BOYCEVILLE — During the awards ceremony on the last day of school, seven sixth grade girls at Tiffany Creek Elementary were recognized as participants in the 2014 UW-Stout STEPS Preview Summer Camp.
Rebekah Lillo, Jessica Flettre, Antonia Tinsley-Jain, Ana Evenson, Caitlyn Pelikan, Emma Bygd and Noelle Wheeldon will be attending the five day camp in either July or August.
Rebekah was the 2014 Carla Jean Scholarship recipient. The scholarship is named after Carla Carlson, the daughter of Ellen and the late Alan Carlson.
The reason Ellen sponsors the event is because Carla was in the STEPS camp herself and then she was later a Junior Counselor at the camp. Today, Carla is an M.D. in La Crosse and specializes in internal medicine.
“I want to make sure the young women in the Boyceville area at that age have the same opportunity and experience as Carla did, so that is why I sponsor this in her honor,” shared Ellen.
Since Ellen started the scholarship, more and more girls have shown interest and the number soared from one to seven in just the past year.
Staff at TCE came together and raised over $700 through Tupperware and homemade jewelry sales as well as personal donations, which then funded partial scholarships worth $350. Those scholarship winners were Pelikan and Evenson.
Then when Wendy Stary and Lindsey Draz, both of UW-Stout learned about the sparked interest, they sought out to find a way to raise money and send more girls to the camp. So two more girls who had registered, Flettre and Tinsely-Jain, were awarded full scholarships.
Additionally, Bygd and Wheeldon will be attending the camp through the help of their families.
STEPS is a special camp that allows girls going into seventh grade to get a taste of what a career in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) would be like.
That mission is accomplished by providing early introduction to STEM topics through hands-on activities and by using female role models, which helps break down stereotypes and gives young women the confidence and knowledge needed.
The program itself is structured as a series of four, five-day camps that each serve 40 girls during the months of July and August.
According to the brochure, the core technical activities of the camp are focused on manufacturing an obstacle-avoiding robot that each girl builds herself and takes home.
These activities take place within state of the art classrooms and laboratories at UW-Stout.
In the plastics lab and foundry, participants learn how plastic and metal components are formed. They then solder the electrical components for their robots in the electronics lab and create a product enclosure during the packaging activity.
In the engineering graphics lab, they make computer drawings of their robot and create 3-dimensional animations.
To enhance writing and technical communication skills, they design multimedia content and write articles about their experiences. Their work is then shared online with their friends and family.
Aside from classroom time, the campers also attend tours of two local manufacturing companies and they are treated to other activities like swimming, bowling and a pizza party.
Various sponsors like the Otto Bremer Foundation, 3M and Xcel Energy have helped to lower the cost of the camp through various grants. The program costs $450 per camper, which also includes provided meals and housing.