By Debra Garcia

Imagine getting the opportunity to attend a weeklong STEM camp, free of charge. Well, to 60 girls in the Hillsborough community, this dream just became a reality.

Every summer, fifth through ninth-grade girls, if they meet the sponsor requirements, are rewarded with a State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF)or Hillsborough Community College (HCC) scholarship to an All-Girls Manufacturing and Design Camp, which normally costs $350 per girl.

According to Shirley Dobbins, an engineering technology instructor at Hillsborough Community College, the camps both at SCF and HCC teach the girls to “explore technology and engineering and how it fits in with entrepreneurship and manufacturing.”

“Campers will build and code robots to solve real-world problems. At the end of the week, the girls will present their creations within a framework of entrepreneurism, innovation and automation. Mentors will speak to the girls and a field trip is also included to a popular manufacturing company,” said Dobbins.

The goal of these camps is to teach these young girls about engineering, manufacturing, computer science and digital design. At the end, the girls will have learned to use microprocessors, servo motors and sensors to code a robot.

“Many times, students think that STEM topics are dry and boring, when in fact technology tools can be used to produce fun and innovative products. On the last day of camp, the girls will give presentations about the products that they have created, designed and coded,” said Dobbins.

In previous years, these camps have been advertised in local schools, such as Barrington Middle School. Due to COVID-19, last year’s camps were offered online. The same began being offered this year when the camps started on July 12.

One of the perks of getting these scholarships is being able to attend the camps free of charge, which really benefits families.

“However, the parents are incredibly thankful that the girls have an opportunity to explore STEM using topics that they enjoy without having any financial barriers,” said Dobbins.

The camps will be Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. with rotating zones, each with hands-on activities for campers.

“The zones are digital design for laser and vinyl cutters, robotics and moviemaking. Additionally, the girls will have a deep dive into entrepreneurship, studying marketing, customer acquisition, design thinking, production and profits. Campers have lunch and snacks, which they bring for themselves,” said Dobbins.

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