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FCA US Women's Group puts on second annual Gearing Up Girls for STEM summer camp

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EGG DROP — Ken Parry, associate professor of industrial technology and workforce consultant for Ivy Tech Community College, drops a team's egg, held in a contraption made up of paper, cotton balls, and straws, to the ground to see if it can withstand the impact.

With 20 minutes to design a contraption to protect a raw egg from a high fall for an egg drop experiment, partners Deztinee Johnson and Saydee Simpson weren’t taking any chances.

Instead of putting the raw egg into their contraption made of straws, paper, and cotton balls first like most teams, they inserted a stress ball made of cornstarch so they could test their design on their own by dropping it to see if it would flatten. When it did, the girls adjusted their design by adding more layers of protection.

As the girls headed to the area where Ken Parry, associate professor of industrial technology and workforce consultant for Ivy Tech Community College, would drop all the teams’ eggs from a high ladder onto a concrete floor, they were feeling good about their egg, dubbed “Thicky Nicky.”

Their design worked. Johnson and Simpson’s egg was one of seven out of 21 to not crack upon impact.

“Thicky Nicky survived,” cheered Johnson after the egg drop experiment.

STEMP Camp activities

CHALLENGE — Deztinee Johnson and Saydee Simpson create a structure to hold a raw egg to protect it from a high fall.

For the girls whose eggs didn’t survive, they were encouraged to think about how they could have improved their design, from adding a paper parachute to padding it with extra cotton balls.

The experiment took place last week at Ivy Tech Community College during the second annual Gearing Up Girls for STEM summer camp put on by FCA US Transmission & Casting Women’s Group. The camp was open to all area middle school girls, and 76 participated.

Tanya Foutch, a quality engineering group lead for assembly at FCA US and event organizer, started the girls STEM camp last year as a way to show young girls different aspects of STEM careers, through hands-on activities, with the ultimate goal of encouraging them to pursue careers in fields that typically are male-dominated.

Need for STEM jobs

According to the Smithsonian Science Education Center, STEM job growth is projected to increase 10 to 23 percent by 2020, and 2.4 million jobs are projected to go unfilled.

“This tells us a couple of things. One, technology keeps growing and morphing and that you can’t get enough people in those areas. And two, we don’t have enough people going into these fields. So going back to middle school and teaching them about STEM when they are still pretty open and not afraid and uninhibited is the best time to start and get them exposure and hands-on training so that by the time they get to high school they can start planning what classes they want to take and know what they want to do going into college,” Foutch said.

Last year’s two-day camp sessions offered hands-on experiences in physics, biochemistry, engineering, biology, aerodynamics, advanced manufacturing, and virtual reality. This year students participated in activities ranging from anatomy to material science, rockets to robots, and design of experiments to food science.

For one project, the girls created spaghetti and marshmallow towers to see which tower could withstand the most weight. For another activity, healthcare professionals taught about the eye, lungs, and heart — using a real cow’s heart — for those interested in anatomy. The camp ended with projects in food science where participants were able to create cotton candy and ice cream in a bag.

“This is very important, and it also may help them to discover different areas that they didn’t know they might be interested in by a lot of the different trainings and assignments we have. They use a lot of different parts of the brain,” said Tammy Alexander, a volunteer and employee with FCA US.

Seventh-grade student Avi Hummell said it was encouraging to have the activities taught by women in STEM fields.

“It’s a good way to learn about jobs that are usually men’s jobs and to see a lot of women who are in the jobs. It makes you think about those opportunities,” Hummell said.

With such a need in STEM fields, the boys aren’t being left out. Next month, the inaugural Gearing Up Boys for STEM summer camp will take place. The camp is open to all boys in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades and takes place at Ivy Tech’s Automotive Technology building at 1942 E. North St.

Cost is $25 per student, which includes breakfast and lunch both camp days. To register, contact Susan Turrill at or 765-252-5497.

“It’s so hard to find people to do these jobs because they’ve been pushed into other areas like business or whatever, so you lose all these technical people. Now the swing is trying to bring all these people back to the technical fields because it’s so wide open and just booming,” said Foutch.