Summer GAMES Camp encourages girls to pursue higher education in STEM

About 60 girls from middle schools in the Valley participated in this summer’s Girls Adventuring in Math, Engineering and Science (GAMES) Summer Camp on the UTRGV Edinburg Campus, hosted by UTRGV’s P-16 Outreach office. Here, the girls are working on fractal designs. (UTRGV photo by Maria Salazar)

By Neiby Rodriguez Rangel

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – SEPT. 9, 2016 – It was more than just fun and games this summer for five dozen middle school girls who moved onto UTRGV’s Edinburg Campus for a week of activities geared toward college life and STEM careers.

The “Girls Adventuring in Math, Engineering and Science” (GAMES) camp, hosted by UTRGV’s P-16 Outreach office, is a branch of P-16 Outreach’s Mother and Daughter Program (MDP), which focuses on improving mother/daughter relationships while encouraging and supporting the completion of high school and pursuing higher education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Funded by the Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation, GAMES is a one-week residential summer camp program that UTRGV’s legacy institution, UT Pan American, started in 2010. The summer camp gives students the opportunity to explore engineering and scientific fields through demonstrations, classroom presentations, hands-on activities, and contact with women professionals in STEM fields.

“We have different activities in this camp,” said Barbara Garza, director of UTRGV’s P16 Outreach, said. “The idea behind GAMES is that the girls get to explore different types of careers and activities in the STEM area via a hands-on learning approach.”

In addition to traditional lecture-style teaching in a classroom, the GAMES camp also provides students with hands-on learning activities, like fun experiments that help them watch the concepts they are taught come to life.

“We’ve created slime, we had lectures on campus. And my favorite was building circuits because my dad is an electrical engineer so I got to learn more about it,” Casey Charles, 13, a student from the South Texas Independent School District’s Rising Scholars Academy in San Benito said.

The camp is more than just lectures and experiments. The girls also attended a luncheon with women in leadership from UTRGV, who talked with the girls about their experiences and why it is important to pursue their passions and higher education.

Charles said the summer camp reinforced that she should follow her dreams, just like the women in the STEM area have done.

“I’m hoping to go into a STEM career, but I also want to be a professional soccer player,” she said. “I know that there’s a lot of competition, but my parents say that if I really want it, I should go for it. This camp has reassured that by bringing women speakers who shared their experiences.”

Briana Pichardo, a 14-year-old student at Longoria Middle School in the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, said she was inspired by what she learned at the camp.

“I’ve learned the importance of women going into the STEM careers,” Pichardo said. “It’s sad for me that this is my last year coming out to this camp. It has given me opportunities to grow and choose my path.”

The GAMES camp also gives students a real-life college experience by having them live in dorms on campus and take classes in UTRGV lecture halls.

“This camp is a really good experience for girls like me,” Pichardo said. “It’s fun to experience what college is like, to be inside of a dorm and to be apart from your family if only for a week.”

For more information about the GAMES summer camp and the Mother and Daughter Program, contact UTRGV P-16 Outreach at (956) 665-7597 or p16outreach@utrgv.edu. 

PHOTO GALLERY: https://www.flickr.com/gp/utrgvnews/5u94LF

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