Detroit middle school girls put STEM skills to the test during Girls in Engineering Academy at Eastern Michigan University

Young people at the GEA event hosted at EMU in 2018
The five-day Girls in Engineering Academy was hosted virtually this year. Conferences were hosted at EMU in the past, like the one above in 2018.

YPSILANTI – In July, 20 rising ninth-graders from Detroit schools took part in rich STEM-related coursework as part of the Engineering Society of Detroit’s Girls in Engineering Academy (GEA), hosted in partnership with Eastern Michigan University’s College of Engineering and Technology.

The five-day Girls in Engineering Academy was hosted virtually and emerged the girls into two courses, Introduction to Engineering and Smart Robot Cars. 

GEA is a project-based, hands-on STEM/pre-engineering initiative program designed to start students as they enter the sixth grade and advance them through three years of summer instructional classes, academic year programs, and industrial experiences as preparation for entering high school, according to Dr. Gerald Thompkins, program manager and director of GEA. The Girls in Engineering Academy is entering its fourth year.

“If we are going to ameliorate the gender and achievement gaps in STEM education and within engineering in particular, these types of programs are going to become increasingly critical for young underrepresented minority girls in our urban communities, like Detroit,” said Thompkins.

During the Introduction to Engineering course, attendees participated in brainstorming design concepts and observed 3D CAD modeling of the engineering design and assembly. They were introduced to activities that challenged their critical thinking and creativity, and their 3D CAD models, which were developed by the virtual instructor with students’ help, were printed on a 3D printer and given to the girls at the conclusion of the academy.  

The Smart Robot Cars course required math, programming skills, and device design concepts. The girls used an Elegoo Uno R3 Smart Car for the hands-on project with their virtual professor. Throughout the course, the students were able to experience and learn to program Arduino Uno microcontroller using simple C language and how sensors receive, collect, store, and process information from the environment.

EMU's Emad Tanbour, Program Coordinator of Mechanical Engineering, and Qin Hu, Program Coordinator of Electrical and Computer Engineering, both played critical roles in making the event a success.

“On average, only 20% of engineering degrees are awarded to women—and only 3% are awarded to minorities,” said Bia Hamed, Eastern Michigan University director of K-12 STEM outreach. “We want to help change that statistic, and in addition to our own STEM opportunities, programs like this offer us the perfect opportunity to connect with like-minded organizations to bring these hands-on experiences to young girls in Detroit.”

The Engineering Society of Detroit’s Girls in Engineering Academy was created for the purpose of improving academic achievement and increase interest in engineering topics and careers among young girls.

In past years, the academy has been hosted on EMU’s campus, with the girls living and dining in an EMU residence hall for the five-day-long academy. During their stay, they are able to participate in life skills development, mentoring, pre-college experiences, and engineering career exploration. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the academy was hosted virtually this year.

The Engineering Society, which began in 1895, seeks to be an area leader in promoting the engineering and scientific professions or by providing invaluable technical assistance to the community. In staging numerous events and initiatives such as the academy with EMU, the society serves this generation of engineers, scientists and allied professionals while seeking to foster growth and development of the next generation of engineers.

The academy is just one of EMU’s efforts to interest young women in STEM-based careers. Digital Divas and Digital Dudes, bi-annual science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) career conferences for young women and men, are held in the fall for middle schoolers and in the spring for area high school students.

The one-day conferences give young adults the chance to connect with and learn from individuals in STEM careers. The events consist of guest speakers and breakout sessions for hands-on learning.

Sessions feature STEM learning activities as well as networking with professional women and EMU students who lead hands-on workshops. Both events draw hundreds of students from schools all over Southeast Michigan.

For more information on Eastern Michigan University’s College of Engineering and Technology, visit the College website.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves 20,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

August 05, 2020

Written by:
Morgan Mark

Morgan Mark