LASER-TEC, AAUW Host STEM Camp for Girls

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FORT PIERCE, Fla., March 30, 2018 — The Southeast Regional Center for Laser and Fiber Optics Education (LASER-TEC), and the Stuart American Association of University Women (AAUW) partnered once again to offer a four-Saturday STEM camp for middle- and high-school girls.

The camp was held on the Fort Pierce and Stuart campuses of Indian River State College (IRSC). The first session focused on successful women who have careers in photonics-related STEM fields. Campers were introduced to Anni Vuorenkoski Dalgleish, assistant research professor at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute; Cindy Boyd, CEO of PCS Fiber Inc.; Desiré Whitmore, assistant professor of photonics at Irvine Valley Community College; and Abbie Watnik, research physicist at the U.S. Naval Research Lab. The women spoke about their personal experiences and the exciting and upcoming technologies that lie within their profession. Heather Hunt-Gonzalez, a student from the Robotics and Photonics Institute at IRSC, also spoke to the students about her decision to study at the institute.

In the second and third sessions, girls began their hands-on activities by making a DIY fiber optics lamp with the choice of a primary or secondary LED light color. This taught the girls about light, fiber optics and electronics. Another project was the building and soldering of a laser-enabled security system engineered by Chrys Panayiotou, director of LASER-TEC and department chair of the electronics engineering technology department at IRSC. Campers learned to identify an array of electronics components and how to solder those components on to a circuit board.

Throughout all four sessions, girls were also taught to design a website and use it as a portfolio to convey all that they learned from the camp. They populated their sites with information they learned about various STEM technologies, photos that they took while attending and their overall thoughts on each session of the camp. During the final session, girls presented the websites they created and set up their security systems to show to family and friends after the presentation.

This initiative was designed to interest girls in the areas of STEM and to increase awareness of the high-tech, high-paying career opportunities both locally and throughout the country. The students and their parents were made aware of the many opportunities for great careers in many sectors of the economy where lasers and fiber optics are used. Campers were also advised of the courses they need to take in high school to put them in a successful career pathway.

LASER-TEC is an NSF Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence in Lasers and Fiber Optics. It is an association of community and state colleges, universities, K-12 schools and technical centers, trade associations and laser and fiber optic companies.

Published: March 2018
BusinessSoutheast Regional Center for Laser and Fiber Optics EducationLASER-TECStuart American Association of University WomenAAUWSTEM campFloridayouth outreacheducationwomen in sciencegirls in scienceAmericas

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