Sonoma State University is playing host to a free two-week STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) summer program for 24 middle school girls from throughout Sonoma County. Known as the Girls Tinker Academy, the camps is designed to engage and inspire students in makerspace activities that encourage the exploration and development of technical, mathematical and design skills.
The camp is being conducted under the leadership of faculty members Dr. Natalie Hobson of the Sonoma State Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Dr. Anamary Leal from the Computer Science Department. Twelve SSU students from the School of Science and Technology are serving as mentors to the middle school participants during the academy.
“I do not want girls to feel silenced or shut out by being a minority in the community of makers and innovators,” said Hobson. “I want to provide a space for girls to create, explore, and grow without feeling unwelcome due to gender.” Hobson said the Girls Tinker Academy “gives the girls space to make with other girls and develop relationships with strong female role models in the STEM community.”
Sonoma State’s School of Science and Technology is hosting the day camp in partnership with Community Women in STEM Equity, a project of the Career Technical Education Foundation Sonoma County. The camp is based in the school’s new makerspace area within the university library and seeks to encourage girls to “dream, make, & innovate” with the help of state-of-the-art technology and equipment.
Each day offers a combination of guided maker activities and time for students to “tinker” on self-designed projects that foster creative thinking and problem-solving skills. Class time also includes presentations designed to educate, inspire and motivate girls to pursue their interests in STEM education and careers.
Hobson said girls should start at an early age being involved in STEM activities so that they can have a wide variety of experiences to explore their particular interests and feel part of a STEM community, said Hobson. “For girls in particular, involvement in STEM at an early age can help to eliminate feelings of not belonging by little exposure.”
Scheduled activities include paper circuits, 3D modeling, crafting, sewing and robotics.
On Thursday, Aug. 2, the campers will showcase projects created while participating in the Girls Tinker Academy beginning with opening remarks from Sonoma State University President Judy K. Sakaki at 10 a.m. in the SSU Makerspace located on the second floor of the University Library. (Watch the showcase)
This is the first year the two-week academy has been offered. The university received 64 applications for the 24 seats available for the inaugural class. Participants were chosen based on their demonstrated passion for STEM and Making, and statements about why they wanted to be a part of the Academy.