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Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Girls Rock: Chemical Engineering GAMES Camp 2015

“Girls Rock!”

“Yes we do!”

Before their morning lecture and again in the afternoon before they make catalysts, a group of high school girls respond to the traditional call-out for participants in the GAMES (Girls’ Adventures in Mathematics, Engineering and Science) Camp.

GAMES Camp is a weeklong program designed to provide academically talented high school girls with opportunities to explore a variety of engineering and scientific fields. Several different tracks are offered in addition to chemical engineering, such as bioengineering, computer science, aerospace engineering, and others.

Soon-to-be high school senior Allison Cvec had planned to apply to the University of Illinois this fall and was considering majoring in chemical engineering. But she was on the fence. Before she made a decision, she figured she’d spend a week at the camp this summer to learn about what the field entails.

By the end of her first day at GAMES Camp in Chemical Engineering, she texted her dad, “This is what I want to do.”

“I absolutely love it. I’m all in now,” she said about Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Illinois.

The first days of the camp entailed learning about optimization and mass production, playing computational games, learning about catalysis and surface chemistry and nanoparticles for drug delivery, creating shower gel, extracting DNA and much more. In addition to spending time on campus, the group also tours regional chemical plants. It’s a week packed with lectures and lab time and culminates with a closing ceremony.

“I am amazed at how creative, knowledgeable and curious the girls are,” said Assistant Professor Ying Diao, who joined the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering faculty in January this year. She shared with the girls her knowledge about crystal types, how crystals are born and the science behind chocolate, specifically cocoa butter, which crystallizes into several different crystal forms.

“I felt the unquenchable thirst for knowledge in them which makes me full of hope for future gender equality in science and technology,” Diao said.

The event also energized and excited Diao’s ChBE students, who assisted the girls in their lab activities, she said.

Among the current ChBE students who helped with the camp were Molly McGiles and Elizabeth Sanders. Both attended GAMES camps when they were in high school and said the camp provided opportunities for meeting other young women in engineering and learning more about what they wanted to study in college.

“It helped me find my niche,” said Sanders, who is now a sophomore majoring in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. The camp also brought the two of them together and they are now working on their own STEM outreach project which they hope to launch this summer.

The chemical engineering camp is led by Lecturer Dr. Jerrod Henderson and Ricky Greer, a K-12 education specialist, with help from faculty and current students. This year’s group has 24 students from Illinois, Texas, Michigan, and other states.

“It is fantastic that the department sponsors this meaningful event for the high school girls every year,” Diao said.