Summer camp for girls that focuses on STEM a big success

Aug 5, 2016

It’s summer camp season across central and northern New York. Among the traditional kind of camps that teach swimming, theater or arts and crafts, is a first in the area only for girls who are interested in science, technology, engineering and math. 

Le Moyne College recently wrapped up its first ever, all women high school summer camp that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

The goal of the camp, according to camp director Meriel Stokoe, is to attract young women to the STEM fields.

Students show off some of their projects at the CNY STEM Summer Camp for Young Women
Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

"Hopefully they’ve taken away that STEM, science, technology, engineering and math can be fun,” said Stokoe. “We’ve had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs. But they’ve learned stuff. They’ve learned about robotics and coding. But the key thing they’ve learned is working together, to collaborate.”

Camper Sarah Popp from Fayetteville-Manlius high school says her favorite part was building a robot.

“We had to like, screw stuff together, and we had to do all the wiring, which was very complicated,” said Popp. “It was lot of wires to keep track of. We had some wiring mishaps, but in the end, it all worked out in the end.  And we had to download the computer program onto the robot so it could move around.”

It’s experiences like these that Central New York STEM Hub Chair Donna Desiato thinks will even out the playing field for women in STEM professions. Right now women make up 29 percent of the employees at major technology firms. And these are high paying jobs. Women in STEM careers make up to 33 percent more than women in non-STEM occupations.

“We’re trying to change that outcome, by broadening the opportunities women have at younger ages, for getting involved in not only the courses in those fields, but the actual application,” said Desiato.

30 girls from local high schools took part in the camp, half of them from high-risk areas. There was a waiting list, and Stokoe believes one of the aspects of the camp that made it so successful was that it was for girls only.

“Sometimes when they’re mixed gender camps, girls can be overshadowed by boys. But because there were no boys, no young men, there wasn’t that competitive aspect, so there were a lot of young ladies that wanted to sign up."