Westland, MI (July 11, 2019) - The City of Westland and UM-Dearborn are pairing sports and technology to keep young women dreaming big about STEM.
There's plenty to like about what the City of Westland and the University of Michigan-Dearborn's
College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) have been doing in the evolving space of youth STEM education. The two partners already have a successful mentoring program at the Jefferson Barns Learning Lab, which hopes to spark kids' college and career dreams by pairing UM-Dearborn students with youth in the city's historic Norwayne neighborhood. This summer, that same partnership between the City of Westland and UM-Dearborn is applying a two-week day camp targeting STEM's gender gap.
"Studies have shown that the middle to high school transition is when some young women start shifting away from things like engineering and computer science," says Jeanne Girard, director of Extended Learning and Outreach at UM-Dearborn.
Given this challenge, Girard and her team of collaborators set out to design a program that could help sustain young women's interest in STEM subjects through this critical time. One idea that stuck was a two-week day camp that combines building mobile apps at the Jefferson Barns Learning Lab with playing golf at the Westland Municipal Golf Course.
UM-Dearborn golf coach Kelly Kuhlman, who's handling the golf part of this summer's Girls, Golf and Gadgets program, says golf and app development aren't as strange a match as they may appear. She says technology and analytics are playing a bigger role in the sport mare than ever. With constant mental analysis of distances, trajectories and angles of approach, there's a ton of computational problem solving that's involved in the game.
Computer science professor Brahim Medjahed says pairing sports with app development makes a lot of sense from his perspective too. "I like to think that computational thinking is fun in its own right," Medjahed commented, "But it's summer. Kids want to be outside. And they love their phones. So why not teach them about coding, but in a way that seems fun to them?"
That's why the summer camp will include a half day of golf instruction with Kuhlman and her student-athletes; and another half where Medjahed, two of his standout female computer science students, and Wayne-Westland computer science teacher and Jefferson Barns Learning Lab director Josh Rychlicki will teach participants how to build apps for their phones. The connection is that the apps will be designed to help students with some aspects of their golf game, for example, recommending an appropriate club based on the distance to the hole. What the apps do specifically will be left up to the kids' imaginations.
UM-Dearborn education professor Mesut Duran will also be lending his expertise with a post-project evaluation. In particular, he's interested to see if pairing sports with STEM activities can do what the team hopes it can do, strengthen students' interest in STEM subjects during their identity-shaping teenage years.
Westland Mayor, William Wild says partnerships with UM-Dearborn faculty, staff and students are crucial to pulling off innovative projects like Girls, Golf and Gadgets.
"Part of that is about a pooling of resources," commented Mayor Wild. "But it's also about leveraging creativity and unique expertise to create fun, rewarding learning opportunities for local youth. This unique program offers opportunity for advancement of both marketable STEM skills and the soft skills of athletics."
According to Ghassan Kridli, CECS associate dean and professor, "The Girls, Golf and Gadgets program offers a way to kindle curiosity among the participants in STEM education by helping them develop their own connections of the applications of STEM in everyday life. The success of the program is a win for all."
The Girls, Golf and Gadgets program runs August 12 through August 22. Participants can register through July 26th at umdearborn.edu/G3-program . There is no cost for the program. For media inquires, please contact Beth Marmarelli at 313-593-5140 or