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girls in the GLAM G.A.M.E.S. camp participate in a session about bloom on chocolate—which requires tasting some.
A girl in the GLAM G.A.M.E.S. camp participates in a hands-on activity about bloom on chocolate—which requires tasting some.

2013 G.A.M.E.S. Camp Gives Girls
a Taste of Engineering—
and College Life

August 8, 2013

For the 167 high school girls who attended G.A.M.E.S. camp the week of July 15–19, College of Engineering folk ranging from professors, to students, to even alumni, pulled out all the stops to showcase their disciplines and to communicate this truth: Engineering isn't just for boys anymore.

In summer 2013, G.A.M.E.S. (Girls' Adventures in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science) camp increased the number of girls served; the 167 who attended the week-long camp was up from 143 in 2012. While most of the girls were from Illinois, three international students participated this summer: two from China and one from Colombia.

Aerospace Engineering G.A.M.E.S. camper prepares her glider for launch.
Aerospace Engineering G.A.M.E.S. camper prepares her glider for launch.

The number of tracks offered also increased. To the seven already-existing tracks, the camp added two new ones: Computer Science and
G-BAM (Girls Building Awesome Machines), a Mechanical Engineering track. The nine tracks (see below) gave girls the option of sampling a wide range of engineering disciplines:

When asked whether the College of Engineering hopes to steer the girls into engineering, STEM careers, or to Illinois, Camp Director Angie Wolters is quick to reply: "All the above."

G.A.M.E.S. camper in the Environmental Engineering and Sustainability camp tests the purity of a water sample.
Girl participating in the Environmental Engineering and Sustainability G.A.M.E.S. camp tests the purity of a sample of drinking water.

Adds Wolters: "Our hope is to get the girls here and get them exposed to some really great experiences in STEM. We also want them to see what the College of Engineering has to offer, and how they relate that to their STEM education and career possibilities in engineering. That's why we have the engineering tracks. But also to learn about Illinois. This is a recruiting activity, besides just being an overall wonderful experience for the girls."

In addition to being exposed to academics, the girls also learned about the admissions process. During a panel discussion, they learned about the other engineering disciplines available, plus extracurricular activities, and study-abroad opportunities. G.A.M.E.S. planners intentionally included these activities to give the girls a well-rounded experience. "With the girls coming and choosing a track to learn about during the week," acknowledges Wolters, "they're really exposed to that one facet. This is our opportunity to get them exposure to the other engineering disciplines as well." For girls who attended G.A.M.E.S., the camp was also a one-week trial period to see what being a college student at Illinois is like.

Chicago camper Stephanie Smithson, who is interested in Computer Science, agrees. A G.A.M.E.S. alumnus, Smithson so thoroughly enjoyed the Robotics camp in 2012 that she signed up for G-BAM this year. (The CS camp is for juniors and seniors; Smithson is a rising sophomore.) While she appreciates the social aspect of the camp and enjoys meeting girls with similar interests, she reports that the real benefit is giving high school students a taste of what college is like.

G-BAM camper Stephanie Smithson displays the items she made during some of the hands-on activities.
G-BAM camper Stephanie Smithson displays the items she made during some of the hands-on activities.

"It's like a college experience within a week," says Smithson. "You get to try new things, and it's not a lot of pressure. You don't have to get every answer correct; you don't have to understand everything; but it's an introduction to what you want to do; and if you don't like something, that's ok, because you have four years to decide what you want to do."

Maggie Corbett is a rising sophomore who likes math and science and likes to design things. Regarding her experience at camp, Corbett replies, "It's been fun!" She acknowledges that she wants to be an engineer, but is not sure which discipline.

"I don't know," responds Corbett. "That's kind of why I did mechanical, 'cause you can try everything."

Graduate student Laurie Rustom loves her work so much that she served as a counselor in GAMES with the goal of imparting her love for Bioengineering to the next generation of girls:

G.A.M.E.S. Bioengineering camp instructor Olivia Cangellaris works with the campers during a hands-on activity with frogs.
G.A.M.E.S. Bioengineering G.A.M.E.S. camp instructor Olivia Cangellaris (second from the left) explains a procedure during a hands-on activity exploring the neuro-muscular activity of frog legs.

"Actually, it's really a great experience to be able to pass on your passion for what you're doing," says Rustom. "So I really think it's important to tell girls that they can succeed in STEM disciplines and basically just to share my own experience and to be able to teach it to younger people."

Rustom also hoped to impart to the girls the diverse nature of engineering.

G-BAM camper displays the winning wind turbine design during a visit to the Caterpillar at the Research Park.
G-BAM camper displays her competition-winning wind turbine design, her prize (a CAT model), and the pink hat she received during a field trip to Caterpillar at Illinois' Research Park.

"I work in bioengineering, and I study bone regeneration. So when people think of engineering, they don't necessarily think of that part of engineering. They think more about building cars and machines. But really, engineering is very diverse, and it calls a lot of different expertise from different fields. So it's kind of important to show this part of engineering too.

Will any of the girls Rustom worked with this summer in G.A.M.E.S. end up in STEM careers? "Definitely," predicts the bioengineering grad student. "There is a lot of potential. Most of these girls seem interested, and they seem to like math and sciences. Probably, I would say most of them would go into engineering."

Story by Elizabeth Innes, Communications Specialist, I-STEM Education Initiative.
Photos by Elizabeth Innes and Sneha Shruti, I-STEM Journalism Intern.
More: 8-12 Outreach, GAMES, GAMES: Summary, G-BAM, GLAM, GLEE, Summer Camp, Women in STEM, 2013

For additional I-STEM articles about 2013 G.A.M.E.S. camp, see:

Two campers
Girls in a joint hands-on activity for GLAM and G-BAM campers work to create a solar collector.