From girls going digital to mechanical engineering, Dixie State hosts STEM camps for kids of all ages

Girls learn about technology at Girls Go Digital, 2018, location not specified | Photo courtesy of Girls Go Digital, St. George News

ST. GEORGE Dixie State University is offering 20 STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – programs to students ranging from kindergarten to college students.

Many of the programs offered by DSU are summer camps, lasting from one to nine weeks, while others are longer afterschool programs.

Two of the most popular camps are “Girls Go Digital” for girls ages 8-18 and the “Mechanical Engineering Camp” for high school students and recent graduates.

Girls learn about technology at Girls Go Digital, 2018, location not specified | Photo courtesy of Girls Go Digital, St. George News

Girls Go Digital

Girls Go Digital is a four-day camp for girls ages 8-18 that teaches them about computer programming, design, robot programming, e-textiles, micro-controllers, soldering circuit boards and more.

Girls Go Digital is offering eight camps at six different colleges in Utah this year. The next camp takes place at Dixie State from July 16 – 19.

The program was founded in 2013 by Rachel Ramsay, an assistant professor of digital design at Dixie State as an experiment during her thesis research in graduate school.

Girls Go Digital is different from other technology programs designed for girls because they start with a younger age group. While the majority of programs teach girls 12 years old and up, they start at age 8. The program started with six students and has grown to approximately 700 students this year.

Girls Go Digital gives girls a hands-on experience with technology and computer science, hoping to expose them to subjects that they might not otherwise pursue due to gender norms or from feeling uncomfortable as a minority in STEM classes, Ramsay said.

Ramsay looked at a way to make technology-related projects more accessible to girls to work towards closing the gender gap in technological fields. For this reason, she reversed the traditional method of teaching STEM classes. Instead of teaching students a skill and then telling them how they can apply it, she shows girls how they can make a difference in the world with technology and then gives them the skills to do so.

Girls are taught computer science using a hands-on approach at Girls Go Digital, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of Girls Go Digital, St. George News

The curriculum for the program changes some from year to year, as some girls attend three or four years in a row.

“We’re always coming up with new projects to grow with the girls,” Ramsay said.

One of the most popular activities in the program is called “Break Stuff” where the younger group of girls, ages 8-10, get to take apart a computer and learn about the properties, tools and computer parts. This year they started giving each girl their own tool kit, which they get to keep.

“We don’t often encourage girls to break stuff, or build stuff,” Ramsay said.

The program received its initial funding through Dixie State’s Information Technology Department. Without the support that the university and its administration have provided, the program could not succeed, she said.

Girls Go Digital will take place July 16-19, with classes running from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The cost is $295 per student. A $45 discount can be applied using code EB2DSU18 on a first-come first-served basis.

To register for an upcoming camp, click here.

Mechanical Engineering Camp

The Mechanical Engineering Camp offers a hands-on introduction to mechanical engineering, including mechanism design, thermal science, electronics and circuits.  

The camp takes place July 9-12 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Dixie State Smith Computer Center. The program is for kids from 10th grade to those who just graduated high school. It is free for all accepted participants thanks to scholarships that cover their tuition.

David Christensen, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Dixie State, said the Mechanical Engineering Camp includes an introduction to the kinematic equations of projectiles by having students calibrate a bouncy-ball shooter and compete in an accuracy contest with it.  

Another activity has students build an RC model boat using motors, electronics and 3D-printed parts to introduce them to electronics. Then the students compete in an obstacle course with the boats.

The students also learn to design a bridge which is an introduction to trusses by using design software to calculate strength. Students get to use a 3D printer to design their trusses, then they compete to see whose bridge is strongest.

Some other activities include a rapid design challenge, a fluids demonstration, heat transfer and mechanisms.

To register for the Mechanical Engineering Camp, click here.

Email: mshoup@stgnews.com

Twitter:  @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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