Ashton Marra Published

#girlsinSTEM: Camp Looks to Boost Women in the Workforce


A group of 24 high school girls from across West Virginia are spending the week on the campus of WVU Tech in Montgomery, designing shoes and testing mock samples for the AIDS virus.

The girls are participating in WVU Tech’s first ever all girls STEM camp, short for science, technology, engineering and math.

Throughout the week, the girls will participate in classes in various STEM fields. In a lesson on computer programming, they learned to plot a path for a robot. In biology, they learned how to test fake blood samples for viruses and how to track the samples back to donors, and in a biomechanics course, the girls learned how to build shoes out of paper that would hold up under the body’s weight.

  A team of three W.Va. High school girls compete in @wvu_tech's all girls STEM camp shoe building competition. (If you can't tell from the video, as soon as Sarah stands, her paper sandals collapse!) More on the camp tomorrow on #WVMorning at 7:41! A video posted by West Virginia Public News (@wvpublicnews) on Jul 1, 2015 at 2:17pm PDT

In addition to their lessons in various engineering and science fields, the campers are also interacting with college students majoring in STEM, with female professors from the university, and professionals brought in as guest speakers in the hopes of encouraging them to follow their love of science and math later in life while choosing a career.

“There’s still a large gap in the number of women that are in engineering. We’re not seeing as many women go into engineering and stay in engineering,” said Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Kimberlin Gray.

As one of the camp’s organizers, Gray hopes to change that trend.

“One of the things that a lot of research has shown when people have looked into why is that people are more likely to go into things where they have role models and mentors that have already done those kinds of things,” she explained.

“I feel like [role models] are hard to find in my community” Buckhannon Upshur High School senior Laura Dean said.

“A lot of people in my school, I don’t think they’re really into engineering. So, I can’t really point out to my community and say I want to be like her.”

  More from @wvu_tech: the only group whose shoes didn't collapse! #girlsinSTEM A video posted by West Virginia Public News (@wvpublicnews) on Jul 1, 2015 at 2:19pm PDT

Camp counselor and mechanical engineering student Kaylah Bovard said her role is to show the girls that despite the lack of woman working in STEM fields, it’s a viable career option.

“If you really are enjoying this and you really are great at math or science or you even just have a passion for it, you can succeed in this field,” Bovard said.

The camp lasts through Friday on the Montgomery campus.