Photo by: Simon Fraser University - University Communications via Flickr
AspireIT is a summer camp focused on getting girls in grades 6 through 12 engaged and involved in working with technology.
The four-day camp focuses on STEM Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics with a curriculum teaching young ladies how to understand computer coding and programming while they also have fun with robots and shooting liquid bottle rockets into the sky.
Jaylene Saez and her twin sister Anabelle, are 11-year-olds participating in a coding activity. Jaylene brought a turtle icon to life when the turtle started drawing another turtle and made it turn a teal color. Annabelle quickly jumped back to her screen and attempted to make the same thing with a pink turtle.
This sort of thing went on the entire day at the Fort Myers campus for Hodges University, where the camp has been held for six years now.
Tracy Lanham, associate dean of Hodges' Fisher School of Technology, said "The point of the camp is to get our young ladies in grades six-through-12 engaged and involved in technology, because they don't always know the opportunities that are out there." She also said "This kind of gives them a step up because there is such a huge gender gap in technology." Lanham also explained how females only make up for 22 to 26 percent of the technology fields global workforce, while at the management and CEO level the numbers make a major decline according to current statistics.
Lanham said "There is such a significant gender gap in technology, and we have to do something," Lanham said, later adding: "We need to tap our largest resource, which is our female population."
This is the reason why the National Science Foundation is funding the National Center for Women & Information Technology, which in turn offers grants to programs just like the all-girl summer camp offered by Hodges. The summer camp is a big part of this program.
Florida Gulf Coast University student and camp instructor Alexa Brandstetter explained how girls are just not really exposed the the STEM world like boys are, even in their regular schools. Brandstetter said "Nothing against the boys, STEM is fun.Don't get me wrong, I love it and they should, too.But sometimes the girls tend to step back from it and let the boys take over it, and so this kind of encourages them to take it over themselves and see how much they can do themselves and realize how much fun it is for everybody,"
Camp-goers like like 11 year old Katherine Hawkes feel the exact same way. Hawkes’ mother works at Hodges and when she was made aware of the camp she asked if her daughter may like to join, Katherine replied 'Yeah, I'll just give it a try.' And I like it a lot," she said. "I like the coding and doing all the technology things and the experiments that we do." During her time at the camp Katherine made a gooey substance out of cornstarch and water as part of a science experiment, along with learning more about potential job options in the field of technology.
The Collier County campus of Hodges will hold another camp on August 4 and 5th and continuing on August 11th and 12th.The camp only costs $20 per person with lunch, supplies, and swag provided.
Scholarships are also available to those in need.