WID-TVC Delivers Dash Robot Recharging Station

The Dash Robot Recharging Station was recently delivered by the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) Senior Engineering Design Team to Madison Cross Roads Elementary! This is one of many projects sponsored by the Women In Defense Tennessee Valley Chapter.

This delivery represents the culmination of months of hard work by the design team and an exciting time for the recipient, Madison Cross Roads Librarian, Ms. Liz Glenn.

Previously, Ms. Glenn had robots connected to outlets all across the library. We are so happy she will have a central location to house and charge all Dash Robots. This station features 24 cubbies with built-in chargers. The goal with this project is to help younger students, and particularly underrepresented groups in engineering, garner an interest in STEM subjects.

Gayla Suddarth, STEM Director; Melissa Burnett, Co-Chair of the WID-TVC STEM Committee; and Wendy Tarkowski, member of the WID-STEM Committee were part of the celebration, which included a ribbon cutting and yummy Dash Robot-themed cupcakes made by UAH Senior Design Team leader, Andrew Brewster.

A special thank you also goes to Tim Hall with the Madison County School Central Office for joining us in the exciting presentation.

WID-TVC Partners with Hands On Science Center

The Tennessee Valley Chapter of Women In Defense has partnered with the Hands On Science Center (HOSC) in Tullahoma, TN, to support museum exhibits and projects specifically designed to highlight and encourage young women.

About the Hands On Science Center

The Hands On Science Center recently received a $10,000 grant via the IF/THEN(r) Initiative. This grant, with support from Lyda Hill Philanthropies, is awarded to U.S. Associate of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) – member museums to support projects designed to address gender equity in their museums. In order to receive the grant funding, the HOSC secured an additional required $1,595 from partner agencies.  This provided a perfect partnership opportunity for WID-TVC, as the grant specifically promotes the recognition of women in science.  Ms. Gayla Suddarth, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Committee Chair, championed the partnership and secured the entire partnership funding.  

As a small 501(c)-3 located in Tullahoma, TN, the Hands On Science Center’s mission is to inspire today’s youth through hands-on exhibits and programming that instill a love for various STEM areas.  The HOSC serves 11+ surrounding counties and impacts nearly 30,000 people annually.

The HOSC is proud of the many STEM educated women working at and supporting the facility. Mrs. Olga Oakwood serves as the Director of Education and as the Air Force STEM Director.  Women also serve on the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, the staff, and the Development Committee.  Current Development Committee member and past Board Chair, Kim Nelson, is a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel and also serves on the WID-TVC STEM Committee.  These women are an integral part of guiding the development and implementation of HOSC programs approved through this grant.

To execute grant funding, the HOSC will execute “Exhibit”, “Live Program”, and Virtual Representation” efforts. WID-TVC partnered with the HOSC on all of these elements.


The Exhibit portion consists of a new “Super Girls of Science” gallery.  This room will include near 360-degree comic themed graphics depicting real women throughout history who have been integral to scientific advancement.  Additionally, the exhibit will include a TV screen and audio system, as well as touchable elements and specialized lighting. These elements engage the senses, create a sense of excitement in young girls, and show them that they too can be real world superheroes!

Live Program

The Hands On Science Center hosts field trips and executes a Traveling Wizard program to bring STEM programing to schools, libraries, and other places of learning. Field trip groups visit the HOSC to explore the museum and watch a staff-led science program. The IF/THEN funds will be used to develop a “Women in STEM” program for field trips and traveling programs.  The program will include props and examples of what women in STEM have accomplished. Examples include models of insect metamorphosis discovered by entomologist Maria Merian, models of X and Y chromosomes discovered by Nettie Stevens in 1905, and Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex, discovered by paleontologist Sue Hendrickson in South Dakota in 1990.

Virtual Representation

The virtual representation effort includes filming and editing the above program into 25-minute and 45-minute options.  These will be made available for schools, libraries, and other learning places throughout the nation.  In addition, the HOSC will provide a 16-page book, directly mailed to 500+ schools, including a teacher’s manual to accompany the video and information on available resources to augment the learning process.  The HOSC will develop the accompanying curriculum with pre- and post- video worksheets, quizzes, and information for the instructors to utilize. These live and virtual programs offer sustainability, great reach to thousands of young women, and availability for years to come.

The WID-TVC STEM Committee recently dedicated expertise to support grant application efforts for two major STEM grants totaling over $3M:  The National Defense Education Program (NDEP) for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education, Outreach, and Workforce Initiative Programs, and The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Grants.  Both of these grants capitalize on increasing access to STEM activities for people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds.  WID-TVC proudly supports the development of STEM programs and resources to serve underprivileged communities throughout the Tennessee Valley. 

Discover more about the Hands On Science Center in Tullahoma, TN here.

Robotics Day: Leap Into Robotics Recap

We’d like to extend our sincere thanks to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and all of the WID-TVC volunteers who helped in making the inaugural Robotics Day such a great success! This all-day event, open to 5th-8th graders, was held on February 29 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and included many stations and activities showing robotics in various industries and career paths.

WID-TVC proudly hosted 16 kids from Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Kids to Love. The children began with a warm welcome from WID and a private session of drone flights, made complete with an educational overview on drones.

Next, the children enjoyed a Planetarium show tailored towards robotics. They “flew” through the solar system and saw satellites, lunar and mars rovers, and the new European Space System solar explorer up close and personal! Participants enjoyed lunch in the cafeteria, typically reserved for Space Camp attendees, and then went to the Robotics Lab to build a “bristlebot” to take home.

After robot building, the group visited the Davidson Center to see the FIRST Robotics teams. Robot competitions ensued, and the kids were able to see all three levels of robots compete and show their abilities, to include the largest robot playing a game of dodgeball with the children!

Thank you to all who made this first-ever event so incredible!

Huntsville Smarties to Represent Alabama at International Competition

WID-TVC is proud to support The Huntsville Smarties!

The Huntsville Smarties is an all-girls FIRST Lego League robotics team that will be representing Alabama at the Carolinas Open International Competition in May 2020.

This group is a second year FLL Robotics team of 10-13 year olds who have won numerous awards including Robot Performance, Gracious Professionalism, and Champion awards.

Huntsville Smarties

At the recent Alabama FLL State Championship held on January 25, the Huntsville Smarties won the Alabama spot to the Carolinas Open International Competition where they will compete with kids from around the world.

There they will share not only their robotics achievements, but also their project, which includes improving the lives of people with varying disabilities using an app similar to Waze. Our chapter has committed to supporting the Huntsville Smarties by covering the $1200 entry fee into the Carolinas Open International Competition.

Stay tuned for updates on how this team of rockstars does at their next competition. We wish them the best of luck!!!

Local Chess Player to Represent Alabama at National Girls Tournament of Champions

As part of its STEM efforts in the community, The Tennessee Valley Chapter of Women In Defense contributes to scholarships for the Girls Summer Chess Camp Scholarship, which allows recipients to study with Chess Grandmasters. The ultimate goal with the yearly summer camp is to teach critical strategic thinking. This is required for the game of chess, and it directly provides a foundation for necessary higher level strategic thinking required to pursue engineering and other science-related education and career paths.

Constance Wang playing chess

We are thrilled to announce that Constance Wang, last year’s recipient of WID TVC’s Girls Summer Chess Camp Scholarship, recently won first place at the All Girls State Championship! She will be Alabama’s representative to the National Girls Tournament of Champions later this summer.

Chess team smiles for picture

“Your scholarship helped her receive additional training last summer from Chess Grandmasters, and she has made the most of that experience,” said Ranae Bartlett, Executive Director of the Madison City Chess League.

Constance and her fellow teammates from Bob Jones High School will also be competing in a team event in April at the All Girls Nationals in Chicago.