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School District Five STEM Camp for girls provides exploration of potential careers

For Immediate Release – June 20, 2019



School District Five STEM Camp for girls provides exploration of potential careers

IRMO – Fifty rising eighth and ninth grade girls in School District Five attended the fourth annual G.E.M.S. camp at the district’s Center for Advanced Technical Studies (The Center).


The G.E.M.S. (Girls in Energy, Media, Mechatronics and Space) were a select group of students who were recommended by their middle schools because of their interest in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) field. The camp has been funded through a $15,000 grant from Verizon since it launched in 2015.


“The G.E.M.S. Camp exposes girls in our district to career areas that have been traditionally dominated by males,” said Patrick Smallwood, Clean Energy Technology Instructor at The Center. “It is extremely important to our society that we have a diverse mix of career professionals in all STEM areas. That diverse mix must include minority and female scientists, engineers, and technology professionals in order to continue to bring fresh, new ideas to the career fields.”


The camp experiences offer middle school age girls the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning activities in order to help them make decisions about their elective high school courses and their eventual college and career choices.


“This is a critical time for these girls and their career exploration,” G.E.M.S. camp director and career coordinator at The Center Becky Carter said. “We want to show them some of the opportunities we offer here at The Center. This is an important time where we hope to help them narrow their career focus.”


The camp, which ran from June 17-20, offered different sessions in energy, media, mechatronics and space. Sessions included using the principles of hydraulics and pneumatics to build a water fountain, designing a cup to keep water hot for 10 minutes, building monochords, creating short films, and putting together a solar powered night light.


Campers also had the chance to hear from professional females in the industries of energy, media, mechatronics and space each day.  Dr. Jamelle Ellis, Director of Community and Government Services in Columbia about environmental engineering and Sara Miller, a current Ph.D. student in Aerospace Engineering under the auspices of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Fellowship at Georgia Tech’s High-Power Electric Propulsion Laboratory and works at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH.


“Hearing from professional women, seeing that anything they do will take effort and persistence, is a wonderful way to inspire the GEMS campers and help them visualize their own future.” Carter said. “The more they can hear from professional women the greater their own confidence grows for their own career pathways. We are working to make intentional Career Technology Education and STEM connections for girls in School District Five.”