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2019 GLEE Camp Exposes High School Students to Electrical Engineering Via Hands-On Projects

A 2019 GLEE camper shows the circuit she's been soldering.
A 2019 GLEE camper, Ariana Goldstein, shows the circuit she's been soldering.

June 24, 2019

Electrical and Computer Engineering's (ECE) GLEE camp recently celebrated its tenth successful year of operation. Familiar faces, such as ECE Professor Lynford Goddard and a team of ECE students and faculty, returned to serve as instructors for the 2019 camp. Previously, the camp was exclusively for girls, however, this year, GLEE opened up and welcomed students of all genders. Nineteen girls and two boys from east-central Illinois, the Chicago area, and even two from out of state experienced a high-quality program with exposure to what studying Electrical and Computer Engineering at Illinois is like.

In her fourth summer helping out with GLEE camp was ECE Ph.D. student Aditi Udupa (right) who is helping a camper with her solar cell.
In her fourth summer helping out with GLEE camp was ECE Ph.D. student Aditi Udupa (right) who is helping Aniya Parker with her solar cell.

“This year, in an effort to be more inclusive,” Goddard explains, “we've expanded GLEE to also allow students who are female, male, and non binary. It's a move to be less exclusive.” GLEE and other GAMES camps are now under the umbrella of the WYSE program, but the former GAMES camps remain female-focused.

“One of the goals of the camps is to have open discussions about challenges, resources, and opportunities for female students in engineering while maintaining an inclusive learning environment that allows students from all genders to participate.”

The camp will retain the name GLEE; it is still deciding whether to keep the acronym. (Should Goddard want to change the acronym, though, this reporter thought of a few. Guys Learning Electrical Engineering would obviously exclude the girls, but “Get Learning Electrical Engineering” or “Gonna’ Learn Electrical Engineering” might work.) However, Goddard says they’ll probably follow the precedent that the YMCA and the YWCA, set: keep the acronym but include everyone.

Lynford Goddard (right) helps Cheyenne McClinton with her LED calculator.
Lynford Goddard (right) helps Cheyenne McClinton with her LED calculator.

Computer Science and Aerospace Engineering Assistant Professor Grace Gao exposes the GLEE campers to some aeronautical engineering principles.
Aerospace Engineering Assistant Professor Grace Gao exposes the GLEE campers to some aeronautical engineering principles.

According to Goddard, “The goal for GLEE is to provide high school students the opportunity to explore electrical and computer engineering through project-based learning."

So they offer four separate projects. One is an analog circuit, where students build and solder together an FM transmitter circuit. The second project is a digital circuit, for which the campers build an LED calculator. For the Optical Imaging project, students learn about how lenses work and how to create images with light. The last project is Solar Cell Fabrication, where the students make their own solar cell.

“So the goal is to allow students to see what sorts of problems electrical and computer engineers work on,” Goddard continues, “what sorts of things they do in their daily classes, and just get a better sense as to what the field is like and what are the opportunities for them in the field.”

Maddie Wilson (left) does a quality check on Cheyenne McClinton's  LED calculator.
Maddie Wilson (left) does a quality check on Cheyenne McClinton's LED calculator.

Among the other familiar faces who helped out with the 2019 GLEE camp were Maddie Wilson and Wynter Chen; both were in their second summer serving as GLEE instructors. Wilson, who just graduated from ECE in May and will be heading to grad school this fall, says she did it last year and really enjoyed it, so she participated again this summer.

“It's a way to reach out to younger students and get them excited about both engineering and also electrical engineering in particular,” she claims. Because she herself has really loved the hands-on projects she’s done, she hoped the campers would too.“I think hands-on experience is really the best way to learn,” she acknowledges, “and that's what this camp really focuses on. And so I just loved being a part of that and being able to teach that and show that to the younger students.”

Recent ECE graduate Maddie Wilson checks August Beck's work.
Recent ECE graduate Maddie Wilson checks August Beck's work.

Regarding what kind of impact she believes the camp had on the students, she reports, “So I think it has a really big impact in ways the students don't even realize when they're taking the camp.” For one, she says the camp is literally an ECE crash course, giving the campers a taste of a lot of the electrical engineering material she herself has had as a student. “Because every chapter is literally a class I've taken here at U of I,” she says, “and they go through like 20 classes in one week. So looking at what they're learning, it's just amazing the exposure they get to electrical engineering in general.”

For instance, on Monday, they created circuits. On Tuesday, they learned soldering, which she says she didn't do until her junior year. “So they're getting a lot of good experience early on,” she adds.

Also in her second summer helping with GLEE was Wynter Chen. However, it was actually her third summer involved with GLEE; she participated as a camper when she was in high school. Then, at some point in high school, she realized that she wanted to go into engineering; she was interested in optics, a special topic in electrical engineering, and ended up at Illinois. And while she says GLEE wasn’t necessarily what got her into electrical engineering, she reports that, “It definitely made me want to come to Illinois.”

Wynter Chen checks out a student's work on her circuit.
Wynter Chen checks out Kaitlin Gowens' work on her circuit.

Chen helped out with the camp this summer because she taught last year and really enjoyed it. Plus, as an ex-GLEE-camper, she admits, “I know how important this kind of experience is.” And while she doesn’t say that she hopes some of the campers end up in ECE at Illinois, she does hope they have a good time and gain some direction for the future.

“I hope that at the end of the day, they're having fun in there. Whether or not they go into electrical engineering, they're learning more about this, and they are considering their options for the future, and hopefully this gives them a nice opportunity to feel more confident in their choices going into the future.”

Julian Lipford (left), waits to see if her LED calculator is done correctly.
Julian Lipford (left), waits to see if her LED calculator is done correctly.

One camper, Julian Lipford, a rising senior at Northwest High School in Cedar Hill, Missouri, shares why she got involved with GLEE camp. “I take Project Lead the Way at my school, and last year I took a good digital electronics class, and I really enjoyed it. So I wanted to do more of it here.”

She shares her impressions of the camp: “I like it. It's a lot of listening and stuff,” she admits, “but I guess you got to go over some of the basics before you can do the bigger stuff.”

Danville native Madeline Hogg tries her hand at soldering.
Danville native Madeline Hogg tries her hand at soldering.

Another camper whom we might see at Illinois in a few years was Madeline Hogg, a rising senior at Danville High School. She shares why she ended up coming to GLEE. “I was thinking about engineering as a field,” she admits, “but I wasn't sure which field. So I've been trying out different fields. When I saw the opportunity, I'm like, ‘Well, this way I can determine,’ cause I was tossed between mechanical and electrical. So this way I can get hands on and see how it is.”

Her favorite activity so far? Soldering all the electronics onto the boards. “It was very satisfying to finally plug the battery in and actually turn it on,” she reports.

ECE PhD student Lonna Edwards (left) works with Madelyn Hogg, helping her get her solar cell correct in order to test it.
ECE PhD student Lonna Edwards (left) works with Madelyn Hogg, helping her get her solar cell correct in order to test it.

A Danville native, Hogg is definitely considering Illinois as an option for engineering. “I've done engineering programs at my high school. They've offered the Project Lead the Way, and that was what kind of introduced me into everything. That was a really nice starter. So when I saw their engineering program here, I thought that was a really good idea to come and see it.”

Another camper who participated in GLEE because she’s very interested in engineering was Cheyenne McClinton, a rising senior this coming fall at Crete Monee High School in Crete, Illinois. Not only that, but GLEE was her third time participating in a camp; she’s previously attended the robotics/computer science and the Bioengineering camps. And while she admits that Robotics was her favorite camp, she says GLEE came in second.


Cheyenne McClinton works on building a circuit.

McClinton says that, for her, the most challenging thing about GLEE was that it was hard for her to understand some parts of the curriculum because she hasn’t taken any AP stats yet, which she’ll be taking this year.

While she reports that “Engineering is definitely an option, right behind nursing, she says GLEE camp didn’t really have any impact on her decision to go into engineering; she had pretty much decided that after taking the bioengineering and computer science/robotics camps.

Matilde Figuero-Carrillo shows off her completed solar cell.
Matilde Figuero-Carrillo shows off her completed solar cell.

Matilde Figuero-Carrillo, a rising junior at Hinsdale Central High in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, reports that she came coming to GLEE camp in order to learn more about electrical engineering and get a better understanding of what it is, which she says definitely happened. “I think it's very interesting, and I actually might be looking forward to power renewable energy.”

She says the most challenging thing about GLEE was “Just being able to get all the information in my head.”

Regarding whether or not GLEE might have impacted her future career plans, she admits, “I'm definitely thinking about engineering,” she says. “I don't know which type yet, but this is definitely in the running," then adds, “It was a great experience and I'm definitely coming back.”

One of the two guys at GLEE camp, August Beck, who’s a rising senior at Champaign Central High School, indicates that he participated in GLEE to help narrow down which field of engineering he wants to go into. “Mostly just because I need to know whether or not electrical engineering is an option for me,” he admits. “I already knew I wanted to go into engineering, but I need to be able to rule out different fields.” Beck is choosing between electrical, mechanical, and aerospace engineering. Not only did he get a taste of aerospace during Grace Cao’s activity, but he’s also going to IAI (Illinois Aerospace Institute camp In a couple of weeks.

August Beck  solders the circuit he's making.
August Beck solders the circuit he's making.

Beck says his favorite activity in GLEE was probably the LED calculator. Did he get it figured out? “It works. No problems with it. It worked right away,” he affirms, “probably because we really actually learned about why it worked and it was like almost down to really base level computing stuff, like computer architecture.”

He adds that the most challenging thing in camp was the LED calculator. “Probably because for the design of it, we actually had to think. We actually had to think through the process, and we didn't really have to do that on some of the other activities.”

He also particularly enjoyed the activities on micro architecture and the clean room. “That was all pretty cool,” he concedes. “And so it gives me more of an idea. Maybe I would like the field. It seemed pretty cool.

After participating in GLEE, where is ECE now on his list of four? “Probably still behind aerospace,” he admits (much to Lynford Goddard’s chagrin), “but it's definitely rising!”


Story and photographs by: Elizabeth Innes, Communications Specialist, I-STEM Education Initiative.

More: 8-12 Outreach, GAMES/WYSE, GLEE, WYSE, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Summer Camp, Women in STEM, 2019

For additional I-STEM articles about GLEE camps, please see:

GLEE camp instructors from left to right: Michelle Cheong, Maddie Wilson, Kiran Murphy, Aditi Udupa, Wynter Chen, Raman Kumar, Lonna Edwards, and Lynford Goddard.
GLEE camp instructors from left to right: Michelle Cheong, Maddie Wilson, Kiran Murphy, Aditi Udupa, Wynter Chen, Raman Kumar, Lonna Edwards, and Lynford Goddard.