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Camp Gives Middle School Girls Hands-On Experience in Engineering


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In a materials science workshop, girls used a chemical reaction to make their own edible juice caviar.

The Girls in Engineering summer camps at the University of California, Berkeley are part of a pilot program designed to narrow the gender gap in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields.

Credit: Doug Birnbaum

The University of California, Berkeley's Girls in Engineering summer camps are part of a pilot program launched last year that is designed to narrow the gender gap in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Instructors are professors, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate and undergraduate students, covering topics ranging from nanotechnology to data science.

Several studies have shown many girls start to lose interest in STEM fields during middle school. "Our goal is to keep the girls from losing interest, to keep the momentum going," says Berkeley professor Claire Tomlin.

The Berkeley camps also emphasize the need for soft skills, such as communications and presentation proficiencies. At the beginning of each session, girls are grouped into teams of five and asked to identify a problem and discuss ways to solve it. On the last day of camp, each team gives a presentation in front of camp staff and family members.

"We do show them an academic perspective, but they also need to see the industry side of engineering, which is why we arranged field trips to local tech companies," Tomlin says.

Camp organizers hope the effort will lead to greater retention of women in the STEM pipeline.

From UC Berkeley NewsCenter
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