Camp stirs interest in math and other STEM fields for female students

The weeklong camp provided students the opportunity to view different ways in which mathematics and statistics impact daily life.

The weeklong camp provided students the opportunity to view different ways in which mathematics and statistics impact daily life.

Dr. Ken Roblee, professor and Mathematics Division Chair, hopes that Troy University’s first summer mathematics camp will add up to greater interest in the STEM fields among female students.

Held last week on the Troy Campus, the “Girls Get Math with Data” camp targeted female students from grades 10 – 12 from area high schools and was made possible by an Epsilon Fund grant for Young Scholars Programs from the American Mathematics Society. Students from Brundidge, Ozark, Montgomery, Pike Road and Troy attended the camp.

Participants engaged in activities that reinforced the need for math in everyday life, particularly those areas that the importance of math is sometimes overlooked.

“The last statistic I saw, women represent only about 27% of the employees working in STEM fields,” Dr. Roblee said. “That number is higher in the math-related fields, but our goal was to further their interest in math and statistics and show them places they many have known about where math is used in everyday life. We have given them some puzzle-type math problems in an effort to get their minds to thinking about all the places in life where they can make use of math. We have exposed them to some new math as well.”

Students had the opportunity to explore how statistical data is calculated and used in areas such as public health and sports, hearing from both a representative of the Alabama Department of Public Health and an assistant coach from the TROY women’s basketball team.

Campers also visited campus computer labs to do some hands-on work and learn some statistical programming. The group also did some prep work for the ACT.

“We would like to do this on a regular basis. We got a grant for this from the American Math Society, and we plan to apply for it again next year,” Dr. Roblee said. “We are excited about it. Being the first year of the summer camp, we didn’t know how things would go, but overall, we are pleased.”

Renna Chen, a rising sophomore at Montgomery’s LAMP High School, said the camp wasn’t all about numbers.

“This week we tried to divert from the stereotype that math is just about numbers,” Chen said. “We learned about a field called math called cryptography and learned about how data can be used in different forms. Overall, it was a great experience.”

Grace Liu, also a student at LAMP High School, enjoyed the fact that the camp was geared around real-life, current issues like the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Statistics are more than just numbers,” she said. “I enjoyed seeing how different aspects of your life corelate with your likelihood of getting the COVID vaccine. The last year has been so chaotic and it has been so nice to look back at this year and be able to organize data into one or two graphs that basically summarize the whole year.”

Isabella Morgan, a rising junior at Pike Road School, said she hopes to use what she learned during the camp to encourage others to investigate career fields within mathematics and other STEM fields.

“We learned about math and statistics and how we would use it outside of school,” Morgan said. “A lot of girls shy away from getting into STEM and math-related fields. I feel like with what I have experienced this week, it will help me to encourage other girls to learn more about the opportunities that are available to them.”

Students paused their activities to take a group photo in front of the fountain on the main quad on the Troy Campus.