G.A.M.E.S. Camp Seeks to Navigate Girls into Aerospace Engineering

Brian Woodard and a couple of GAMES campers follow the flight of one of the girls' rockets.
Brian Woodard and a couple of GAMES campers follow the flight of a rocket during the launch event at Dodds' Park.

August 7, 2013

The temperature wasn't the only thing going up on July 19th, the final afternoon of the 2013 G.A.M.E.S. Aerospace Engineering camp. On one of the hottest afternoons of the summer, nothing could keep the 20 girls who attended the camp; Brian Woodard, the camp director; and his enthusiastic Aerospace Engineering team from braving the heat to launch the rockets and gliders the girls had built, most of which soared high into the clouds above Dodds' Park.

The girls who attended the one-week Aerospace Engineering G.A.M.E.S. camp were treated to what Woodard calls "all the neat stuff that is in aerospace." Besides building and flying rockets and gliders (complete with "re-entry" parachutes which would hopefully break the fall—not their rockets or gliders), the girls learned about the physics of flight and aerodynamics and experienced Aerospace's wind tunnel. A highlight of the week was a visit to Willard Airport's Institute of Aviation. In addition to practicing on flight simulators, the girls got to actually go up for a flight in a two-seat training prop, even briefly taking the controls.

Flightstar instructor (left) shows a GAMES camper how to navigate while using the flight simulator.
Aviation Institute instructor (left) explains how to use the flight simulator to a GAMES camper.

The Aerospace Engineering G.A.M.E.S. camp was in its second year. Camp director both years, Brian Woodard isn't new to the summer camp scene. While in grad school, he helped Dianne Jeffers run the Illinois Aerospace Institute, a co-ed camp that has been wooing high schoolers into Aerospace Engineering since the early 90s.

Why spend the hottest week of the summer to work with a bunch of high school girls? "I really like working with summer programs," says Woodard. "When I heard that there was the opportunity for someone to be in charge of their own curriculum for the camp and make it the way they wanted it, I jumped at that opportunity. I thought it sounded really fun. I really like working with high school students. I had a really good time with it last year."

Aerospace GAMES camper tests the parachute she is making for her rocket.
Aerospace GAMES camper tests the parachute she is making for her rocket.

Woodard, whose teaching philosophy for the camp is one-on-one instructor-pupil interaction, has put his stamp on the program. Rather than taking students around to guest presentations by people in different labs, the camp's three instructors worked with the students all week, exposing them to different aspects of Aerospace engineering.

Woodard says, "I really like that. I think you get to know all the students really well." And last year's students got to know him well enough to communicate with him when they had questions: Reports Woodard: "I've been in contact with students from last year wanting to know about college or Aerospace."

Working alongside Woodard for the week were two female grad students. In addition to serving as instructors (one specializes in aerodynamic wind tunnel testing; the other in spacecraft design), as women who have chosen and are excelling in the field of Aerospace Engineering, they served as excellent role models for the girls. And according to Woodard, the goal of the GAMES camp is to ultimately increase the number of women who not only choose careers in Aeronautical Engineering—but choose to study at Illinois.

"I think that, overall, the department hopes that we get more female students in our department. I'm not sure what the percentage of women in each of the departments is, or what the overall for the college is, but it's pretty low. Our department would love to get it higher, closer to 50%...Anything we can do to help get more women in the department."

Aerospace GAMES camper works on the parachute for her rocket.
Aerospace GAMES camper works on the parachute for her rocket

Having worked many years with high school students in the co-ed Illinois Aerospace Institute, as well as the inaugural run of the Aerospace GAMES last year, Woodard notes a difference between the students in the two camps: Aerospace Institute students have pretty much settled on Aerospace Engineering as a career; GAMES campers tend to be experimenting:

Explains Woodard: "The students who came to the coed camp seem to have picked that camp out of all the summer camps they could come to because they were really interested in aerospace. They had a lot of ideas about, 'I wanna' make rockets,' or 'I wanna' build airplanes.' They had really set goals…Whereas, with the GAMES camp...a lot of these students thought, 'Aerospace, that sounds kind of neat. I might not really know what that is, but that sounds kinda' cool. So I'll try that camp!' And so the background was different."

GAMES camper (left) and Flightstar instructor prepare for take off.
GAMES camper and her Aviation Institute instructor (left) prepare for takeoff.

Although he is passionate about recruiting students into his field, Woodard recognizes that every girl who attends GAMES isn't going to choose aerospace engineering…or even engineering for that matter. He shares an anecdote about a girl from last year's GAMES camp who came up to him and confided, "'You know, I really did have fun…I appreciate all of the stuff you guys did. But I am now certain I don't want to be an engineer." And Woodard is ok with that. "You don't want them to go to college and waste two years or something finding that out," he admits. "If they really know this isn't for them, that's good."

While he knows everyone isn't cut out for engineering, Woodard's ultimate goal is to hopefully navigate some girls into Aerospace: "I thought it was really fun to be able to show them all the neat stuff that is in aerospace, and what aerospace engineers do…I hope that we guided some of them into wanting to be aerospace engineers."

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

More: 8-12 Outreach, Aerospace Engineering, GAMES, GAMES: Aerospace, Summer Camp, Women in STEM, 2013

For additional I-STEM articles about 2013 G.A.M.E.S. camp, see:

GAMES camper prepares rocket for launch.
Aerospace GAMES camper prepares her glider for launch.

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.