Inaugural G-BAM camp a great success


MechSE hosted up-and coming engineers the week of July 14 in its first week-long GAMES Camp (Girls' Adventures in Mathetmatics, Engineering, and Science) at Mechanical Engineering Laboratory and other sites on the University of Illinois campus. The camp was coordinated by Associate Professor Matthew West and Assistant Professor Elif Ertekin, along with MechSE education coordinator Joe Muskin.

Called Girls Building Awesome Machines (G-BAM), the camp was attended by up-and-coming high school engineers who worked in teams to build wind turbines as their major project. They also spent time with accelerometers, nanoparticles, solar energy, prosthetics, sand casting, injection molding, thermal imaging, 3-D printing and scanning, and CAD training.

"The inaugural GBAM camp was a huge success!" West said. "The participating girls were really mechanical engineers for a week—they designed, built, and tested many different machines and devices."

The camp coordinators educated the 15 campers on how machines work and how to design and construct new ones to solve challenging global problems. The campers also spent one afternoon on a field trip to the U of I Research Park, visiting John Deere, Caterpillar, and Bump.

"I was really impressed to see the creativity of the young girls who participated in GBAM," Ertekin said. "They came up with unique and clever designs for every activity we presented to them, from prosthetics design to solar ovens to zip line water balloons. It was exciting!"

The MechSE undergrads helping to run the camp were Taylor Boyke, Jessica Brown, Jin Kim, Alex Klieger, Alyssa Molinare, Arif Nelson, Sara Sedivy, Mingxiu Sun, and Sasank Vemulapati. The grad students were Jessie Bock, Chandini Jain, Danielle Joaquin, Michael Pennisi, Ritu Raman, Laurie Rustom, and Andrea Vozar.

"During camp week the girls made friends with each other and with the Illinois students who served as camp counselors and lab assistants," West said. "Working with the girls was a great experience for the undergraduate and graduate students. I found it so rewarding to see our current Illinois students working closely with the next generation, inspiring the girls and responding to their enthusiasm."

Faculty members Gaurav Bahl, SungWoo Nam, and Amy Wagoner Johnson also contributed to the educational activities throughout the week. Grad student Michael Pennisi and research engineer Keng Hsu ran the wind turbine project. MechSE staff members Betsy Powers, Mariana Silva Sohn, and Miki Takagi also were involved throughout the week.

Sponsored by Women In Engineering (WIE), the camp gives academically talented high school girls real engineering experience in a university setting, while encouraging them to enter normally male-dominated STEM fields. Other GAMES Camp tracks reflected other engineering disciplines: chemical, biological, environmental, aerospace, electrical, materials, and computer science.

In the years to come, girls in the G-BAM camp track may work on other projects with a global, humanitarian, or eco-friendly focus, such as building robots to clean up hazardous waste, creating prosthetics, or making water treatment systems that run on sunlight.

"It's very inspiring to see young females so excited about engineering," Ertekin said. "It's also inspiring to see how much talent there is in these women who will grow into the next generation of engineers."