Five years in and the Eureka! STEM education partnership between UNO, the College of Education, and Girls Inc. of Omaha is stronger than ever and encouraging an entire generation of young women to pursue careers where women, and especially women of color, are severely underrepresented.
On Friday, June 30, the sixth class of the Eureka! camp graduated at a ceremony in the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center, capping four weeks of exploring everything from aeronautics to robotics.
Formed in 2012, Eureka! is a five-year STEM program that enrolls girls the summer before they enter the eighth grade and supports them until they graduate high school. The program recently graduated its first cohort in May, almost all of which are pursuing a college education in a STEM-associated field.
Experiences for both the veteran and rookie groups of girls this year included lessons in computer programming, bioinformatics, engineering, geology and chemistry. In addition to the STEM-related opportunities, participants also participated in physical education lessons from UNO Campus Recreation, including swimming lessons.
Guidance and lessons on STEM concepts came from faculty in the UNO College of Education and College of Arts and Sciences.
Participants applied their STEM education at locations such as Adventureland, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Roskens Hall, and Glacier Creek Preserve, but also engaged in unique activities including a launching a high-altitude balloon, programming CEENBoT robots with Prairie STEM, and using the equipment at the UNO Biomechanics Research Building.
Following the first two summers in the program, the third and fourth summers are spent in externships at local agencies and businesses. In the fifth year, the girls work on their college scholarships, ACT prep and college applications.
A 2013 report by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that men made up double the percentage of women in STEM careers, a gap that increases even further for women of color.
"There are few women, and in particular underrepresented women, in STEM because there are few women encouraged early in their academic careers to explore and become involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” explained Carol Mitchell, a College of Education emeritus professor who oversees the camp. “We at UNO Eureka! STEM, in partnership with Girls, Inc. of Omaha, are doing something about this through this program."