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Participants say UM’s STEM camp for girls rocks

By Edwin Smith

University of Mississippi

Programming robots and studying physics were among the activities enjoyed by 16 junior high students attending a girls-only science, technology, engineering and mathematics camp this summer at the University of Mississippi.

Sponsored by the Center for Science and Mathematics Education through the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education, the camp included girls from Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee. This year’s theme was the science of sports.

“My goal is to inspire young women to go into STEM fields,” said Tiffany Gray, camp coordinator and project manager for pre-college programs in the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education. “To do this, I have created a weeklong camp of fun, hands-on activities that shows them how amazing math and science can be.”

Each day at the camp had a different focus, including chemistry, physics, computer science, mechanical engineering, civil engineering and math. Programming robots was a highlight for many participants. Presentations were made the final day.

Norah Bruce, a seventh-grader at Oxford Middle School, said science is her main interest.

“It explains the universe, and I want to know more,” she said. “I want to be a marine biologist and study whales. I need to know how to control a submarine if I’m gonna go swim with them. I also love to make stuff, so the engineering part of STEM will help me.”

The event is part of the university’s commitment to strengthen STEM education in Mississippi and attract more students – particularly those from underrepresented groups – into related fields of study. The goals, part of the university’s STEM Education Initiative, are critical to efforts to address future workforce needs and enhance the state’s economic development.

The university, which is classified as an R1: Highest Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, also has broken ground on a 200,000-square-foot STEM education building. The $138 million project is designed to facilitate project-based, active learning in a variety of science and technical fields.

KaMya Jones, of Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, said she applied to STEM Camp because she wanted hands-on activities and because of the lack of women in the engineering field.

“The part I was able to apply to myself was science,” Jones said. “I really enjoyed the experiments we did and the physics behind it. I hope the skills will make an impact on my everyday life and hopefully my future career.”

Isabel Sawyer of Mobile, Alabama, said she came to STEM camp because her father is an Ole Miss alumnus.

“This is where my dad went to college, so I’ve always wanted to try a camp here and see what the college life is about,” she said. “I think there should be more women doing this. I wanted to learn more that school isn’t teaching us and meet new people and that like the same things I do.”