Last week, the University of Kentucky hosted 19 junior high and high school girls in a a STEM camp (science, technology, engineering and math) designed specifically for girls. The Aqua Bots Summer Camp is a day camp offered on the UK campus – this year, from July 30 to August 2nd.
The camp teaches the girls about underwater robotics, or “waterbotics,” using the Lego Mindstorm system. The curriculum is based on “Waterbotics”, a component of a NSF ITEST (Innovation Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers) Scale-Up grant, known as Build IT Underwater Robotics Scale-Up for STEM Learning and Workforce Development (BISU) Project. Students were engaged in supervised activities from 9:00 AM until 3:00 PM, led by Sue Scheff (Division of Undergraduate Education, UK), Jann Burks (Agriculture Extension Specialist, UK), Stacey Jones (an engineer from Lexmark), and Dr. Bruce Walcott (College of Engineering, UK).
Aqua Bots Camp at UK is supported by the National Girls STEM Collaborative, Cooperative Extension Service and 4-H Youth Development. Additional support for the camp comes from Lockheed Martin and AT&T to support scholarships and camp supplies. Over the last three years, Lockheed Martin has also provided annual grants to UK for STEM programs and presented a $3,000 donation at the camp’s showcase event last week.
But the camp at UK was one of several this year. Sue Scheff and Jann Burks facilitated a training for Kentucky educators on the “Aquabots Summer Program” curriculum on March 11 – 13, 2013, at the UK/Lexmark Center for Innovation in Math & Science Education. Twenty-nine educators and program administrators from nine Kentucky counties participated in the 3-day training. This five-year $2.5 million program aims to reach between 6,000 and 11,000 middle and high school students with an intensive STEM experience based in a series of underwater robotics design and programming challenges. These trained educators are offering camps this summer for girls in their respective counties supported by Dr. Bruce Walcott, UK College of Engineering; Stacey Casey, Lexmark; the Kentucky Girls STEM Collaborative; and, 4-H Extension.
The camps have been successful not only as an academic challenge for the summertime but also for modeling a new career opportunity for girls. Yulien at the end of the video above admitted she had wanted to be a teacher but now that she had attended the camp, she has begun to aspire to be an engineer: “I love math and science, and I think engineering, and I like to use robots. I’d like to be a teacher, but after coming to this camp I feel more like being an engineer… because, they’re kinda like, ‘engineering is awesome,’ and now I feel like engineering IS awesome!”