GLEE GAMES Camp Seeks to Spark High School Girls' Interest in Electrical Engineering

Two GLEE campers work on LED calculators during a GLEE GAMES camp hands-on activity.

June 28, 2018

Ever flip a switch and marvel at the magic of electricity accomplishing a task? During the week of June 17–23, the 17 high school girls who participated in GLEE (Girls Learning Electrical Engineering) G.A.M.E.S. (Girls’ Adventures in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science) camp not only learned about Electrical Engineering, but they did some engineering themselves. And helping lead the activities were several female ECE students—role models who demonstrated that girls can become electrical engineers.

Lynford Goddard (left) explains to the campers how equipment in an MNTL lab works.

The camp activities involved a number of teaching sessions where the girls were indoctrinated into the mysteries of how circuits and electrical current work. These were followed by hands-on activities where they actually built what they had just learned about. So throughout the weeklong camp, the girls built a circuit, soldered a radio phone, and designed then built an LED calculator. Along with hands-on activities, the girls toured labs in several facilities, including Beckman and MNTL (the Micro Nanotechnology Lab).

Lynford Goodard chats with a GLEE camper working on her circuit.

Of the 17 girls who participated this year, 12 were from Illinois, three from California, and one each from North Carolina and even as far away as Mexico City, Mexico.

Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Professor Lynford Goddard, GLEE GAMES coordinator, believes that the benefits for the girls are numerous:

"They have had a unique opportunity to learn what college and the ECE major is like and also how engineers impact society and the types of problems researchers are working on. They have made friends from across the country who share similar interests, as well as university contacts for mentoring. On the technical side, they have also learned some key fundamental concepts about engineering, all while having fun doing projects."

So is GLEE having an impact? Yes. And not just the students, but the field of engineering itself is benefitting from the camp. Plus, GLEE is not only contributing to the diversity of the engineering workforce, but some of those students are studying engineering at Illinois.

ECE Ph.D. student Aditi Udupa (right) shows GLEE GAMES campers how fiber splicing works during a visit to MNTL.

Goddard stipulates, though, that the timeline from being a camper to becoming a student is "rather long." It takes at least 3-4 years before the rising 10th and 11th graders who participate in GLEE become college students. "Nevertheless," he explains, "in the past few years, we are starting to see a significant number of these students complete their BS degrees at Illinois, some in ECE, but many in other engineering fields." He's also aware of two students who have completed MS degrees (both in other fields) and a few who are currently working on their MS degrees in ECE, including one at Illinois.

Wynter Chen helps a GLEE camper working on her LED calculator.

Because another important emphasis of the camp is exposing the girls to female role models in Electrical Engineering, Goddard enlisted as lab assistants a number of female ECE graduate and undergraduate students, whose goals were to pay it forward and to increase the number of women in electrical engineering.

For instance, one ECE undergrad who wanted to give back was rising sophomore Wynter Chen. She volunteered to be a lab assistant, hopeful that the camp might have the same kind of significant impact on the participating high school girls that it had on her when she attended GLEE GAMES in 2016.

“So I actually went to the same camp when I was in high school,” she explains, “and it was one of the things that made me decide to go into ECE here at Illinois. So I hope that the girls here also get to get that same experience. And I want to give back, so they can also learn what it is like at Illinois.”

No doubt speaking from personal experience, Chen shares why it’s beneficial to bring high school girls onto campus to do something like this.

Wynter Chen (second from the right), stands by to lend her expertise as the GLEE GAMES campers make their LED calculators.

“In high school, they just don’t have a lot of opportunities to do things in labs directly,” she reveals, “whereas when they come to Illinois at the G.A.M.E.S. camp, they can have lab experience, go visit the campus, and also work with the professors here and get a sense of what college life really is.”

Another lab assistant, Madison Wilson, a rising senior in both ECE and Chemical Engineering, reports that she decided to help with the camp because she hadn’t really had a chance to give back to girls in engineering…and wanted to.

Madison Wilson (left) works with a GLEE camper who's building a circuit.

“I feel like my experience here [at Illinois] has been really great. I’ve learned a lot, and the school has really made me feel empowered.” A TA doing a dual degree, she adds, “I feel like there’s nothing really I can’t accomplish here. So, by leading girls this summer, I really hope to encourage them to pursue engineering— hopefully here—but also just in general to find what interests them and go after it.”

Wilson believes some of the GLEE participants may end up in engineering, based on the fact that some intend to participate in other GAMES camps in the future to explore other engineering disciplines.

“I feel like a lot of them are really excited. Some are returning, so that’s great to see, that they’re pursuing other disciplines within engineering, that this is definitely something they want to do. Also, I think the creativity aspect is really apparent in the girls, whether it’s applied to engineering or just in their lives. You got a lot of potential out there, it’ll be cool to see where they go.”

Lonna Edwards (right) helps a camper with her circuit.

In his 9th year running the camp, Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Professor Lynford Goddard says he finds it very rewarding "to see the joy that the students have when building projects and when learning about our field.

Regarding faculty and students who were instructors for the camp, Goddard enjoys collaborating with them to run the camp: "Their time, effort, and energy has made it possible for us to offer the camp for so long," he explains.

Aliyah Bryant, a rising senior at Evanston Township High.

One GLEE participant who got a sense of what college life at Illinois really is like was Aliyah Bryant, a rising senior at Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Illinois. Bryant shares why she attended GLEE camp. “I haven’t taken any engineering classes, and that’s something that I’ve always wanted to explore." She adds that it was also a way for her to stay on campus for a week at a campus that she’s thinking about coming to.

Regarding the camp’s impact, she says, “It’s really cool. I’ve learned a lot and built a lot, a lot of things that I never saw myself doing and discovered some more career paths and classes and labs and studies and research, so I learned a lot.”

Does she think electrical engineering is in her future? Maybe. “I’m still going to explore my options,” she adds, “but I’m definitely going to consider it.”

Lydia Hong building an LED caluculator.

Another GLEE participant, Lydia Hong, a rising sophomore from Minooka, a small Illinois suburb, shares why she came to GLEE: “I’m just kind of exploring my options before going to college tours. She declares that the camp had a significant impact on her:

“I honestly think this camp has been a life-changing experience for me. I haven’t been this hands-on in any of my classes, and I’m really liking this.” Hong adds that engineering is “definitely a possibility” down the road.

Story and photographs by: Elizabeth Innes, Communications Specialist, I-STEM Education Initiative.

More: 8-12 Outreach, GAMES, GLEE, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Summer Camp, Women in STEM, 2017

For additional I-STEM articles about GLEE G.A.M.E.S. camps, please see:

ECE senior Madison Wilson works with GLEE campers as they carefully follow the steps while building an LED calculator.

SOLIDarity EXperiences (SOLIDEX) through the Eyes of Children

What do children aged 11-13 in two countries think about solidarity?
Full Story

Students launch ASL STEM Vocabulary App Company

Students launch ASL STEM Vocabulary App Company
Full Story

Innovation, Inspiration on display at the Undergraduate Research Symposium

Undergraduate Research Week took place April 23-29, 2023, and culminated Thursday, April 27, 2023
Full Story

What would you like to see – 3D printers? Magnets? Solar-powered racing cars? Robobrawl?

March 28, 2023
EOH occurs Friday, March 31, and Saturday, April 1, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Full Story

Tour of Illinois’ Materials Research Lab through I-MRSEC sparks Franklin students’ interest in Materials Science

March 1, 2023
Students from the Champaign middle school had a tour of the Material Research Laboratory (MRL) in early February.
Full Story

Nobel Project’s End-of-Year Zoom Bash Recaps Learning

February 1, 2022
The STEM Illinois Nobel Project held a special, end-of-the-year Zoom event celebrating its participating students’ achievements.
Full Story

It’s not magic, it’s physics

January 26, 2022
In Franklin STEAM Academy, Musical Magnetism program makes STEM fun, approachable.
Full Story

Program prepares STEM educators to teach all students

November 30, 2021
This summer, a group of educators gathered to learn about engaging STEM activities they can do with their students.
Full Story

Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program

November 11, 2021
Undergrads get a taste of research through I-MRSEC’s REU program.
Full Story

Goldstein’s Renaissance Engineering Summer Camp

November 1, 2021
Goldstein’s Renaissance Engineering Summer Camp Incorporates Art, Design, Mechatronics, and Mentoring
Full Story

TechTogether Chicago to Redefine the Hacker Stereotype

July 10, 2021
New workshops that can help inspire students to pursue careers in technology..
Full Story

Aerospace Engineering Launches Virtual Summer Camps to Pique Students’ Interest in Aero.

July 2, 2021
Design an aircraft then watch it soar after launching it with a huge rubber band. Build a Mars lander to safely transport a real egg, then test the contraption by dropping it from a second story window.
Full Story

Undergrads Experience Materials Science Research Courtesy of the I-MRSEC REU

June 16, 2021
Ten undergraduate students are spending the summer of 2021 discovering what research is like.
Full Story

MatSE Afterschool Academy

MatSE Afterschool Academy

June 14, 2021
MatSE Afterschool Academy to Introduce Students to Materials Science and Beyond.
Full Story

Taylor Tucker Embraces Multidisciplinary Interest

Taylor Tucker Embraces Multidisciplinary Interest

June 14, 2021
Taylor Tucker Embraces Multidisciplinary Interest While Researching Task Collaboration.
Full Story

Exposes Franklin Middle Schoolers to Science, CS

What Studying Engineering at Illinois is Like?

May 25, 2021
NSBE’s Michaela Horn Exposes Franklin Middle Schoolers to Science, CS, and What Studying Engineering at Illinois is Like.
Full Story

Jenny Saves a Convertible.

Children’s-Book-Writing Duo/

May 19, 2021
Convertibles and Thunderstorms—Children’s-Book-Writing Duo on Their Way Thanks to Illinois Training and Encouragement from Mentors.
Full Story

Improve Learning in Engineering

Improve Learning in Engineering

May 17, 2021
Liebenberg Espouses Mini-Projects to Engage Students Emotionally, Improve Learning in Engineering.
Full Story

Joshua Whitely makes an adjustment to the 3D Bioprinter during the demo.

BIOE435 Capstone Projects

May 12, 2021
BIOE435 Capstone Projects - BIOE Seniors Use Knowledge/Skills to Problem Solve.
Full Story

Elani and Gonzalo shine a UV light on a rose that has absorbed a solution that has made it fluorescent.

Illinois Scientists Shine a (UV) Light on Fluorescence

May 7, 2021
What is fluorescence? What causes it?
Full Story

Joshua Whitely makes an adjustment to the 3D Bioprinter during the demo.

HackIllinois 2021 “Rekindled Connections” With The Tech Community

May 5, 2021
Annual student hackathon HackIllinois with the aim of developing projects on current problems facing society.
Full Story

A Shane Mayer-Gawlik image of the Bridger Aurora, part of his Night Skies photography collection exhibited at the Art-Science Festival.

The Art-Science Festival

April 26, 2021
Illinois Art-Science Festival: Illuminating the Universe...from the Quantum World to the Cosmos.
Full Story

Joshua Whitely makes an adjustment to the 3D Bioprinter during the demo.

Illinois Engineering Seniors Prepared to Change the World

April 22, 2021
Ready. Set. Go! Illinois Engineering Seniors Prepared to Change the World.
Full Story

HML 2021 Virtual Health

HML 2021 Virtual Health

April 19, 2021
Make-a-Thon Gives Citizen Scientists a Shot at Making Their Health-Related Innovations a Reality.
Full Story

I-MRSEC’s Music Video

I-MRSEC’s Music Video

April 7, 2021
I-MRSEC’s Music Video for EOH ’21 Plugs Graphene, 2D Materials
Full Story

Health Make-a-Thon Orientation

HML 2021 Health Orientation

March 30, 2021
HML 2021 Health Make-a-Thon Orientation Prepares Finalists for Competition.
Full Story

Andrea Perry shows Franklin students how to take apart the magnetic drawing board they received in their kit

Musical Magnetism

March 25, 2021
Musical Magnetism: Encouraging Franklin Middle Schoolers to Express Science Via the Arts.
Full Story

Carmen Paquette street performing.

Love of Science

March 9, 2021
Paquette Conveys Her Love of Science, Dance to Franklin STEAM Students Via Musical Magnetism.
Full Stroy

An Engineering Exploration participant exhibits the tower they built as part of the engineering challenge related to Civil Engineering

Engineering Exploration

March 2, 2021
SWE’s Engineering Exploration Outreach Lives Up to Its Name.

ChiS&E’s Family STEM Day

ChiS&E’s Family STEM Day

February 23, 2021
Helps Chicago Youngsters Progress Along the STEM Pipeline Toward Engineering.

Kathny Walsh

Kathy Walsh

February 17, 2021
On Her First Foray into STEAM, Kathy Walsh Acquaints Franklin Students with Microscopy, Haiku.

ChiS&E student

ChiS&E CPS Students

January 19, 2021
Illinois Undergrads Encourage ChiS&E CPS Students Toward Possible Careers in Engineering.

I-MRSEC’s Music Video

CISTEME365 Provides Year-Round PD/Community

January 4, 2021
to Illinois Teachers in Support of Informal STEM Education Efforts to Underserved Students.