Girls study STEAM at Plum School District’s first camp
Leilani Nickles will enter sixth grade at Oblock Junior High School in Plum this coming school year with the knowledge of how to program a felt unicorn to dance along a rainbow.
Along with other participants of the district’s first female STEAM Camp at Plum High School, Leilani learned skills related to robotics during a program aimed at boosting her interest and confidence when it comes to the subjects of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.
The camp took place from June 18 through 21 and was open to all girls in the Alle-Kiski Valley headed into sixth through ninth grades.
The young campers used drones, virtual-reality equipment, 3D printers, a laser engraver, Hummingbird robotics kits and other materials to make things move and light up. They also developed apps and customized bags and T-shirts.
Leilani worked with fellow 11-year-olds Sofia Watt of Deer Lakes and Mikayla Gorsuch of Lower Burrell, who are also entering sixth grade at their respective schools this year. She said it was fun making things with students from other districts.
“They’re my friends and they’re nice people,” Leilani said. “I enjoyed doing the drones.”
Some campers used circuits, tape, thread and googly eyes to make a robot family while others used string, plastic cups, lights, computer programs and cardboard to mimic telephones.
“It’s fun, and I feel like a programmer,” Selina Boea, 11, of Penn Hills said. “If you want to go to college to learn these types of things, you already know them now.”
Camp was organized by Plum high school computer science teacher Stephanie Reilly, elementary teacher Martha Freese and high school Principal Justin Stephans.
“It’s just incredible what these girls have done,” Reilly said. “It’s well researched and documented that middle school girls have a drop in interest and confidence in STEM-related technologies. We want to counteract that. We want them to have this confidence so when they roll into high school they’re taking computer science class and taking engineering and taking over. We don’t want them falling back in middle school. We want them charging forward.”
About 60 students participated. High school students helped out at the various STEAM stations. Staffers Tamar McPherson, Colleen Spears, Megan Gillis and Kristen Rowe also assisted.
Camp was funded through grants from Google, the National Educational Association and ABC CREATE at Penn State New Kensington with donations from several businesses.
A teachers’ STEAM camp, also open to surrounding districts, was to take place last week. ABC CREATE staffers planned to instruct educators on how to use the latest technologies and incorporate new initiatives into their classrooms.
“Our world is changing so quickly, and we need to change some of the ways we teach and learn,” Penn State New Kensington STEAM outreach coordinator Colleen Smith said. “We need to help these kids build skills so they can live in this world.”
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter @mikejdivittorio.