"I was filled with determination and curiosity after I saw all these amazing things!” — 2016 STEAM camper
This quote from one of the campers sums up the spirit of the 2016 Summer Girls STEAM Camp this past June. Throughout the week, the girls learned about many things including chemistry, physics, robotics, paleontology, engineering, design and how real businesses are run under the umbrella of STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.
As Erin Hawkins and I developed the summer camp, we reached out to experts, both local and at a distance, and found there are many people out there willing to share their passions and expertise. The broad base of deep knowledge brought excitement and current connections that would have been nearly impossible without the help of these experts.
The weeklong summer camp included field trips to Purdue University Northwest, Valparaiso University and Thorgren Industries. We had several visitors, including a math professor who took the girls through an adventure with circuits, programming and music. Engineers with local ties to our community connected with the campers via the Internet to talk about their jobs at NASA, Trossen Robotics and Eastern Iowa Periodontics, revealing how three engineers took very different paths in pursuit of their passions.
Along the way, we discussed the importance of soft skills such as teamwork, communication, problem solving and professionalism, which are skills necessary to succeed in any field.
Campers were immersed in an environment where they were encouraged to try new things, take on challenges and network with each other. Along the way, they took pictures and video and shared their experiences both verbally and digitally.
This is the second year of the Girls STEAM Camp. A collaboration between Valparaiso Community Schools and Ready NWI launched the camp experience in the summer of 2015. The target group was girls moving from fifth to sixth grade, where they are leaving an elementary school setting and entering middle school.
We have often observed student interest in science and math decreases as they get older. At this age level, many girls are doing just as well and are just as interested as boys in math and science. We see this is lost along the way, as there is a definite underrepresentation of females in math and science related fields.
The ultimate goal of programs like this is to give girls who might lose interest in science and math an experience that ignites their interest and to encourage girls that are already interested in these areas to continue to pursue these aspirations.
Ultimately, we want all the girls to become ambassadors and share the idea that STEAM is for everyone.