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Engineering, Columbia STEM Alliance, CPS host STEMette camp

Campers in matching shirts pose for a photo in front of a projection screen.

STEMette was sponsored by the Columbia STEM Alliance in collaboration with Mizzou Engineering and Columbia Public Schools. From June 24-28, 25 girls from grades six through eight participated in this camp, which included a bevy of classes, presentations and activities intended to spark their interest in STEM, particularly engineering. Photos by Audrey Roloff.

According to recent data from the National Science Foundation, women make up half of the total college-educated workforce nationally, but they account for just 29 percent of the workforce in science and engineering. One way of attempting to end this disparity involves getting girls interested in STEM fields at an early age, and Mizzou Engineering and the Columbia STEM Alliance recently hosted a camp as part of an effort to do just that.

STEMette was sponsored by the Columbia STEM Alliance in collaboration with Mizzou Engineering and Columbia Public Schools. From June 24-28, 25 girls from grades six through eight participated in this camp, which included a bevy of classes, presentations and activities intended to spark their interest in STEM, particularly engineering.

Dean Loboa addresses children eating lunch at tables.

Dean Elizabeth Loboa spoke to campers on Thursday about the importance of engineering to the world.

“They spend the whole week doing a variety of STEM activities facilitated by various CPS teachers and MU professors to explore avenues of STEM fields,” explained Hilary Mueller, Mizzou Engineering’s director of Diversity and Outreach Initiatives.

The idea came about through the combined efforts of Heather McCullar, STEM specialist at STEM-focused Benton Elementary School and Columbia STEM Alliance member, and Tojan Rahhal, the College’s Assistant Dean for Inclusive Excellence and Strategic Initiatives.

“We started from scratch and put together the idea of this camp to get girls experience that they may not have otherwise — things like woodworking and VR and more,” McCullar said. “So we put out a call for teachers to submit ideas to teach for the camp and kind of went from there.

“Just to pull all these organizations together in support of this effort is really fun.”

The foci of the activities included sustainability, robotics, woodworking, virtual reality, coding and more. They also heard from MU Engineering Dean Elizabeth Loboa and the local FIRST Robotics team, Army Ants, among others.

“They give you glass bottles in many shapes, and you can turn it and the wood into any type of craft you want,” said camper Vidhi Patel. “You also got to stain the wood after you cut it and decorate it however you want.”

“We put these glasses on and got to go to virtual worlds — games, zombie games, YouTube,” camper Nalia Banton added.

McCullar reiterated the importance of events such as STEMette camps in instilling a love of STEM and critical skills in girls at a young age.

“I’ve seen the need for exposure even at the elementary level, because by the time they get to high school, girls are less likely to take an engineering class if they haven’t had any exposure,” she said.

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