On a rainy Tuesday morning, 11 current and incoming John Bapst Memorial High School students gathered in a classroom in their nearly empty school building to learn how to build robots.
They were participating in a week-long summer technology camp meant to get freshmen and sophomore students interested in the school’s array of tech-related clubs and course offerings.
“This is more girls than I’ve ever seen in my entire career here,” said Michael Murphy, engineering and technology department chair at John Bapst. He has been teaching at the school for eight years and is helping out with the week-long camp. “Usually I get two or three.”
The other component that sets this program apart is that it is run by a rising senior, Karen Noble, 17, who decided to organize it after brainstorming with Murphy about how to get more girls in the school’s technology programs.
Last year, as a junior, she was one of only two girls in the program, which involved about 30 students.
“The reason I didn’t get involved in technology in my freshman and sophomore years was because I was too shy,” she said. “I was wondering if other girls had the same problem.”
Bethany Waanders, 19, who graduated from John Bapst in 2013 and is back this summer to help with Noble’s summer camp, said girls aren’t getting involved in their schools’ technology programs because they see few female role models already participating.
When she first got to John Bapst, Waanders said she did not join the robotics club because she did not want to cast herself with all the boys.
It wasn’t until her sophomore year, when she noticed another girl in the club, that she thought, “It’s doable. I won’t be alone.”
Waanders went on to become captain of the team her junior and senior years and is now studying mechanical engineering at Calvin College in Michigan.