STEM programs bring future female scientists to UIW

For the third consecutive year, UIW will host miniGEMS, a camp for middle school aged girls interested in STEM and STEAM programs. MiniGEMS is a student-run program led by undergraduate and graduate students from various UIW STEM programs will run from June through August. Guest speakers from throughout San Antonio will also provide information to the campers about careers in these fields.

MiniGEMS was the first camp in San Antonio for middle school aged girls that had a special focus on autonomous ground, air and underwater robots. Over 104 middle school girls will participate in the four 2017 miniGEMS camps, which were expanded to two weeks thanks to a $94,950 grant provided by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The goal of the camp is to introduce female students to the field of engineering through robotic projects, computer programming and graphic design.

The first week focuses on the EV3 Lego Mindstorms robots.  Campers will learn about robotics, sensors and computer programming. The students will also have the opportunity to build and compete using the SeaPerch underwater robots at the UIW Natatorium. The Navy Recruiting District San Antonio will help with this competition.

SeaPerch, an innovative underwater robotics program inspires and engages students and teachers through building an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). The name SeaPerch came from the USS Perch, a World War II U.S. Submarine, which was the first to possess an early form of air conditioning. The program provides an opportunity to its participants in learning basic concepts of engineering with a special focus in marine robotics.

The second week of the camp focuses on programming using the MATLAB Programming Language. Art will be integrated into the programming curriculum to engage the creative side of the miniGEMS campers.

The miniGEMS campers are students from Judson ISD, San Antonio ISD and Northside ISD. An end of summer conference and banquet set for August will provide campers with an opportunity to present the fruit of their labors to their parents, teachers other camp participants.

The miniGEMS camps are managed by Dr. Sreerenjini Nair, assistant professor of physics and Dr. Michael Frye, a tenured associate professor of engineering. Drs. Nair and Frye are also the co-directors and principle investigators of the AVS Laboratory that is in the School of Mathematics, Science & Engineering at UIW.

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