- Associated Press - Friday, July 15, 2016

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Eleven-year-old Madelynn Pemberton figured it would be fun see what an engineer does.

“I think it’s really cool to see all the machines and learn why they work,” said Madelynn, one of 46 girls from South Bend’s Brown, Navarre, Jackson and Jefferson intermediate centers who are participating in the GE [email protected] Dame summer camp.

The camp, in its third year, invites local sixth- through ninth-grade girls to spend a week at the University of Notre Dame and participate in science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) related activities, hoping to instill in young girls an early interest in science and engineering careers. It is sponsored by GE Global Research, GE Healthcare, Notre Dame and the Women’s Network of Chicago.

“This is my favorite week of the year, easily,” Jennifer Lankfer, camp leader and program manager for network services at GE Digital, said. “We’re trying to empower the girls to know that the field can be for them, too, and it’s not just a male-dominated field.”

Notre Dame faculty and GE personnel lead the camp workshops and each day has a different theme. Themes this year include civil engineering, programming, electrical, aerospace and aviation, physics and chemistry.

Victoria Goodrich, director of the First-Year Engineering program at Notre Dame, emphasized the need for more women to become interested in STEM subjects before college. She said at Notre Dame, the College of Engineering is about 33 percent women. Although above the national average of about 20 percent, she said she’d like to see that number be closer to 50 percent. This week’s camp, she said, is one way to get closer to that goal.

“Our numbers in college aren’t representative of women in the workforce either. It kind of gets a little thinner and thinner as you go through the ranks,” Goodrich said. “The hope for me is that I can get more women coming into a program like mine.”

Some activities the camp offers the girls are programming LEGO robots, creating a smartphone app, making lip balm and designing and testing Alka-Seltzer rockets.

Tyrah Jones, 14, said her favorite activity was working with snap circuits and learning about wiring.

“I don’t know if every girl knows what they want to be right now and this camp is for them to explore their options. This is a really great, hands-on type of camp,” Tyrah said.

Lankfer said what stands out the most to her is the difference in the students from the first day of camp to the last day of camp. She said the students start off shy at first but by day five, everyone is raising their hands and the girls gain a confidence that allows them to stand up and present in front of their peers about STEM-related topics.

“For us, a win is if they start taking a class that’s engineering related that they wouldn’t have taken otherwise,” Lankfer said. “We know that … it won’t turn into all of them doing it. But if there’s a few people that didn’t think about it before and now they do, that’s all we want.”

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Source: South Bend Tribune, https://bit.ly/29BvyGC

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Information from: South Bend Tribune, https://www.southbendtribune.com

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