At GADgET Camp, Girl Power is Fueled by Science, Math & Power Tools

GadgetCamp© GADgET Camp

Triton College’s GADgET camp (an acronym for Girls Adventuring in Design Engineering and Technology) is an all-girls summer camp program that creates a safe place for girls to explore their geekier side.

Held in River Grove, Illinois, the four-day program -- for girls between the ages of 12 and 16 -- empowers and creates an interest in engineering technology in girls by providing them their own tool kit, teaching them how to use heavy equipment, and applying math and science concepts to projects they completed during the program.

As part of the camp activities last year, the first time the program was offered, the girls toured a metal fabrication shop, learned about production design, and had the opportunity to create their own gadgets using heavy-duty machinery in a fabrication lab.

Gadget Camp© GADgET Camp

It was the first time many of the girls had been exposed to machinery of this kind and it left quite an impression on them.

“That was my first time being around a machine like that. It was thrilling,” said 14-year-old Jaimee Burke after she operated a drill press.

The camp, which was partly funded through a grant from the national manufacturing summer camp program, Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs, was conceived by Camp Director and Triton Engineering Technology instructor Antigone Sharris.

Gadget Camp© GADgET Camp

“Not only do I want to generate interest in the field among young girls, but I want them to feel independent and empowered,” she said.

Sharris notes that only about 15 percent of the students enrolled in the Engineering Technology program at Triton College are females. She believes that opportunities like the one-of-a-kind GADgET camp will fuel a growth of women in the industry if they’re reached at an early age.

Why is a camp that recruits girls interested in engineering important?

Gadget Camp© GADgET Camp

“Typically, when boys and girls are in a class together, girls tend to let the boys dominate, instead of taking on a leadership role,” reflected Marcia Arndt, board member of Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs, last year after the camp’s completion. “This program is a good concept in that it is giving the girls the necessary attention and opportunity to take the lead.”

Gadget Camp© GADgET Camp

At least one mother feels just as strongly about the importance of the camp. Valeria Elliot read about the camp last year in the New York Times and decides it was an opportunity her daughter couldn’t miss. So that her daughter can participate in the program she’s making the 700-mile trip between Triton College in River Grove, Ill. And Greensboro, N.C.

“I have been searching for opportunities for her,” Elliott wrote in an e-mail to Sharris. “[GADgET Camp] seems like a perfect match for my daughter’s interests and I think it could give her the motivation she needs to continue learning about this field… She is a bright girl, and I think she would feel very empowered [sic] if she can have this type of experience with other girls and have access to female role models in science.”

Gadget camp© GADgET Camp

Sadly, one young girl who will not be able to attend GADgET Camp again is Dominique Thomas of Maywood, Ill. Dominique’s dream of becoming an engineer ended shortly after attending the camp last year when a car crashed through her family’s home killing her as she slept. But Dominique’s dream will live on in other women through the Dominique’s Dream Scholarship offered to female students at Triton College pursuing a technical career in manufacturing.

GADgET Camp is full for this summer, but you can contact Antigone Sharris, program coordinator, at (708) 456-0300, ext. 3622, or e-mail to learn more for next year.

At GADgET Camp, Girl Power is Fueled by Science, Math & Power Tools
This one-of-a-kind gadget camp program encourages girls to enter the engineering field.

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