Four Brown Women Engineering Undergrads Coordinate Free Camp for High School Girls

Amanda Kautz ’12, Natalie Serrino ’12, Farzanah Ausaluth ’14, and Lizzie Costa ’14, are spending their summer helping inspire future female engineers. The four women, all undergraduate engineering concentrators at Brown are all coordinators for Spira, a free, four week summer camp for rising tenth grade girls interested in engineering. It is run through Brown University and taught by these four women. Associate professor and director of undergraduate programs Janet Blume has been the advisor to the group.

Kautz is a civil engineering concentrator from Los Angeles, while Serrino is a computer engineering concentrator from Chicago. The rising sophomore Ausaluth also plans to concentrate in civil engineering and is from London, while Costa grew up in East Providence, R.I., and will study biomedical engineering.

Spira Engineering Camp aims to inspire the next generation of female engineers by providing a community in which young women with similar interests can be exposed to math, science, and technology in a hands-on, team-based environment. They are able to learn the real world applications of engineering and how they can make a difference in a typically male-dominated field. The goal is for Spira participants to gain confidence in their abilities and to be motivated to pursue math and science in their future studies and careers.

The 18 tenth grade girls, who attend eight different public and private high schools in the greater Providence area, have been able to
learn about math and science while completing fun, hands-on, team-based engineering design projects. The camp runs from July 5-29 at Brown.

One of the recent projects the teams worked on was a balsa wood bridge project. In this case, teams of two or three girls applied their recently acquired knowledge of buckling, arches, triangles, trusses, and bridge design to create a bridge made of balsa wood. The bridge is then weighed and tested for strength by attaching a bucket to the bridge and filling the bucket of sand until the point of failure. The winning bridge is the one with the greatest strength to weight ratio.

Kautz and Serrino had the initial vision for Spira. They were inspired to create the program based on the success and logistics of the Artemis Project, a
free, five-week summer day camp for rising ninth grade girls in the Providence area who are interested in learning about computer science and technology run by Brown’s computer science department. Artemis has been running at Brown since 1996.

Kautz and Serrino applied for and received funding for Spira from
the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Brown’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC). The camp is free for the students and lunch is provided. For those students who need transportation, RIPTA bus passes are provided.

Ausaluth and Costa were recruited as coordinators in the fall and since that time all four have shared equal responsibility in planning and running the camp.


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