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STEPS, DAPCEP programs reach more potential engineers

STEPS participants develop robots for their team competition as part of camp activities.

This summer’s annual Science, Technology and Engineering Preview Summer Camp for Girls (STEPS) promoted engineering and science careers to more than 80 high school girls attending the week-long sessions. They built self-guided robots, visited a Ford Motor Company plant, talked to some of Ford’s female engineers, learned the importance of teamwork and experienced campus living. Two separate sessions were held.

The camp activities ranged from making covers for their “Boe Bots” (robots) and electrical circuits to installing motion sensors in preparation for team competition, as well as soccer and basketball games and a barbecue.

Describing the first day at camp, a member of Session Two’s “Yellow Team” states, ”We got to learn about each other by challenging our brains with puzzling games. It made all of us open up. We all eventually became friends.”

This year’s camp included a STEPS Education Foundation open house and graduation ceremony at UDM. The event included intelligent-vehicle demonstrations and remarks by Dean Leo Hanifin and Ford’s Pandora Ellison '77, director of Vehicle Attribute & Systems Engineering, among others.

UDM partnered with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and Ford Motor Company to offer the first such camp in Michigan during summer 2002. The program has expanded each summer with sophomore and junior girls from throughout the state attending the week-long sessions. In 2003, 110 girls attended.

Due to the program’s success, it has expanded beyond its initial summer camp concept. In the 2002-03 school year, young women from Holy Redeemer High School and Western International High School participated in a series of field trips to UDM’s McNichols Campus for a “mini” STEPS experience in which they too built robots. In addition in 2003-04, with a $30,000 grant from Ford, UDM introduced STEPS into 10 area high schools involved in Ford’s High School Partnership outreach program.

STEPS was introduced at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in 1997 as a tuition-free, technology-based summer camp for girls, with the intent of encouraging their pursuit of engineering and science careers. Studies show that less than nine percent of engineers in the U.S. are women.

“This program helps us reach students at a critical age for determining their career plans,” says Dan Maggio, director of Pre-College Programs in the College of Engineering & Science. The average grade point average of participants is 3.2 (based on 4.0 scale).

The Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP) also continues to bring area high school students to the UDM campus for summer programs. This summer 110 students participated in activities including the National Science Foundation Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers’ “Engineering a Paper Vehicle” and the Un-Initiates Introduction to Engineering (UNITE) programs.

Twenty-five years ago, the University helped launch DAPCEP, which is dedicated to increasing the number of historically under-represented minority students (African-American, Hispanic-American and Native American) who are motivated and academically prepared to pursue technical careers.