Thirty girls from fifth to eighth grade had the opportunity to program robots, fly drones and combine sensors and circuits tuition-free as part of the 2019 Girls In Technology Summer Academy, thanks to a grant from Lockheed Martin.
"I think it's cool how we're using robots and computers together," said Eliza Meersman, who'll be going into fifth grade at Colonial Elementary School in the fall. "I've liked the virtual reality, and I like all the different kinds of things we do."
The Colonial School District also partnered with LocoRobo Innovations for the week's resources, which included LocoXtreme for using and programming robots, LocoCAD for 3-D design and building, and LocoDrone for piloting and coding drones. The LocoRobo program introduced girls in fourth and fifth grades to coding using simple graphical blocks similar to what they've seen in technology class. Middle schoolers were challenged to program their drones using the coding language Python. The end of the week featured a robot design challenge for the younger girls and drone design challenge for the older ones.
"I like being able to explore different areas of technology and having a chance to meet new friends across the schools," explained Eliana Galleo, who'll be going into sixth grade at Colonial Middle School in the fall. "When we're all doing robotics together, it really makes it feel like a family."
Plymouth Whitemarsh High School Technology Teacher Mickey Engel, Business Teacher Nancy Labriccosa and Conshohocken Elementary Technology Teacher Nina Pratowski oversaw most of the sessions with help from students counselors, who were Plymouth Whitemarsh High School girls who have continued to study computers and technology after many of them participated in the camp when they were younger. Lockheed Martin also sent volunteers to the camp to lead activities with the girls.
"It's surprising how young these girls are," said Lockheed Martin Engineer Andrew Musta. "It's cool that they get to use technology in a way I wasn't able to at their age."
In addition to benefiting from the visitors' leadership during activities, the girls also learned about possible careers.
"We were really excited to talk to younger kids about engineering, because I know when I was a kid it would have been nice to hear from real engineers and talk to them about what they do on a daily basis," said Kyle Clark, a software engineer from Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed Martin Systems Integration and Test Engineer Michelle Stolz provided a short keynote address on Friday morning. Then a team of Lockheed Martin volunteers reviewed the girls' designs and gave the girls some last minute advice before judging the final presentations.
Awards were presented in the two age groups. Winners included: Most Organized — Olivia Teeters and the team of Bridget Fullerton and Eliana Galleo, Most High In Demand Topic — Naomi Hoffman and the team of Manya Keswani and Gabi Durante, and Most Interesting Idea — the team of Julie Werner and Jade Zhang-Wong and the team of Alyssa VanBuren and Abby Falicki.