For the past four years, the Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Department at Drexel has hosted a summer STEM camp for girls. Formally called Eureka! and co-sponsored by the non-profit organization Girls Inc. of Philadelphia, the four-week, STEM camp aims to broaden STEM learning among underserved, local girls who are just beginning to set their career goals. Volunteer instructors include professors, graduate and undergraduate students, and staff.
This year, due to the coronavirus and the closure of Drexel’s campus, CAEE was challenged to figure out ways to run this very hands-on camp, virtually. After several Zoom meetings and phone calls, it was decided that all supplies needed for the camp for each week would be delivered to the girls’ homes from the staff at Girls Inc. They also made sure all the girls had laptops and internet access so they could access all camp programming. Each week of the camp focuses on a different STEM area. For this year’s camp, the chosen focus is food science, robotics, forensic science and construction.
During the first week of the camp, the girls learned about food science. On the first day, they participated in a gluten lab where the girls analyzed data and measured and weighed flour. Some girls added too much water, which made their dough watery and thin. Others added too little flour, which made their dough sticky and hard to get off their hands. It made for an amusing virtual session, and conveyed the importance of carefully following directions. The next day, the girls participated in a kitchen chemistry lesson and baked their own version of the perfect chocolate chip cookie. During the final day of food science week, the girls were treated to a guest lecture from Dr. Rose Trout, Assistant Clinical Professor and Director of the Culinary Arts and Food Science program at Drexel and YouTube cooking star.
During the second week of the camp, the girls learned about robotics and were each provided with a Sphero bot. On the first day, they learned about coding and computer basics, introduced themselves to algorithms. They participated in three different activities: drag and drop coding, simple text program “syntax exercise,” and text programming starting from scratch. On the second day, the girls were put in three different groups depending on their knowledge of coding. Drexel facilitators guided them during these activities to program their robots. It was challenging, but they persevered, and all of the girls were able to program their Sphero bots. On day three, the girls were challenged to film a Tik Tok style video with their Sphero bots and share their videos with the rest of the campers and the facilitators.
“We are currently in week three of our camp and the girls are having a great time learning about forensic science,” says program facilitator, Kim Spina. “We hope next year to recruit more students to help out with our camp. It truly is an inspiration to see these girls learning about STEM subjects.”