Posted July 19, 2013

Summer girls’ STEM camps bust math and engineering stereotypes

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) have typically been thought of as male-oriented fields. To help overcome this bias, Temple recently hosted two week-long programs to support and encourage interest in math and engineering by middle and high school girls.

“Research has shown that it is at the middle school level that girls turn their attention away from mathematics and to other fields,” said Temple Mathematics Professor Irina Mitrea, director of the Girls and Mathematics Program in Temple’s College of Science and Technology.

Fifty girls in fifth through eighth grades were introduced to mathematical concepts beyond what they would normally learn in their schools, participating in fun and creative exercises designed to demonstrate that math can be exciting, beautiful and useful.

A second camp, the College of Engineering’s Women’s Engineering Exploration (WE2), was held to introduce female high school students to bio, civil, electrical, environmental and mechanical engineering fields. Twenty-one girls entering their sophomore, junior or senior years also lived in a Temple residence hall, giving them an opportunity to experience college life.

The female students met with professional female engineers who can serve as role models and mentors, got hands-on experience in Temple engineering labs and made a day-long trip to NASA’s Goddard Space Center.

“It kind of helps when there are more women in engineering; it’s not a male domain at all,” said Aarthi Sunder, a Temple doctoral student in mechanical engineering who served as a counselor for WE2. “(The camp) is great; I wish I had an opportunity like this when I was (in high school).”