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Teen Girls Learn to Love Physics at USciences STEM Camp

By Jenna Pizzi

  • Girl in lab

    Girl in lab

  • Water table work

    Water table work

  • water table boats

    water table boats

From building submersible robots to creating optical illusions, 12 middle school girls are finding a love for physics during a three-day Physics Wonder Girls camp at University of the Sciences. 

The camp, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is free for the girls from the region to attend. The girls learn how to build a submersible robot, conduct experiments, and meet other women in who work in science. 

The camp is the brainchild of Dr. Roberto Ramos, associate professor of physics at USciences, who brought the camp to Philadelphia when he arrived to campus last year. Dr. Ramos said he came up with the idea for the camp after his daughter expressed an interest in learning about science.  

“We want to get girls more involved in physics and help them to see that studying science can lead to a rewarding career,” Dr. Ramos said.

NSF has been one of several organizations working to help more girls and women explore their interests in science and engineering. NSF research has found that girls are taking high level mathematics and science courses at similar rates to their peers and are performing well, but are less likely to choose a career in science or engineering. 

At the Physics Wonder Girls camp, the teens are helped by USciences students who are pursuing these careers and building a relationship with them.  

At the camp the teams learn to build build remotely-operated submersibles and explore the science behind microwave ovens, optical illusions, nanotechnology, superconductors, cosmetics and food. The three-day camp ends with a physics show, where the girls give a presentation to their family and friends about what they took away from the experience.  

Kayla Patel, an 8th grader, said it has been exciting learning more about physics and building a submersible robot that actually worked.  

“It was very rewarding to see it in action and get to race it around underwater,” said Patel.

Abigail Mackey, a 9th grader, said she enjoyed being in such close proximity to USceinces professors who have shared their knowledge with the campers during lunch or as they stop by the lab and helping them to see their possible future careers in the sciences. 

“They came to talk to us and they were saying there are a lot of careers with biology and physics, and I thought that was really interesting,” said Mackey. “I really want to help people and impact people so I was thinking about going to medical school, but maybe I can study physics, too.”

Dr. Ramos said it is important to continue to inspire girls and women to pursue a career in the STEM fields.

"Encouraged by the interest and positive feedback from campers and parents over the last four years, I hope I can sustain the camp with the help of other foundations and funding sources that the University can hopefully tap,” Dr. Ramos said.

Categories: News, Feature Story, Faculty, students, Academics, Misher College, Department of Mathematics, Physics