Girls gets their hands in engineering
Summer program encourages campers to explore STEM
Potential future female engineers last week had a chance to participate in hands-on activities in a wide range of engineering disciplines, including computer design for 3D printing and building objects within a team setting.
A dozen female students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics took part in the College of Southern Maryland’s Engineer Like A Girl summer program, held July 24 through July 28.
As she walked around the room the last day of camp, CSM academic adviser Jehnell Linkins called the girls “future female engineers” and encouraged them to talk with their teammates about the gumball-like device they were making out of plastic two-liter soda bottles, straws and other crafting supplies.
At the program girls get the opportunity to engage in engineering activities and “learn what they do,” Linkins said. “If we can expose and inspire them … at an early age,” girls may not be so intimidated by STEM topics or dislike math, she said.
Using computer-aided design, campers also created fidget spinners and other objects with a 3D printer, Linkins said.
The goal of the program is to “stomp out negative stereotypes commonly associated with women’s ability to pursue careers in math- and science-related fields,” according to a program flyer. Approximately 11 percent of the engineering workforce is composed of women, according to statistics available at the U.S. Department of Labor’s blog.
The program is free to campers and “removes that barrier” for any girls interested in the program, Shadei Jones, CSM pre-engineering coordinator, said Friday in an interview.
The program encourages girls to “try as many different activities as possible [and] helps the campers see they have strengths they can contribute to their teams,” Jones said.
The program also exposes campers to different engineering disciplines as well as encourages team building and communication skills, she said. The campers visited NAVAIR employees at Patuxent River Naval Air Station to discuss programs and employment opportunities.
Charles County’s Westlake High School student Isabella Corradi said she attended the summer program last year, too. She said she likes “being able to meet other like-minded girls who are interested in science and math.”
The teenager said the best part about the camp, aside from making friends, was being able to meet and speak with female NAVAIR engineers and talk with them about the programs. “We also got to fly in a plane” during the base tour, she said.
Corradi said her school encourages everyone to explore STEM topics, not just the boys.
Calvert County Patuxent High School student Sabrina Thipwong said girls “should believe in yourself and try” as many different things as possible to “see what sticks, what you like.”
She echoed Corradi about networking with local women already in the engineering field.
“You make really good friendships along the way,” she said. “I’d like to study mechanical engineering when I grow up.”
Holton Arms High School student Olga Sullivan said she learned about the program through her grandmother, who is a member of the college’s foundation that funded the program using grant money. Sullivan said she’s interested in being a Navy cargo pilot “and flying C-17s.” She said she thinks studying mechanical or aeronautical engineering will help her achieve that goal.
“I’ve always been interested in being an engineer” and enjoys assembling IKEA furniture and LEGO toy sets, Sullivan said. She said she and her family will break household appliances and machines on purpose to let her “see how it was made” and either put back together or build something new.
College spokespeople were unable to provide a total cost of the camps, but submitted the following statement from Michelle Goodwin, CSM vice president of advancement and executive director of the CSM Foundation: “The CSM Foundation is able to fund outreach educational programs in STEM, the Arts, and other disciplines thanks to many generous local corporate and private sponsors in Southern Maryland. We are grateful for our sponsorship support of all CSM students.”
Engineer Like A Girl camper Olga Sullivan, left, points at a wooden craft stick as camper Isabella Corradi inserts it into the gumball machine. Campers teamed up to create STEM projects the last day of camp.