Young STEM Divas manufacture visions of cool career paths at camp

Erin Spencer, a graduate student in instructional technology from Rochelle, Illinois, helps Caitlin Cassello with measuring while Lauren Feji waits for assistance on her LEGO woodworking project as a part of the one-day STEM Divas summer camp.
Erin Spencer, a graduate student in instructional technology from Rochelle, Ill., helps Caitlin Cassello with measuring while Lauren Feji waits for assistance on her LEGO woodworking project as a part of the one-day STEM Divas summer camp.

Young girls in florescent pink T-shirts and matching hard hats explored careers in engineering July 21 during NIU’s one-day STEM Divas camp.

Led by mechanical engineer Pettee Guerrero, the brilliant budding scientists enjoyed a tour of the Engineering Building and tried their hands at soldering and LEGO woodworking projects that required numerous tools.

STEM Divas is an initiative geared toward creating a community of confident female leaders and learners age 7 and older who embrace femininity while using hands-on activities to experience science, technology, engineering and math.

Camp activities also included conversations between the campers and their mentors on stereotypes of females in STEM. Mentoring gives each girl an opportunity to get to know a professional STEM educator or a female student from one of NIU’s STEM majors

“These kinds of opportunities are so important for young women today, and it’s crucial that we reach them while they are still excited about learning concepts in all subjects. Statistically, girls’ performance and interest in STEM subjects drops off in middle and high school,” Guerrero said. “The young women we bring in as mentors are so excited to participate. They can see themselves in these girls and want to help keep them interested in science and technology.”

Tuesday’s camp was cool enough to attract the attention of Rockford TV news anchor Christie Nicks, who visited Swen Parson Hall for a up-close look.

NIU’s STEM Outreach delivers off-campus programs and on-campus activities designed to increase science, technology, engineering and mathematics literacy and enthusiasm among P-12 students, their families and educators. Each fall, it sponsors the enormously popular STEMfest, scheduled this year for Saturday, Oct. 17, in the NIU Convocation Center.

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