Design Connect Create aims to close the gender gap in STEM careers

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Summer camp at Rice gives girls a deep dive into physics
A summer program at Rice tailored to girls who will take high school physics in the fall strives to empower them to be successful in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The two-week camp, called Design Connect Create, introduces students to basic physics concepts, provides interactive team modules and features female STEM professionals as speakers.
“Physics is one of those barriers to STEM, because there are a lot of options for girls and they are often not encouraged to take physics,” said Carolyn Nichol, director of Rice’s Office of STEM Engagement (R-STEM), which organizes the camp. “I was the only girl in my high school physics class, and I was the only girl in my undergrad chemical engineering classes, so I’m really passionate about getting more women into STEM.”
The camp’s goal is to increase girls’ confidence in physics, which is a key course in determining whether they continue to pursue a STEM career. Exposing them to material in a fun, collaborative way aims to lessen apprehension and self-consciousness.

“Female science students need someone to help them see what’s on the other side,” Nichol said. “These are really rewarding careers and sometimes it’s hard to see that when you’re loaded down with a lot of difficult STEM classes.”
Research on underrepresentation of women in STEM fields has shown a lack of role models to be a major factor, which is why the program brings in a female speaker every day to talk about their pathway to STEM. At least one female Rice engineering student also works in the program on campus to serve as another role model and to answer questions and provide guidance.
“When I walk into these programs, it’s so personally rewarding, because I wish I could have had this …

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