STEM Sisters Blog

Carissa and Vinaya

Hi UA! 

Science is all around us making it a subject where learning never ends so this week, to ease back into school, we thought we’d put together a list of fun STEM facts. We hope you enjoy it! 

  1. NASA experts believe that there are more trees on Earth than stars in our galaxy. 
  2. J is the only letter that doesn’t make an appearance on the periodic table.
  3. Studies have shown that planets Neptune, Uranus, Jupiter, and Saturn have the potential to rain diamonds due to extreme pressure in the atmosphere. 
  4. In specific conditions, water can exist as water, solid, and gas at the same time. 
  5. The average person takes around 7,500 steps a day. If you maintain that average and live until 80 years, you’ll walk a span o​​n 5 times around the world. 
  6. When substances are hot, they expand. Due to this phenomenon, the Eiffel Tower grows up to 15 cm taller in the summertime. 
  7. Ever dream of jumping through a cloud when you were younger? Clouds actually weigh up to a million pounds when they hold rain. 
  8. We wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never tickled a rat but if you have, you know that rats laugh when they are tickled.
  9. Did you know that humans are capable of producing venom? Our body mechanisms have all the tools and resources to do so– it’s all up to evolution now! 
  10. If you were to drill a tunnel through Earth, it would take you approximately 43 minutes to get to the other side. 

Until next time,
STEM Sisters


CGI: History and How It’s Done

Welcome back UA, hope you all had a great winter break. With the recent release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, I figured this would be the perfect time to discuss computer-generated imagery, better known as CGI. But don’t worry, this post will be No Way Home spoiler-free.


The first movie to ever use CGI was Westworld, released in 1973, and was followed by many others that helped the future of CGI. Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) included the first all-CGI character and was followed by Toy Story (1995) which was the first full-length CGI movie. Avatar (2009) is widely regarded as the best use of CGI with its revolutionary usage of 3D CGI. 

There are some movies that you might think use a lot of CGI, but they actually rely mostly on special effects. This includes Jurassic Park (1993) which only had about 4-5 minutes of CGI in its 14-15 minutes of dinosaur footage, the rest was done via animatronic puppets. Another movie that seems like it might have needed a lot of CGI is Titanic (1997), when in fact, CGI was only used for the water and adding extra people. They utilized a lot of miniature sets, as well as a full-size model of a ship in the water (they actually only built half the ship, this is why there’s a scene where all of the extras are waving left-handed because they just mirrored the other half of the ship).

So, what is CGI, and how is it done? 

CGI is 2D or 3D animations, objects, and/or renderings (the process of generating a photorealistic or non-photorealistic image from a 2 or 3D model using a computer program). These models are created and then layered and added into a live-action scenario. A common scenario would be something being filmed on a green screen (or sometimes a blue screen, which is better for dark/nighttime scenes or scenes with green costumes or props). The green is then removed via chroma-keying, which is just removing anything green in the shot. Then background footage, called plates, is added in post-production. 

Some of the easier CGI includes creating things like the sides of buildings, which are essentially just textured layers. This is especially good for scenes where the building isn’t the main focus. One example that comes to mind is from Spider-Man 2 (2004), wherein in this scene, the whole fight sequence on the side of the building is completely CGI.

Another common use for CGI in films is motion tracking or motion capture (often shortened to mocap). Actors are put in a mocap suit which can look different depending on the scenario, but the general suit is covered in tracking dots or sensors. The position of the dots is recorded with the camera, as well as the changing distances, and this helps to build a sort of virtual skeleton, which is then applied to a 3D character.

When CGI goes wrong

Have you ever been watching a tv show or movie and you could tell that a scene had CGI? Maybe you couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was, but you knew there was something off. This is usually something to do with how the computer-generated element was added and blended into the scene. Oftentimes this is because the shading, lighting, coloring, or weight of an object doesn’t match the rest of the setting. This is often the most difficult part of a computer-generated model and it can sometimes make or break the scene.

Career Spotlight: Visual Effects Artist

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, typically in computer animation or visual effects

Median salary: $75,270

Job Growth (2019-2029): 4% for all multimedia artists and animators

Requirements: technical skills, knowledge of industry-standard software, able to follow deadlines, ability to work in a team or on your own


How Does a Microwave Work?

Hey! This post is an appreciation post for our lovely microwaves in the Café. Not only do they warm up my food so I’m not eating stone-cold pasta at 9:30 am but they teach us about an important concept in chemistry-- the idea of microwave radiation.

If you’ve taken AP Chemistry before or are currently taking it, you might be able to recall a little bit about this topic already but there are so many more practical applications to it than you might think. If you’re unfamiliar with the realm of radiation though, welcome!

A part of the electromagnetic spectrum, Microwaves are waves of electrical and magnetic energy moving together. Microwaves are used in many different industries like the plywood industry, rubber industry, and even the doughnut industry but we most commonly use them in microwave ovens. But why are microwaves used in microwave ovens?

It’s confusing to differentiate between the type of radiation and the oven, but it’s named so closely because of its characteristics. Microwaves are reflected by metal and are absorbed by food containing water molecules which is a key element in a microwave oven. Microwaves are reflected inside the oven’s metal interior, which is then absorbed by food. This absorption of microwaves causes the water molecules in the food to vibrate which causes heat to cook food.

Isn’t that neat? Anyway, that’s it for this week. Happy Holidays, UA. See you next year.

Until next time,

The STEM Sisters

Get to Know Us!

Hey, Lions! Welcome to Stem Sisters, a blog that aims to keep our UA community up-to-date on all things STEM. Our names are Carissa Aiello and Vinaya Sivakumar of the class of 2023 and we are so delighted you are here. Read a little further to learn more about us.

What is your favorite subject in school?

Carissa: Forensics. My interest in forensics came from watching various tv shows but now that I’m in the class it’s super cool to see the science behind what we see on tv. It’s also pretty hands-on which I think is great.

Vinaya: AP Biology. Biology has always fascinated me because it’s all around us and so practical in our everyday life. Not only is the course great for people who love to be challenged but you’ll love having Ms. Barhorst as a teacher!


Who, in your opinion, is the most important scientist?

Carissa: Stephen Hawking. To be honest, I hadn’t thought about who the most important scientist would be, but I did a presentation on Stephen Hawking in middle school and I remember how interesting his work on black holes was because there’s so much to learn and discover about them.

Vinaya: Rosalind Franklin. To give you more background information, Rosalind Franklin is the scientist that originally discovered the double-helix structure of DNA. Unfortunately, she didn’t have trustworthy colleagues which led to the credit of this discovery going to somebody else. I find her really important because she highlighted the misogyny in STEM.

What is your favorite restaurant?

Carissa: Copper Blue

Vinaya: I’m too fickle-minded to decide on one favorite restaurant.


What’s your favorite thing about STEM

Carissa: I like the creativity that comes with STEM because there’s so much freedom to learn about many topics and there are opportunities to collaborate with others.

Vinaya: I love STEM because you have so much scope to discover and learn. I’m by nature a curious person so that aspect of STEM is my favorite thing.


What are your interests outside STEM?

Carissa: Softball and karate are my two biggest interests outside of STEM but I have many smaller side hobbies.

Vinaya: Working on world-changing projects with other inspiring youth.


What are your takes on pineapple on pizza?

Carissa: No. They’re fine separate but they just don’t go together.

Vinaya: Yes, please! It’s the perfect blend of sweet and savory.

Well, that’s all that we have for you this week. Stay tuned next week to learn more about how microwaves work.

Until then,

The Stem Sisters