Program Gives Middle School Girls Exposure To Science, Engineering
Abigail Gunderson is exhibiting exactly the attitude and energy South Dakota School of Mines & Technology youth program organizers hoped to see and hear on campus this summer.
“Building a website was really cool and I’m still working on mine — it’s going to be awesome,” Gunderson said last week, two days into the university’s “Socket to Me” computer engineering camp for middle school girls.
Gunderson, a 12-year-old from Pierre, will join almost 300 other young women on campus this summer to take part in camps focused on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM fields.
“These programs really give them exposure to something they don’t get to see in their regular schools,” said Grace Carrier, who works with the campers. “The fact that it gives them a chance to learn nothing but science and engineering for a week is really special.”
Several girls return for additional camps or come back to the same camp each year, she added.
“Since we have so many return campers, I would say our programs are working,” she said. “It’s just a wonderful experience for the girls, to get access to equipment and knowledge they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Shanoa Nez, a 12-year-old from Rapid City, is one of those return campers. She has been to three School of Mines camps and said the variety of activities and full schedule keeps her busy. The things she has learned at camp will help her in the future, she said.
“They teach you new stuff that you can put toward school,” she said.
At this week’s camp, the students will design a web site, take apart a computer, learn coding and learn about about computer-based math, the history of computers, and Smart Phones and applications.
“We work hard to keep our information as current as possible so the girls can go out into the real world and see the application of it,” she said. With an early start, it might also give them the competitive edge some day when they start applying for schools.
While the school also offers camps for boys, offering programming to girls at a young age is important, she said. On campus, the male to female ratio is 4-to-1.
“By getting young girls interested in engineering in science, hopefully they’ll come in and level out the field,” she said.
It’s a challenge, she said. The school had to cancel the high school engineering camp for girls in July because of low enrollment. But the camp for young men for engineering is full.
“We try to get them excited, so when they get to high school they are excited. It’s a building process.”