STEM Careers: Engaging Girls Early

App Camp helps girls gain skills, confidence

While the interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers is growing, statistics show women in STEM professions are underrepresented. The University of Missouri-Kansas City and its partners are addressing this issue.

In early August, the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Computing and Engineering partnered with KC STEM Alliance and KC Power Source on a week-long application camp just for girls. Twenty-two girls from seventh grade to high school seniors attended the camp hosted by the KC Engineering Zone, a supportive after-school environment for young people on the UMKC campus. At KC EZ, Kansas City’s K-12 urban students acquire real-world knowledge, skills and experience through hands-on STEM programming, initially through FIRST robotics. The goal is to ignite a passion for science, technology, engineering and math.
Look Like an Engineer550

During the same week as App Camp, the #ILookLikeAnEngineer social media campaign emerged. Campers joined the campaign and shared their own pictures with the hash tag. Kansas City’s Black & Veatch also joined in. Paige Norris, UMKC SCE student and Black & Veatch intern, was included in an Instagram post.

Activities such those at KC EZ and App Camp are helping. In fact, research shows youth who participate in precollege and summer STEM activities are more likely to pursue a STEM education in college. With more than 1,700 students, the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering has grown 76 percent since 2010, awards more than 70 scholarships annually and has experienced a 75 percent increase in scholarships since 2008.

The girls at App Camp learned the basics of app development, created test applications and designed their own apps for Android platform cell phones. They used special software called MIT App Inventor. In addition, camp organizers brought in daily speakers to talk about their careers. Because girls relate differently to science and math, connecting them with role models was essential.

“The goal of the camp was to show them there are women in STEM fields and there are a lot of opportunities in STEM careers,” said Gretchen Neis of KC STEM Alliance. “We wanted the girls to gain confidence and empower them to pursue a career in the STEM field if they are interested. We had a very successful camp.”

Kaylan Johnson, 14, was excited about App Camp. She and her partner created a digital planner.

“It’s so much fun,” Johnson said. “I’m learning so much.”

App Camp550At the end of the week, the girls presented their apps to families, community leaders and a panel of judges, which included local women in STEM careers. Apps created by the girls included Personal Stylist, which matches hairstyle and clothing options; My Medical Records Pro, a personal database; and Digital Planner.

Partners for the Girls App Camp were Black and Veatch, Burns and McDonnell, Cerner, DST Systems, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Garmin, Google Fiber and Honeywell.

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