Girl Scout for a day… Volunteering for STEM


I was never a Girl Scout, but I did jump at the chance to volunteer as a SWE Role Model for one of their summer camps, Minds for Design.  For as much as I talk about getting more women into STEM fields, this camp is exactly for this purpose.

“Using the Girl Scout motto of Be Prepared, the Minds for Design camp prepares the girls to be the female scientists of tomorrow.” ~WFLA

Admittedly, I’m not an engineer by trade.  For over 15 years, I’ve recruited and trained quality engineers with backgrounds mostly in mechanical and electrical engineering for Pro QC.  But, I’ll admit I was still a little apprehensive to guide over 30 middle and high-school girls through a project where the objective was to build a working wind turbine that would pickup 20 paper clips. Based on my recent Junior Achievement experience, I figured I could handle this.

The camp was in the West Central Florida Leadership Center… Nice place!  We organized the girls into eight teams, and I introduced myself and went over the scenario.  They were on a camping trip and dropped their food down a ravine.  Their job was to design and build a wind turbine that would create enough energy to lift 20 paper clips (their food) from the height of the table. A table of miscellaneous materials to choose from was available, and a test station with hair dryers was setup.

What I saw was remarkably similar to what I experience with older students and even corporate professionals.  Rather than using the brainstorming time to plan, many teams jumped right in trying to fit materials together. Others worked out a draft design prior to getting started. It was interesting to see them work in different ways and evaluate the various materials and troubleshoot issues in their design.

These girls were into it though. Our future engineers are one sharp bunch!  For the contest, we let each team have two timed trials, and we took the best of two.  The winning team lifted that cup in 3 seconds! They were the group that had the cleanest design and went back to testing several times to tweak for speed.  There were a few other groups that hit 6 and 9 seconds from what I can recall.  A few teams had designs that didn’t work, but they were open to discussing the potential causes of failure and how they could improve the design.  Everyone participated and was all-in.

Later this week, the girls will visit Heat Pipe Technology.  I’ve got to give props to the Director of Engineering & Operations over there who has opened the doors to my son’s FLL LEGO League and my daughter’s school-age daycare summer camp.  I wish more organizations were as involved in the community.  Those Girl Scouts are really going to enjoy themselves.

Overall, I had a blast.  I can only say positive things about my encounter with the Girl Scouts and the whole experience.

Here’s a great video about the local Girl Scouts’ camps here.

Also, did you know?

  • 70% of the women in the US Congress are former Girl Scouts.
  • 64% of the women in Who’s Who of American Women are Girl Scout alumnae.
  • 53% of all women business owners were in Girl Scouting.

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(Photo included with permission) 

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