Lehning explores STEM experiences through Icebox Derby

Megan Casey, Editor-in-Chief

This year, ComEd held its second annual Icebox Derby, an event that gives young women a chance to explore opportunities in the science, technology, engineering and math fields (also known as STEM) hands on.

Over the summer, 30 girls, 15 from Chicago and 15 from the Chicago suburbs, were chosen through an application process to participate in this event. One of the 30 girls chosen was sophomore Carissa Lehning who heard about this opportunity through the Girl Scouts and that prompted her to apply to be a part of this event. The application included typical questions like “What prior STEM experience do you have?” and “What are your grades in school?” to random questions like “If you could be any food in a refrigerator, what would you be and why?”

The girls chosen were separated into teams of 5 and were given 4 days to build a race car out of a recycled refrigerator. Before meeting to build their cars, the girls played games at a meet and greet event that gave them the opportunity to get to know each other.

“Building relationships with the people there was probably the best part,” Lehning said. “Just from the first night we all got together I could tell that I [was] going to like these people.”

While building their race cars in the Derby garage, the girls were taught a lot about how the cars work, learning about gear ratios, batteries, circuits, fuel efficiency, and the benefits of having the correct tire pressure.

During the building process, the girls received a lot of publicity from CBS 2 News, WGN Channel 9, the Daily Herald, and WCIU.

“It was really awkward at first because there’s a camera right there, and I just hope I don’t look stupid, but then, eventually, it’s like ‘Please get out of the way I’m trying to work’,” Lehning said.

On Aug. 15, the girls gathered at the Field Museum campus downtown to race their cars. The race was not just a race, though. In-between laps, the girls had to do STEM challenges. The girls would do a lap, the driver would get out of their car, and they would have to do something like inflating a tire to the correct pressure or building a circuit.

The final outcome of the race was a surprise. Lehning’s team was in the lead until they struggled with a STEM challenge to put together a bicycle. Eventually, her team was told to move on and ended up coming in last, but that did not stop the girls from having fun.

“There was a lot of stuff, especially about the whole automotive aspect of it, that, I did not know going in,” Lehning said. “I definitely learned a lot from this.”