GLAM GAMES Camp Helps High Schoolers Explore Materials Engineering Career Options

September 28, 2017

GLAM campers are participating in a hands-on activity that involves ooy-gooey fluids.

From wacky wires (memory metal) that reshape themselves when immersed in boiling water, to playing with ooy-gooey non-Newtonian fluids, to molding polymers, the 19 high school girls who participated in GLAM (Girls Learn About Materials) GAMES camp from Sunday, June 18th through Saturday, June 24th this past summer learned about a variety of materials. After hearing a mini-lecture about a given material, the girls then got to do fun, hands-on activities about the subject. Many of the participants, who were exploring materials science in order to make college/career decisions, not only learned some things about materials and what materials engineers do, they were exposed to women in materials engineering who served as role models.

The GLAM GAMES (Girls’ Adventures in Math, Engineering, and Science) camp, run by Co-Coordinators Jessica Krogstad, a Material Science and Engineering (MatSE) Assistant Professor, and Kaitlin Tyler, a MatSE Ph.D. student, was in its seventh year of operation. Tyler has been serving as the GLAM coordinator for five of those years; Krogstad was in her second year as coordinator, shares why she takes time out of her busy schedule to do GLAM.

“I love it! she admits. “It's so much fun, and the activities we do are designed to be fun, so it's great to see the girls interacting and getting excited about science.”

One reason she loves doing the camp so much is because of the impact a similar camp had on her career choices.

“I did something like this in high school, and that's the reason why I got interested in the field. It was really captivating, and it was exciting to see all of these different disciplines coming together. So we really work hard to try and demonstrate how diverse material science is to get girls really engaged with it.”

She also appreciates the impact GLAM is having on recruiting here at Illinois, and says that a number of students have enrolled in MatSE as a result of attending. She shares an anecdote about a recent encounter with one of them. Incoming freshmen always take MatSE 182, a survey course; during one session, MatSE faculty come in and introduce themselves. “I'm so excited because this year,” she explains, “I had a girl come up to me and say, ‘I had you in GLAM, and I'm so glad to be here!’ So even if it's just a couple, we know we have numbers for the number who matriculate in engineering somewhere.”

Krogstad has two goals regarding the impact GLAM has on girls: “One, I want to make sure that they know what materials science is and that it's a viable career path. It's not as popular as mechanical engineering, so as they're shopping around, many of these girls are already steered in the direction of engineering or sciences, which is fantastic.”

Her second goal is to keep them in the pipeline all the way—not just to college, but even when the engineering program gets challenging: “To keep them interested and to get them excited so that they have the confidence to push through their senior year, to stick with it, and especially their freshmen year when they do get into the engineering curriculum, and they know it is so hard, but they had fun at this.”

Krogstad’s observation that many of the high school girls are “shopping around,” appears to be true for several of the campers, who reported that they were seriously thinking about engineering, but trying to settle on which discipline.

For instance, high school sophomore Nicole Southey, indicates that she’s considering a career in engineering, but isn’t sure exactly which discipline yet, and that’s one reason she came to GLAM. “I've done GAMES camp in the past, and I wasn't really sure what material sciences was, so I was able to see what it was like, and it was fun.”

Southey indicates that she learned about what a material scientist does. “I got to learn what they do and everything…We got to go into the lab, see all of the things they do and all the materials they have, which was really cool.” She also learned what an engineer’s workload might be, and also about the process of being an undergrad at Illinois.

Is she headed to Material Science and Engineering? “This seems interesting but I'm also looking at bio-engineering. But I'm definitely thinking about an engineering field.”

Another camper, rising high school senior Chloe Trom, reports that she’s come to Illinois for multiple engineering GAMES and WYSE camps, and says, “I'm just exploring the different tracks and fields of engineering to see which one I have a passion for and which one I would like to do in college.”

For instance, she’s explored aerospace, mechanical, and electrical: “And I really liked those. And this is really cool to see what a material engineer would do. We got to tour labs and see the types of experiments and material they deal with. I'm definitely interested in a lot of the fields I'm seeing.”

What did she learn this summer? “It was mainly just getting a view of this they do. I came in blind as to what material engineers do, but we got to see different aspects of materials and learn different pieces of what they have to master and apply. It was just like all areas of what they do.”

Story and photos by Elizabeth Innes, Communications Specialist, I-STEM Education Initiative.
More: 8-12 Outreach, GAMES, GLAM, MatSE, Summer Camp, Women in STEM, 2017

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