All Girls Camp Ignites Girls’ Passion for STEM and Robotics

FLATE has several projects targeted to spark middle and high school students’ interest in
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and showcase how each of these concepts are integrated in everyday, modern manufacturing operations. Included in this effort is FLATE’s special emphasis on recruiting girls in STEM and manufacturing careers. The ‘All Girls’ robotics camps, which kick starts camp season every summer, is one such effort spearheaded by FLATE that parallels a national push to encourage women and girls to be a part of a high-tech workforce.

This year FLATE welcomed 18 middle school girls to the ‘All Girls’ camp, many who shared their individual aspirations to either become either an engineer, a doctor, scientist, astronauts, or even a reporter. At the basic level these are mere aspirations, but on a wider level they represent a microcosm of a diverse high-tech workforce where women/girls are increasingly exerting greater influence in designing innovative technologies and assuming leadership roles in STEM. “I have always found science interesting since pre-K and kindergarten” said Alexis who shares a common passion for robots and STEM in general with fellow campers.

Indeed, FLATE’s robotics camps have served as a catalyst in igniting middle and high school

students’ passion for STEM. “The camp was really fun and challenging” said Shreya Buragadda, who did not know much about robotics and programming prior to attending the camp. Since the inception of the program in 2007, the camps have served as an effective mechanism in creating platform for girls to explore the exciting world of robotics and its connection with STEM.

Using robotics as a platform, the weeklong camp provided several opportunities for campers to test their prowess in solving STEM based challenges. Working in teams of two’s and three’s, campers built a Lego® Mindstorms® EV3 robot, and learned how to program it to maneuver through challenges like Rainbow Dash, Bottle Touch etc. “The obstacle course was the hardest part for me, but it also challenged me to solve problems” said Jordan Fahringer. She stated running into “issues” not only taught her about problem solving skills, but opened her mind “to be an out-of-the-box thinker.”

Campers also got the opportunity to learn about motors and controls, 3D printing, SolidWorks, CAD, and Arduino microprocessors that are ubiquitous in high-tech manufacturing settings.

To get a real-world view of how some of the STEM concepts they learned during the camp

were being applied in manufacturing operations, campers toured the state-of-the-art Publix Dairy plant in Lakeland. “I learned a lot about what’s behind ice cream, and I loved eating the ice cream” said Shrika Senthil. Engineers from the Publix Dairy facility also gave an overview of career pathways that are available to students, and campers got to listen to first-hand accounts of what it takes to be an engineer/STEM professional. The tour served as an eye opening experience for campers for Esmeralda Pilar-Lopez who noted she didn’t know that manufacturing and STEM could be integrated in those settings. It provided a first-hand view of manufacturing operations and “opened my knowledge about new careers that I could consider in manufacturing” Pilar said.

The camp made quite an impression on campers and their parents/guardians alike. Most

campers walked away with new range of skills. “Before coming to this camp I didn’t know anything about manufacturing, but now this has definitely created a lot of interest in manufacturing, programming and robotics for me” said Jache Bell. Campers also learned the value of teamwork and problem solving skills that are a crucial part of being able to work collaboratively in a professional environment. Parents/guardians were equally pleased with the effect the camp had on campers. “Robotics is where the future lies and it is always good to have a knowledge base about this field” said Kumar Buragadda and Senthil Sambandam. “This camp is going to give her the needed boost of confidence as she joins the STEM program” stated Quiana Lewis, mother of Zaniah Dorn. “She comes home so excited and energized. She learned so much overall and had a very very good time” said Paul Quigley, father of Zoe Quigley. 

Based on a post camp survey conducted by FLATE over 94% of campers agreed and/or strongly agreed that the camp them better understand how science, technology, engineering and math is used in industry. The same percentage also agreed/strongly agreed programming the robot helped them see how automated systems are programmed and controlled, and the camp provided opportunities for teamwork and collaboration with others. Nearly 89% of the campers also agreed/strongly agreed that the field trip helped them make the connection between the camp activities and real-world applications. 

Outside of this STEM-ultimate experience, Suncoast Credit Union Foundation and the HCC
Foundation once again partnered with FLATE to offer scholarships to student from low income families. Since 2014, the scholarships have enabled several girls and boys to attend the robotics camps, and empower them with skills needed to join a high-tech workforce. This year the scholarship helped seven girls to attend the All Girls Camp last month, two girls to attend intro camp I, one girl to attend the intermediate camp.

For more information on the camps visit www.fl-ate.org/projects/camps.html and www.madeinflorida.org, or contact Executive Director of FLATE, Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org, and Janice Mukhia, communications manager at news@fl-ate.org/813.259.6581.

FLATE's All Girls Camp on WTSP 10News