By Hyacinth Fiorenzo
The Stuart site of Patrick Henry Community College was bustling with activity this past Friday as dozens of area middle school girls excitedly presented intricate STEM projects to their community.
The Verizon Girl’s Innovative Learning Summer Camp hosted its second annual three week long course geared towards training future female leaders in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM.) The camp offered participants the opportunity to learn design thinking strategies, work with 3D printers, augmented and virtual reality platforms, vinyl cutting technology and encouraged social entrepreneurship.
In 2017 PHCC was one of only five national schools chosen to launch Verizon’s pilot program specifically for girls in grades 6-8 who are interested in STEM education and experiences. “This is great for teaching the girls to think like a scientist,” said PHCC teacher Holly Dillon. “It also encourages them branch out and do things that they may have not considered before.”
The three-week course and all materials were fully funded by Verizon. Participants were granted access to cutting edge technology and challenged to utilize every aspect in order to complete group projects which would have a positive impact on their immediate community. According to Dillon, the girls were expected to “incorporate their community, figure out ways that they can improve their community, introduce a product or a service that will help their community, and it all had to be sustainable.”
In their project entitled “Electric, Not Gas” participants Xena Wilcox, 11, and Jettie Flippin, 12, chose to focus on what they believe to be the future of transportation. As with all other groups, the girls prepared a virtual reality video short to showcase their passion for electric cars. Then they took things a step further and fashioned a working electric, battery powered vehicle. Both girls were thrilled to be a part of the summer camp. “This helped all us girls see how much STEM is a part of building our future and how it all impacts our society,” Wilcox said.
Other girls were drawn to assist their communities in ways that spanned far beyond the scope of traditional STEM areas. “Suicide is close to my heart because I’ve lost a loved one to it,” said Rachel Branch, 11. Rachel was part of a trio of girls whose project was entitled “Suicide Test.” More of a utilization of various strategies to steer their target participant towards mental health than an actual test, their work was serious and well researched.
“Many people don’t know where to turn or what to do,” said Lemia Lemons, 9. So the girls designed and 3D printed a community suicide prevention resource center and mental therapy respite model. Their accompanying virtual video was a comforting view of a babbling brook. “We want to show people that they have a place to go and to get help,” said Anaiyah Davis, 12. She added that one of the best aspects of the camp was learning how to work together as a team. “This was the first time I actually enjoyed working as a team,” she said. Admitting that their very different personalities made for an interesting team dynamic, Davis said, “We would have our disagreements and take some time and learn how to work it out together. This was really about team effort.”
In addition to familiarizing themselves with various types of STEM technology and building teamwork skills, the girls also had the opportunity to speak with some of Patrick County’s most influential female leaders. Speakers such as Patrick County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Dayna Babbitt and Dr. Angeline Godwin, president of Patrick Henry Community College. The speakers explained how they were led to their particular career path. They spoke of their educational requirements, challenges they have faced, and offered words of encouragement for the upcoming generation of female leaders.
This year’s camp concluded 11 projects and 32 of a possible 50 participants; an increase from the 25 girls involved in 2018.
“We’d love to see more involvement,” said Dillon, who admitted it has been “difficult to reach max in a rural community.” All in all, PHCC is pleased with the numbers and the girls couldn’t be happier. They’re each going home with their own tablet, courtesy of Verizon, and an invigorated interest in STEM programs.
The girls agreed that the camp was a productive way to spend their summer. “If I wasn’t here I would be sitting at home,” said Emma Dellinger, 12. “Here, we’re doing something. It’s not work. It’s fun.”
The following projects were presented by girls in the PHCC Verizon Girl’s Innovative Learning Summer Camp:
Protect Life Underwater
Abigail Bryant, 11, Stuart Elementary
Carrington Fain, 10, Stuart Elementary
Taylor Lawless, 10, Hardin Reynolds Elementary
Sadie Wingfield, 10, Woolwine Elementary
Maggie Easter, 12, Blue Ridge Elementary
Electric Not Gas
Xena Wilcox, 11, Meadows of Dan Elementary
Jettie Flippin, 12, Homeschool
Save the Owls
Zoe Hough, 12, Stuart Elementary
Madison Mills, 12, Hardin Reynolds Elementary
Dana Wilcox, 11, Meadows of Dan Elementary
Reasons to Recycle
Emily Ring, 12, Woolwine Elementary
Emma Dellinger, 12, Stuart Elementary
Cheap Houses for You
Eden Nickston, 11, Stuart Elementary
Peyton Hazelwood, 10, Stuart Elementary
Jazmyne Reynolds, 10, Stuart Elementary
Save the Red Wolves
Haley Lawson, 12, Hardin Reynolds Elementary
Gracie Crowell, 13, Patrick County High School
Stop Puppy Mills
Eden Issacs, 10, Millennium Charter Academy
Brianne Cannox, 12, Stuart Elementary
Kya Pruitt, 11, Stuart Elementary
Claire Issacs, 12, Blue Ridge Elementary
Save the Box Turtles
Hayden Lawless, 11, Hardin Reynolds Elementary
Journey Moore, 11, Stuart Elementary
Summer Fain, 12, Homeschool
Emmi Pack, 10, Blue Ridge Elementary
Callie Wood, 11, Meadows of Dan Elementary
Trinity Lawson, 10, Hardin Reynolds Elementary