CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA (NNS) — Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SSC) Atlantic, in collaboration with Trident Technical College, hosted more than 100 girls for the seventh annual Girls Day Out (GDO) at Trident and College of Charleston campuses July 26-28.
Girls Day Out is a camp designed to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) career fields to rising eighth and ninth grade girls with the goal of showcasing the diverse options available in the workforce following high school.
"Women in STEM fields are underrepresented," said Anishi Scott, SSC Atlantic computer scientist and GDO camp co-coordinator. "We feel like with a diverse background of what we bring to technology it definitely helps in developing new applications and systems. We offer different perspectives than our male counterparts."
The camp's theme was Tomorrow Made by Girls, and all branding was designed by high school student Kumiko Hill as part of a collaborative assignment between the school's graphics lab and SSC Atlantic.
The three-day camp, which included an overnight stay at the College of Charleston, offered the attendees an opportunity to connect with other women in STEM industries through various interactive demonstrations and discussion groups.
"We wanted the girls to get exposed to the camp early on so that STEM fields are actually something they feel they can pursue and that they recognize as areas they are likely really good at," said Jenifer Pinckney, SSC Atlantic electrical engineer and GDO camp co-coordinator.
To formally kick off the event, Capt. Scott Heller, SSC Atlantic commanding officer, encouraged the girls to make intentional, small choices that would positively impact their future endeavors.
"We can get to outer space, we can build robots and computers - there are a ton of things that we can build, but people make choices to study them," said Heller. "I want to encourage you all to make good choices. Choose to focus on academics, choose to make yourself better every day - it pays incredible dividends."
In the spirit of STEM exploration, attendees interactively experienced 3D printing and modeling, steel casting, manufacturing, robotics coding and nursing, along with many other technically-focused activities throughout the camp.
Synah Hawkins, eighth grade attendee, found activities such as the medical profession immersion hosted by Trident Tech's nursing program reaffirmed her passion and desire to pursue a career in the medical field.
"This program helped me know exactly what I want to do when I grow up," said Hawkins. "I think [the camp] is important for girls my age because I'm about to go to high school. You need to know exactly what you're going to do so you can have a main focus, so when we graduate you won't be lost or sitting at home, and you have an idea of where to go after high school."
The camp also featured motivational conversations and informative discussions on a variety of topics, to include public speaking, dress and appearance, networking techniques and online security.
"What we try to do throughout the camp is infuse soft skills alongside technical skills so that we are building up the girls' self-esteem and also emphasizing areas that they will need to be proficient in when they go into the workforce, such as how to dress, speak appropriately and networking techniques," said Scott. "The 'I am Courageous Session,' by SSC Atlantic's Women of the Workforce emphasized those soft skills."
Other sponsors include Cyber Secure, College of Charleston, Bosch, Naval Health Clinic Charleston (NHCC), Paul Mitchell the School Charleston, and Nucor Steel Berkeley.
More than 30 volunteers from NHCC and SSC Atlantic, as well as numerous presenters from the community, worked in tandem to ensure a smooth event. Although the camp is designed to motivate and inspire attendees, volunteers found the opportunity to work with the girls equally as life changing and meaningful.
"They are so creative," said Laurie Boeding, Trident Technical College dean of business technology. "I think the older we get we lose a little bit of that...so it's just really great to see their creativity."
At the conclusion of the event, the girls were reunited with their parents for a closing ceremony and awards presentation to formally recognize their learning and growth throughout the camp.
"I want the girls to walk away with inspiration — knowing they can achieve anything they want to, whether it's science related or not," said Pinckney. "I want them to know that whatever it is they want to do, they can achieve it."
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