The WiSE Girlz spring camp is designed to increase awareness and interest in the STEM disciplines among middle school girls. The hope is to expose girls to the fun side of science to inspire an interest in the science desciplines. The camp is usually headed by the external vice-president of the Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) group at the University of Florida.
This year's third annual WiSE camp was held March 20th-24th, 2017 and was sponsored by iDigBio with the help of Florida Museum of Natural History. The camp was filled with fun activities such as 3D printing, video game design, ice cream making, building a telescope, webpage design, and shark tooth hunting and fishing. We had six participants this year and each day had activities hosted by different departments. The students had lots of one on one conversations with scientists from different disciplines and they also got to see a real research lab during operation. Through this experience the kids were able to understand the significance of research/science in our everyday life. They were surprised at the different types of branches of science offered by UF and the significance/impact of each field in global level.
Students participated in a variety of science activities throughout the week. Monday students learned about digital arts; 3D printing and computer programming aimed at showcasing new technologies involved in the world of arts, medical science and programming. Tuesday students visited the departments of Physics and Chemistry who competed to teach students the fun side of liquid Nitrogen. It involved lot of cool explosions and levitating trains. Wednesday was hosted by Gator engineering where the kids learned a lot about engineering and also went home with lot of swag. The Astronomy department hosted Friday where kids learned to build a Galileoscope, which they took home at the end of the camp. The telescopes were sponsored by iDigBio. The most enjoyed day by the students was the Biology day and it was organized entirely by researchers and post-doc students at Florida Museum of Natural History.
For Biology day, the students were driven to Three Lakes Creek for shark tooth hunting. Researchers Victor Perez, Patrick Norby, Sean Moran, Adania Flemming organized different activities for the students in the field. The students were excited to learn about fossils, megladon shark, and stingray teeth and additionally collected different specimens and fossils while in the field. They also did an invertebrate activity where they caught different types of fishes. They spent the entire morning collecting fossils, fishes and teeth from the lake. They were then driven back to Dickinson Hall, where the researchers helped them identify different species of shark and taught them how to measure a shark tooth and 3D print them. After the shark tooth activity, the students identified the different species of fishes that they caught in the morning. The kids loved the field activities and were equally curious to understand and learn about the species they caught on the field.
In sum, students were generally pleased with the way the camp was designed and implemented. The camp was successful in 1) exposing students to STEM disciplines they were not aware of 2) engaging students in activities and information related to STEM fields; 3) informing students of careers and opportunities in STEM; and 4) creating student-‐student and student-‐scientist networking opportunities. Future initiatives should aim to broaden participation to include more diversity with respect to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and interests.
Contributed by: Malathy Elumalai