This summer, in the heart of a metropolitan city along the Mississippi river, seventh-grade girls had hands-on experience in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for four weeks at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO).
As the Eureka!-STEM summer camp started off, the girls began learning about robotics. “They loved robotics, and it got them excited for what was to follow,” said Carol Mitchell to The Epoch Times. Mitchell is a professor at UNO who worked with the Eureka!-STEM camp at UNO.
The young girls found themselves launching rockets, airplanes, and balloons to high altitudes, learning about ecosystems, learning about military planes, and extracting fruit DNA.
The girl’s STEM-centered summer camp comes in response to a growing concern that women are not choosing or working in STEM careers.
Mitchell, who grew up in southern Texas, was the only African-American woman to receive a degree in chemistry at her university. “That was back then and we are now in 2012, but a number of girls who choose to go into a STEM career is low compared to the number of men, no matter what color they are,” said Mitchell.
“We need to increase the interest, but more importantly, increase the inevitability of women in these careers so they don’t think that it is something too hard, they can’t do it, while they have the smarts,” said Mitchell.
According to Mitchell, it’s about being invited into the playing field in STEM subjects. The Eureka!-STEM summer camp is lowering the level of concern that young girls might have regarding technology or engineering, she said. While they might have once said, “Well I don’t know about this, I haven’t heard about this, and I can’t do it,” Mitchell said that when they get into a biology class in the eighth grade, they will have a level of expertise already—they’ve already extracted DNA from fruit over the summer.
“They will feel more confident,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell said she laughed at the summer camp’s closing program when the robotics team came up in front of the audience. “They were all males. And so I said to the audience—parents, dean, teachers, and students—‘What is wrong with this picture?’ And the girls immediately said there are no women up there,” said Mitchell, adding that having all children in engaged in all subjects is an advantage, but that “we need to take care of what the data shows us.”
The camp was funded by a grant from Girls Inc., which received extra funds as well from the White House this past April as part of a partnership in new programs to promote “The Next Generation of Girls in STEM.”
According to the White House fact sheet, other partners include NASA and the Entertainment Industries Council Inc. (EIC), the Girl Scouts of the USA, and Mocha Moms Inc. NASA created the newNASA Giving Initiative and Relevance to Learning Science (G.I.R.L.S.), offering middle school girls mentoring from women at NASA. The EIC organizes a collaboration to promote girls and women in science, engineering, and technology careers. The Girl Scouts of the USA and Mocha Moms Inc. offer volunteer support for IMAGINE Your STEM Future and other STEM programs with career speakers, facilitators, and mentors.
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