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July 19, 2018

SVSU summer camp empowers girls interested in computer, Internet technology

Rajani at Camp 18'Madison Crawford can see seventh grade approaching quickly, but thanks to a science-based camp for girls at Saginaw Valley State University, the Bullock Creek youth may have glimpsed even further into her future this summer.

In June, Crawford was one of 25 middle school-aged girls who participated in SVSU's Camp Infinity, a week-long outing featuring hands-on activities and college professors teaching and mentoring female youths interested in careers relating to computer and Internet technology.

The second-year camp represents a collaboration between The Dow Chemical Company, the Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation, IBM, Microsoft and SVSU, the camp's host. The first two gatherings proved enough of a hit with participants that organizers decided to offer an additional camp for high school-aged girls, scheduled from Monday to Friday, July 23-27.

Crawford, a self-proclaimed prospective computer science student despite only recently completing the sixth grade at Bullock Creek Middle School, said June's camp was an empowering experience that was punctuated by the participation of female professors and scientists who serve as role models.

“On the first day of camp, the teachers told us why they were interested in science, and it made me feel close to them,” she said.

“It's also easier to express yourself at Camp Infinity, because you are with other girls with some of the same interests as you. They're pursuing things I want to pursue.”

Those involved in June's camp developed smartphone apps in SVSU's computer labs; and built and programmed robots capable of responding to voice commands. The week culminated in a “dance party” with the student-built robots.

Betsy Diegel, SVSU's STEM mobile lab support specialist and Camp Infinity's director, said she was not surprised by the positive response from participants.

“I wish I would have had a program like this when I was a girl,” Diegel said. “I would have loved this.”

While Diegel went on to pursue a career in the sciences, she said programs such as Camp Infinity increase the likelihood other young girls will pursue their passion for STEM.

“We see females are so underrepresented in our region's STEM workforce,” she said. “Getting girls excited and exposed to this kind of education early on is crucial to changing that underrepresentation.”

A video showcasing Camp Infinity - and Crawford - is available at the following link: