Back in 1998, IBMer Chris Wetli launched the EXCITE program which was designed to encourage girls to consider technology as a career choice. As a young girl, I actually attended the EXCITE camp (I still have my black and red book bag to prove it) on IBM’s Research Triangle Park (RTP) campus in North Carolina. Realizing that this initial concept was outdated, not technical enough and not meeting the goals of EXCITE, the Women in Technology team at the RTP campus evolved the original EXCITE program into the IBM Technology Camp for Girls. Years later in 2017, while the camp has changed slightly, the main goal is still vibrant: to create a fun learning environment for young ladies.

This year was my second as co-director for the IBM Technology Camp for Girls. We partnered with the Raleigh Police Department and the Boys & Girls Clubs from Raleigh and Durham. This year, we had 22 young ladies who attended the 2-day IBM STEM camp. During camp, we did educational activities such as working with Lego robotics kits, creating an electronic rug, Alice 3-d coding, tower building, and experimenting with circuit boards. By far, the top two activities for the Technology Camp for Girls were the lip gloss and hand lotion exercise where they used some chemical engineering skills along with our tour of IBM’s agile space and data center in RTP.

Each activity was designed to give the girls insight into different engineering fields. We had many excited volunteers this year for the camp who are always passionate to help the girls grow and learn. We added a new activity this year which revolved around flip-flops. Each attendee took home a black & white pair of bedazzled flip flops, which I must say was a hit! I had so many girls constantly asking me, “When do we get our flip-flops?”

Directors of the IBM Technology Camp, Ashley Caldwell & Lauranette Wheeler with Raleigh Chief of Police Cassandra Deck-Brown
Directors of the IBM Technology Camp, Ashley Caldwell & Lauranette Wheeler with Raleigh Chief of Police Cassandra Deck-Brown

For the graduation ceremony, we had Distinguished Engineer Rosalind Radcliffe, Camp Director Lauranette Wheeler, myself, and a few other volunteers passing out their take home bags, flip-flops, and graduation certificate with their camp picture on it. Before starting the ceremony, Rosalind asked the girls about their camp experience and answered questions the girls had about her career and engineering. And I explained to the campers the importance of a firm handshake and a smile when greeting others in the business environment. Each young lady did a wonderful job giving each of us a firm handshake and beautiful smiles when they were called up. This camp truly makes a huge difference in their lives, they are exposed to many STEM related activities and we try our best to show that science can be fun and enjoyable!

Our 2017 Campers and volunteers from the Raleigh Police Department
Our 2017 Campers and volunteers from the Raleigh Police Department

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