STOW — If someone had stopped at Lakeview Intermediate School on June 27, they would have seen fourth- and fifth-grade girls working in teams to solve a conundrum. Or programming robots. Or learning about women scientists.
Or sharing what they liked about the four-day camp offered to them at the school.
"Learning to code."
"Making new friends."
"We learned about women scientists."
The Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math camp was not only organized so the girls could have fun, learn how to be leaders, make new friends and learn more about science — important goals in and of themselves — the camp also was created to help combat some sobering statistics. Jandra Cotts, the math coach for the district’s kindergarten through sixth grade, said that according to research she has seen, when 6-year-old girls were asked to draw a scientist, 70 percent will draw a picture of a female scientist. By the time girls are 16, only about 25 percent will draw a female scientist.
Nearly 50 girls came out to this inaugural camp which had a capacity of 60, Cotts said. The camp was free because of a grant and Cotts added she hoped the camp would become a regular offering for the district.
The four-day camp was paid for through Title IV funds from the state, said Rebecca Fredmonsky, the gifted coordinator for the Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools.
"We chose women in STEAM," Fredmonsky said.
The cost of the program, which was paid for entirely with the grant, was $8,500, said Happy Bangston, the Title 1 coordinator for the district. The bulk of this was to purchase 30 Edison Robots and 18 Cue Robots, which will remain at the school; other schools in the district will have the opportunity to borrow them as well.
The girls participating in the camp can now assist their teachers and peers with the robots. "These girls will be acting as STEAM ambassadors," Fredmonsky said. "They will be able to help both teachers and students."
Fredmonsky said the Stow-Munroe Falls schools have a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program during the school year that runs from 2 to 6 p.m.
"We’ve noticed that when we get to fifth and sixth grade, there’s a drop-off in girls," Fredmonsky said. "By high school, there are rarely any girls in STEM. Mr. [Garrett] Mattes [tech ed teacher at the high school] usually only has one or two. We are trying to catch them early, at a critical time in their educational career, to keep them interested and focused in STEM and STEAM."
Activities on the final day included a presentation on a woman in a science field (Cynthia Breazeal, an associate professor of media arts and sciences at MIT and a pioneer of social robotics and human robot interaction), sharing what they most enjoyed about the camp, and participating in a small group activity where they had to debate and agree on a problem.
The issue was that they were having to head into a lifeboat, and they could only bring a certain number of items. The girls, in groups of four and five, had to decide which items were more important to bring. For the most part, the groups agreed on what to bring and what not to bring. Most groups, for example, agreed to bring matches. However, one group opted to leave the matches behind in favor of a knife because one of their members had glasses. The girls decided they could use the lenses to help start a fire, if needed.
All the groups decided they would have left the two boxes of chocolate.
"But I would have kept the boxes," one girl said. Just the boxes, though. For kindling.
Many girls said their favorite activity was programming the robots. They learned to code the robots to do various simple tasks, using tablets to create and, as needed, edit their code.
Zoey McCullough and Kate Rakic, both 11, and Ady Wills, 10, worked together to guide their Edison robot through the course they had created.
"We are coding a robot to go through this track," said Ady. "We are starting here and end here."
"Hopefully," Kate said.
"Yeah, hopefully," Ady agreed.
"We started off with a circle track, but that was too challenging," Zoey added.
Some girls, like Ady, Kate and Zoey, were working with the Edison Robots, where they drew an obstacle course on a large sheet of paper and worked on their programming so the robot would drive through it. The other girls worked with the Cue robots, larger bots with a capacity to hold special markers and that could draw lines on sheets of paper.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC