PhilaU Hosts Math, Science and Engineering Camp for Middle School Girls

For the past two weeks, 29 students from the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania (GSEP), learned about science, technology, engineering and math disciplines at Philadelphia University’s summer camp designed to spur interest in these critical fields.


Fernando Tovia, associate professor of engineering, looks on during the energy debate.

The educational camp, which ran from July 9 to 20, was conducted by Fernando Tovia, PhilaU associate professor of engineering, and co-sponsored by the Girl Scouts and the U.S. Navy.

“The camp engages students to utilize skills and knowledge they do not use on a daily basis,” Tovia said. “We need to make sure the students have the right math, science and engineering skills, which they will need in college.”

While on campus, the eighth- grade girls designed and built windmills out of LEGO building blocks, assembled and programmed automated guided vehicles and made water-powered energy generators out of recycled materials and magnets.  While working on the projects, students prepared for the camp’s final event: an energy debate.

For the debate, campers were divided into ten groups and given ten minutes to present their positions on alternative energy, including the effectiveness and importance of fossil fuels, natural gas, coal, shale, nuclear, biofuel, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal energy.

The judges included Philadelphia University professors Tovia, Muthu Govindaraj  and Hossein Rostami;  Kim Fraites-Dow, GSEP chief development and marketing officer; and Allison DeRocco, from the U.S. Navy. The debate was mediated by PhilaU student Nicole Elia, who is interning with the Navy.


Energy debate winners with judges (from left to right): Kim Fraites-Dow, Chloe Graham, Ameenah Muhammad, Deanna Long, Nicole Elia and Allison DeRocco.

The debate was judged on the overall quality of the presentation, the delivery of the argument, the value of the content and the question and answer round. After much deliberation, the final debate featured the wind energy and hydroelectric energy groups.  The winning group—wind energy— included Chloe Graham, Ameenah Muhammad and Deanna Long.

“This camp was a fantastic educational opportunity for the students,” said Fraites-Dow. “Events like this really open the students’ eyes to exciting educational opportunities and even possible future careers.”

The closing ceremony for the camp will be held July 20 at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia.  Campers will tour the research and development laboratories and have the opportunity to discuss what they learned at camp with Navy officials.

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