Camp Empowers Girls to Join STEAM Careers

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Interest in math and science wanes as girls hit middle school — but local STEAM organizations are stepping up to keep that from happening to local students.

“We just want to encourage girls to think about math and science because typically middle school is when they start losing interest in these topics,” YWCA Mahoning Valley Chief Operating Officer Varada Bhide says. “We want to show them how learning math and science in school can lead to a career in their future.”

YWCA Mahoning Valley teamed up with the Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology, the Mahoning Valley Manufacturer’s Coalition and Vista AST’s Invent2Make program for the Y-Girls STEAM Ahead camp. The camp runs from June 21 to July 15 in Youngstown and July 5 to July 29 in Warren. This week, the camps overlapped and both camps met in Youngstown.

The camp is a part of an initiative started by Senator Sherrod Brown’s office in 2013 to cultivate an interest in manufacturing in the younger generation. This year, Brown’s office will help organize at least 24 camps in 17 counties, including Mahoning and Trumbull.

This year’s camp gives local fourth through eighth grade girls the chance to learn about STEAM career options, tour local manufacturing facilities and learn from experts through hands-on activities.

JeMyah Parker tries out the virtual reality headset that simulates a Mars exploration.

Campers got to explore musical engineering, the theme of the camp, by using materials to design and build their own working music record through 3D printing. Camp teacher Brandie Bartoe says the first two weeks of camp will be focused on going to different manufacturing places and teaching the girls about 3D printing.

The third and fourth week will be more in-depth technology lessons, including computer-aided design and coding. The girls also will build a Mars rover and must redesign the wheel tread to working order.

“I hope they learn the different fields of technology and engineering and that this may spark an interest in some of them,” she says. “It’s important to get them interested in careers that they may not have been exposed to otherwise. We just want to give our young women options.”

Bhide says there is a misconception when it comes to manufacturing jobs. The manufacturing world is “different than yesterday” and it’s not the “dirty and dusty jobs” it used to be. By highlighting careers like musical engineering, it shows girls a different side to the industry.

“Our goal is to get girls interested in manufacturing careers, we’ve seen that these careers offer higher pay and better quality of life,” she says. She adds that the camp aims to address the gender wage gap in STEM careers.

Women in STEM jobs tend to earn less than men. The median earnings of women in STEM occupations are about 74% of men’s median earnings in STEM, according to a study by Pew Research Center. Research also shows there are more men than women in STEM. Current trends in STEM degree attainment appear unlikely to substantially narrow these gaps, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of federal employment and education data.

“There are not many women in today’s careers. There’s a big gender pay gap. So, we’re trying to address these issues through these camps,” Bhide says. “We hope that the girls get more interested in science, technology and math of course, and we want them to think of some of these things as career options.”

Pictured at top: Victoria Flasher and Alena Scott work on the MARS Rover challenge with VISTA AST President John Scott.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.