All Girls Camp Sets Campers on a Path of Exploration & Innovation

FLATE’s All Girls Camp is a big news maker every summer. The Camp draws focus on an important topic that highlights the relevance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in real-world settings, and more importantly, echoes the need for women to be engaged in STEM and robotics. “From cloud computing the next step is robotics” said Burt Ginampos whose daughter Felize Ginampos attended FLATE’s ‘All Girls’ camp last month. Ginampos echoed the sentiments of several parents who pointed the camp has served as a ‘hook’ in getting their daughters curious about STEM and excited about robotics, even those campers who stated their natural calling isn’t particularly mathematics or science.

For example, Monique Joseph who stated attending the camp stirred her curiosity about robotics, but candidly
admitted she “does not enjoy science, or math” per se. To that end, the robotics camp is aimed at developing a passion for STEM among existing STEM enthusiasts, but more importantly targeted to bolster a shift in thought towards STEM. How does the FLATE robotics camp achieve this, or what role does the camp play in getting students’ curiosity fired up about these topics?

A core part of FLATE’s strategy to engage students, particularly girls, in STEM has been through problem based learning where girls can work in a collaborative, team-based environment. “The challenges are hard, but I really enjoyed it” said Felize Ginampos. Another camper, Dariya Bagley, also stated she enjoyed the challenges because it “made her think.” Through hands-on exercises that showcase real-life applications of STEM and robotics, the challenges consistently reflect what experts across the board agree is an effective mechanism in creating a “hook” for students to get them interested in STEM. The ‘hook’ in this case was of course the robot, and the added excitement for most campers was programming the robot to work through various challenges.

Besides learning about programming and real-world applications of STEM, another valuable take away from the
camp was developing problem-solving skills and teamwork that are critical in any workplace. “I hope she learns how stuff is made from a technical standpoint, but also learns how to work in a team” said Amit Sehra, whose daughter Aarushi was programming robots for the first time. Felize, who already knew about programming robots liked the camp as it gave her the chance to meet new people and at the same time challenged her to think beyond what she already knew about programming.

To enhance campers’ experience and give them a first-hand view of what it is like to work in high-tech manufacturing settings, campers were taken on a “Made in Florida” industry tour of Publix Dairy in Lakeland, FL, where they witnessed STEM concepts being applied in various manufacturing processes. The tour was a game changer in more ways than one. “My visit to Publix completely changed my mind” said Marissa Stanley who added she’ll “never look at milk the same way.” Indeed touring a high-tech manufacturing facility left a deep imprint on most campers, with most making connection between theoretical concepts learned in class, during the camp and their real-world applications. ‘I thought it was cool to see how efficiently the machines and robots worked” said Camille a 6th grader at Burns Middle School. Dariya Bagley who grew up around computers and robots stated visiting the Publix manufacturing facility changed her opinion about factories having a lot of people working. Instead what she saw were more machines and robots.

Indeed, FLATE’s “Made In Florida” industry tours are geared to educate students about modern manufacturing
tools and practices, and showcase production environments and automated processes that require similar soft skills and technical skills in robotics and programming that they learned during the camp. In an ongoing effort to reach out to minorities and students from economically challenged backgrounds, and spark their interest in STEM, FLATE once again partnered with Suncoast Credit Union Foundation to provide scholarships to girls from low income families to attend the robotics camps. The mission of the scholarship is to” improve the lives of children through education, health, or emotional well-being” said Cindy Helton, executive director of Suncoast Credit Union Foundation.

The Foundation offered 14 scholarships this year on a first come, first served basis, and since the inception of the program and partnership with FLATE has served as a pathway for recipients to avail of opportunities that would not be possible without financial support from the Foundation. “STEM is one the fastest growing professions and these girls need to know/get interested and excited about the opportunities” said Helton. Since the inception of their program, Suncoast Credit Union Foundation has donated over $13 million dollars to community based organizations supporting women and girls in STEM, with $2.2 million in donations in 2014 alone.

Post event surveys from the camp show 100% of the campers agree that programming the robot helped them see
how automated systems are programmed and controlled. One hundred percent of the campers also stated the camp provided opportunities for teamwork and collaborations with others. Over 95% stated the camp helped them better understand how STEM concepts/principles are used in industry/real-world settings.

For more information about the robotics camps and the “Made in Florida” industry tours for middle and high school students visit www.fl-ate.org and www.madeinflorida.org. For information on upcoming FLATE robotics camps and robotics-related professional development opportunities for educators contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org and Desh Bagley, outreach manager and camp director at bagley@fl-ate.org