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Camp introduces girls to making and helps find that “maker gene”

A GADgET Girls Camp participant at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, applies some finishing touches to a piece on a lathe.

Noor Raham has only been alive for a decade, but she always knew she wanted to be an engineer.

“I’ve been in engineering since I was younger,” the 10-year-old said.

This might sound funny coming from someone who didn’t even get into sixth grade, but Rahman said it as seriously as possible. After all, her grandfather was a civil engineer and she hopes to follow in his footsteps.

“I want to design and make things,” Rahman added, as she stood dwarfed next to huge CNC machines in the metal fabrication lab at the College of DuPage (COD) Technical Education Center in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. .

So her parents enrolled her in the GADgET (Girls Adventuring in Design, Engineering, and Technology) girls’ camp at COD, a two-week workshop that is part of the Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs (NBT) series of summer camps and aims to introduce girls to the design and manufacturing processes. NBT is the foundation of the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, Intl.

Rahman was one of dozens of girls in grades six through eight to attend GADgET Girls Camp. Within two weeks, they had a crash course in SolidWorks; work with metal, wood and plastics; and safely operate various tools and machines, such as band saws, welders and 3D printers.

This is a pretty broad overview of some elements of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) career paths, but the goal, said camp instructor James Tumavich, is “to turn on that gene of manufacturer. It doesn’t matter what they do, as long as they do something.

Even though COD launched its version of camp in 2019, this summer was the first year COD hosted GADgET Girls without the in-person guidance of program founder Antigone Sharris. Triton College’s engineering technology coordinator started the girl-focused camp in 2010, when it was clear to her that boys made up the overwhelming majority of youth STEM camp attendees.

But Tumavich thinks COD has waited a long time to host an NBT camp, especially given all the resources the college has to offer. It has nearly 25,000 enrollments and is the second largest provider of undergraduate programs in all of Illinois.

“When I noticed all the other colleges were having camps, I was like, ‘What are we doing wrong? “, said Tumavich, head of COD manufacturing technology.

Nuts, Bolts & Gadgets GADGET Girls Camp

Campers took a crash course in SolidWorks CAD.

So Tumavich reached out to Sharris to take steps to replicate her program and help get more girls interested in manufacturing and STEM fields.

“She really got us started,” Tumavich said. “His sole purpose was just to start more GADgET Girls Summer Camps.”

Of all the projects the girls worked on over the two weeks, the metal workshop turned out to be the camp’s favorite. They customized a dragonfly or eagle design, transferred those CAD files to a waterjet cutting machine to cut them out, and then welded the pieces together.

For 11-year-old Nina Suerth, she said she was used to working with wood in her father’s workshop, but it was her first time working with metal. And now she wants to buy a soldering iron.

“It’s really cool to do metal stuff. I was able to weld together the legs, the wings and all that. It was cool to see the metal melt and dry immediately. And then when you’re done, you see it and you think, ‘Wow, I did that’,” Suerth said.

To get an understanding of metalworking processes, the girls visited metalworking machine manufacturer MC Machinery Systems in Elk Grove, Illinois, where they designed a metal candy dish and saw the manufacturing process happen. unroll. While in the factory, they finalized the design in SolidWorks CAD, watched the metal parts being cut on a large laser cutting machine, and then watched the individual parts formed into a tray on a press brake.

Camp instructor Donna Mikrut said that because of the welding project, the girls gained a real appreciation seeing the process take place in a large metal fabrication shop.

“They already had that experience, so they were able to build on that experience,” Mikrut said. “They started realizing, ‘Oh, I’ve done metal things and now I can do bigger things.’ They are amazed that it is available.

Editor’s note: NBT is accepting grant applications for the 2023 Summer Making Camps through December 1, 2022. Host schools receive a variety of supports from NBT, including up to $2,500 in funding. Bring a camp to your area next season! Visit for more information.