When Julia Felsted was in the eighth grade, she attended the West Linn High School robotics team's all-girls summer camp. A year later, she sat in the robotics laboratory as one of the newest team members teaching a new crop of girls that there is a place for them in STEM.
For the past couple of weeks, beginning May 23, the high school's robotics team, 2BDetermined, hosted its annual camp called "Changing the System" that teaches young girls science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in a fun way. Students in grades six to eight were taught the basics of STEM. The robotics team members hoped the camp would be a catalyst for girls to join the group in high school.
"Participating in this camp last year got me interested in joining robotics, and it is so cool that now I get to teach it and see all the other girls become interested in robotics," Felsted said.
According to figures by The American Association of University Women, males disproportionately make up the STEM workforce, as only 28% of women pursue jobs in the field. Summer camps like this can provide an accessible environment for young girls to dip their feet into the field.
"I joined the camp because I really like science and learning about it, but most of the other camps like this are always full of boys," said Eloise Guarisco, a Rosemont Ridge eighth grader.
The camp's curriculum and activities were designed by the members of the robotics teams and included hands-on lessons in mechanical and chemical engineering, prototyping, coding and other STEM-related activities. In the robotics lab, Felsted taught a group how to make rockets that they later shot off at Mary S. Young Park.
In the classroom next door, Sophia Burden, Sam Felsted and Bryce Kelly showed a small group the ins and outs of how to program a robot. The team presented each camper with a miniature Lego robot that mimicked the assembly of one of their competition robots.
"It is really introducing programming to the group in a fun and easy to understand way," said Burden, a 10th grader.
Another group allowed attendees to take a set of life-size robots for a spin.
"My favorite part has been learning to assemble the robot and driving it around," said Three Rivers Charter School seventh grader Olivia Chang. "(The camp) has taught me how to make something from scratch, which has been very cool."
Campers also had the chance to hear from female speakers in the STEM field. On Wednesday, June 1, the group learned from a local innovation designer who talked about self-empowerment through technology.
"STEM fields, in general, are full of men. When you look up an engineer online, you will get pictures of a male, or a picture of a train, but a man is driving it," said robotics member Maddie Mathews. "So we wanted to give (the campers) role models that they could see themselves in, in STEM careers."
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