Nurturing girls in STEM fields is a priority for the College of Engineering. Over the second week of July, Temple hosted the Women’s Engineering Exploration (WE2) summer camp for teens. During the week long session, seventeen young women spent their days learning about science and problem solving. The diverse group came from across the city and region to develop skills that could be useful when it’s time to decide a college and career path.
Running this year’s camp was Frank Ortiz, an adjunct professor in mechanical engineering. He brings breadth of experience to the position, having previously taught K-12 students in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Florida, even the UK. He came to Temple to further his education, as he “wanted to be doing science instead of just teaching it,” working from a TA to an adjunct position, where he currently teaches some science-based Gen Ed courses to undergrads.
The camp has become a summer tradition on North 12th Street. Dozens of high school students have taken part in the camps, some coming from overseas, which has been offered with residency in the past. This year, it’s a day camp, and about a third of the students are from Philadelphia. Faculty readily volunteer availability to work with the campers, some of whom historically matriculate to Temple after graduating high school. Ortiz believes in immersing students in the realm of engineering with this experience. This year, campers worked in a fluids lab and learned to code in C. “They’re there to basically learn what this is, what this involves, and see if it’s right for them,” he said of the camp’s overall theme.
Part of the camp’s success stems from the active environment it creates. “I wanted them to be doing engineering,” Ortiz said of his plans. “I made it an emphasis for every single lab that they had to be doing hands-on. I didn’t want them sitting and listening for three hours, or for 90 minutes. Engineering involves a lot of sitting, a lot of thinking, and a lot of doing.” He cited that most children are kinesthetic learners, doing best while engaged in activity and moving around, while most classrooms are passive places and require listening and following with limited engagement.
The active engagement brought out skills and revelations among this year’s campers. Visits to NASA and the Franklin Institute opened doors to new possibilities. Anna Marie Collins was one of three students attending from Masterman School, one of the city’s top magnet schools. “I really learned a lot about the different fields of engineering,” she said during lunch on the final day. “I realized that I was much more interested in other fields, like electrical engineering. I thought, no way, I would never be interested in that. Now, I think it’s really cool and I learned a lot about that, and got experience in different fields.”
- Marco Cerino