Campus & Community

Mothers/daughters team up to explore STEM fields

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Holly Rollins oversees her daughters Megan (left) and Heather (right) as they experiment with their solar panel motorized fans they created during a lab exercise.

Heather Rollins, 14, hopes to have a career in biotechnology one day.

This week, she got the opportunity to explore the field further as a participant in the four-day mother/daughter STEM camp at Palm Beach State College’s Palm Beach Gardens campus.

Rollins, who was part of eight mother/daughter teams, enrolled in the camp with her sister Megan, 12, and mom Holly. Together, they learned about genetics, botany, chemistry, biology, engineering, microbiology, forensics and math through hands-on labs, outdoor activities and science games.

“Getting to separate DNA from a strawberry was a really fun experiment,” said Rollins. “Examining the makeup of different organisms is right along the lines of what I hope to do in a career one day.”

The strawberry exercise was one of many. The girls also got to make cheese using enzymes, add DNA into bacteria, create motorized fans powered by solar energy, and tour the College’s medicinal gardens with horticulture lab specialist Maura Merkal, among others. They also had the opportunity to ask questions from a career panel of women in STEM fields.

Now in its second year, the camp was developed by Dr. Becky Mercer, biotechnology and STEM education director, who says the format of mother/daughter teams was designed so that the girls could have a connection to boost their confidence and independence as they learn from female scientists. It’s also a chance for moms, aunts or grandmothers to bond with the girls and learn something new.

Mercer hopes the experience will not only encourage young girls to consider STEM careers but give those who are not sure more opportunities to explore the fields, such as Heather’s sister Megan. The trio had also participated in the camp last year.

“I didn’t really think about a STEM career until I was involved in the SECME (Science, Engineering, Communication, Mathematics and Enrichment) club at my school,” said Megan. “I found it really fun, and I wanted to do more activities which is one of the reasons I wanted to come back to the camp at Palm Beach State this year.”

The camp, which Mercer hopes to hold each summer, is open to girls who are in sixth through eighth grade. For more information, contact Mercer at 561-207-5059.

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