Robotics Camp Offers STEM Opportunities for Girls

July 31, 2017

Increasing the number of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and opening young girls’ eyes to the opportunities in STEM fields are the goals of the Girls Can! Robotics Camp.

The camp was offered to girls ages 10 to 15 held in July at University Campus. Beginner camps took place July 10 through July 14, and July 17 through July 21, while the advanced camp was July 24 through July 26.

students in the advanced campDr. Monika Kiss of Saint Leo University’s mathematics faculty began offering Girls Can! Robotics summer day camps in 2015.

The girls worked with LEGO® EV3 Mindstorm, building robots and learning how to design programs to make the robots move. They also learned about mathematics and collaboration.

The Joy McCann Foundation generously provided a grant to support the three summer robotics camps that focus on robotics and the associated STEM educational opportunities.  The foundation recognizes the demand for more STEM professionals and the importance of having diversity in the pipeline of STEM workforce

field trip to southern manufacturing technologiesIn addition to getting hands-on experience, camp participants took field trips to Accuform in Brooksville, FL, Southern Manufacturing Technologies in Tampa, FL, and Cal-Maine Foods in Lacoochee, FL, to see how robotics and STEM education can be applied in the workforce.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were nearly 8.6 million STEM jobs in May 2015, representing 6.2 percent of U.S. employment. In 2016, 44.3 percent of full-time wage and salary workers were women. But among STEM occupations, there were far fewer women employed.

“I feel strongly about being a role model for young girls in a STEM field,” Kiss said. “It is important for them to see that women are doing math and programming and engineering. It is very important for me personally, as a mother of a preteen girl, to show girls that they are very much capable of working on robots and programming and that they should stay the course and keep at it if they like it. They should not let anyone deter them from pursuing their dreams and goals.”

STEM Students working intently

Sarah Oliver, 10, came to the second week of beginner camp and followed it with the advanced camp. She attends San Antonio Elementary School. Her mother said Sarah loves making things, building with LEGO®, and “girly things,” too. “She just loved this camp,” Shelley Oliver said. “This has been the highlight of her summer.” 

“It really has,” Sarah chimed in.

Kiss encouraged Sarah to keep pursuing her STEM dreams.

“Sometime during middle school years, girls lose confidence and then interest in studying in these areas,” Kiss said. “In order for us to change that trend, we need to start to get to them early and effectively. Having a girls-only camp allows for girls to realize their potentials and feel comfortable. They don’t feel like they are competing with boys.”