Shepherd offers STEM camp for middle school girls
Organizers of a Shepherd University math and science camp called Seeding Your Future scheduled for October 4 hope the middle school-age girls who attend will be inspired to consider careers in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
Dr. Sytil Murphy, assistant professor of physics, and Dr. Jordan Mader, assistant professor of chemistry, received a $4,145 grant from the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium to put on the camp. They said Shepherd is matching the grant with about $6,000 in cost sharing that consists mainly of donated faculty time to run the event.
Fourteen Shepherd faculty members will teach 75 girls in fifth through eighth grade. Professional women who work in the traditionally male fields of science, math, engineering, and technology, as well as Shepherd students, will also be involved.
Murphy and Mader said the need for more professionals in the STEM fields provides opportunity for young women as they consider what career to pursue.
“Girls are being discouraged, maybe not overtly, but hinted at that they can’t do these topics,” Mader said.
“Or maybe it’s just inappropriate, that’s not something a girl should do,” Murphy added.
Seeding Your Future will offer hands-on workshops that will teach some kind of scientific, technological, or mathematical lesson and will include projects the girls can take home. Topics covered include:
Edible Chemistry, how food is made
Water Bugs and Stream Pollution, learning about aquatic insects
Why You Don’t Get Too Hot When You Burn Food, exploring how the body controls the release of energy in water
Tower of Hanoi Game, finding the minimum number of moves to solve the puzzle
Can You Dig It, an archaeological exploration using cool math tricks
The day-long event will feature a plenary session, panel discussion, classes, lunch, and games. Mader and Murphy said they are glad to have a chance to work with younger students.
“Seeing that sort of look of wonder, that ah moment, when somebody realizes that science is not just an old man with crazy hair in a white lab coat bubbling some colorful liquids,” Mader said. “It is kind of an awesome moment just to see that look of wonder on their faces.”
“You get an enthusiasm from working with this age group that often is missing at the college level,” Murphy said. “It is incredibly exhausting but incredibly refreshing.”
Seeding Your Future takes place Saturday, October 4 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at Shepherd University. It’s free and open to girls in fifth through eighth grade. Enrollment is limited to 75 students with a preference given to students from West Virginia. The deadline to register is September 19. Registration forms are available at seedingyourfuture.weebly.com. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.