEMS, Darden created a curriculum using popsicle stick bridges to teach girls in grades 4-8 about the engineering process. The students began by making trusses out of spaghetti so that they could learn about bridge support systems. Then they drew up plans for their popsicle stick bridges based on guidelines Darden supplied for them.

“We had little activities every day and awards for a ‘bridge of the day’ and a ‘disaster of the day,’” Darden said. She also introduced daily vocabulary words so that the students were using correct terminology for their bridges and the building process.

For younger students in grades K-3, Darden introduced an economic element to the project. She built a base for their bridges and created money pieces and a store where students could purchase supplies to add to the base, making it stronger. “They were really proud of their bridges and loved going to the store every day,” she said.

Darden has worked with GEMS for three summers because she wants to foster an interest in the sciences among girls, especially minority students like herself. “I believe there should be more women in the sciences,” she said. “I want to reach out to girls because if I can get them excited about science at a young age, then they will continue to be interested in it later.”

After finishing her studies at Augsburg, and before she begins graduate school, Darden would like to continue to do summer outreach or afterschool programs. “I’ve done a lot of learning outside the classroom, but I needed the experiences inside the classroom, too,” she said. “The scholarships I’ve received have given me opportunities that I wouldn’t have had—opportunities to learn and to help other students get excited about science.”