Corporate Citizenship

IBM EXITE Camps inspire girls to explore the world of STEM

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Author: Amitee Goulton, IBM Business Analyst, Global Business Services

When I started my journey with IBM in January, I was thrilled to learn about the local EXITE camp. I was quick to sign myself up to volunteer at the earliest opportunity. EXITE stands for EXploring Interests in Technology & Engineering. The camps are a worldwide IBM initiative to encourage girls in Years 8-10 to study and pursue careers in STEM subjects. The camps aim to show young women the diverse range of career opportunities available to them in these fields through fun, hands-on activities over a four-day program.

In Ballarat, this camp has been running since 2006. However, the first IBM EXITE camp was launched in 1999 at IBM’s Endicott, New York site. To date almost 5,000 young women have participated in one of the many camps held across the world! This year, IBM Ballarat expanded their partnership with Federation University Australia, and for the first time, IBM’s EXITE camp featured as a highlight of Ballarat Tech School’s ‘Girls in STEM’ Program.

Below are my reflections on what was an action packed and inspiring four days.

Day 1 – Monday, 17 September

We had a beautiful sunny morning in Ballarat, Victoria for the start of the annual EXITE Camp. 23 girls from six local schools were eager to see the fantastic STEM experiences and mentoring we had lined up for them.

Hosted by Ballarat Tech School, we started the camp with guest motivational speaker Lisa Weightman, IBMer and Olympian! The rest of the day, Clare Desira from Top Five Movement took the girls through workshops on mindset, body language, career ladders and interviews.

Guest speaker: Lisa Weightman

Guest speaker: Lisa Weightman

Day 2 – Tuesday, 18 September

Meeting Mabel the Mars robot

Meeting Mabel the Mars robotDay 3 – Wednesday, 19 September

On Tuesday we took the girls on a day trip to the Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) in Melbourne. After a crash course in geology and some scientific testing under the guidance of talented and enthusiastic educator Danielle Shean, the girls were recruited as scientists and engineers for a robotic mission to Mars. The mission required intense concentration and cooperation between teams to drive their Mars robot from one site to the next to collect and test rock samples. Little did they know they were driving an actual $250k robot over simulated terrain in a nearby room!

Day 3 – Wednesday, 19 September

Cozmo: The cutest little robot we've ever seen!

Cozmo: The cutest little robot we’ve ever seen!

Wednesday was all about AI robot Cozmo! Thanks to the lovely people from Coder Academy, the girls were treated to a full day of tiny robot goodness. We were meant to do chatbots in the afternoon, but the robots proved too popular. In the first half of the session, we coded using blocks and tablets to get Cozmo to perform specific tasks. Later in the day we progressed to coding with Python.

Day 4 – Thursday, 20 September

Thursday kicked off with Design Thinking. The workshop was lead by EXITE Camp alumni Hannah Mroczkowski. Lending a helping hand was Emily Wong, one of our amazing interns and camp organisers. The theme for the session was about teaching girls to “be brave, not perfect”. Next the girls were treated to a lesson on creating Virtual Reality. This was run by Casey Thomas from Ballarat Tech School. Next they were heading off to Speed Mentoring after lunch. We were fortunate to have a great panel of women this year. This included several of our local Federation University supporters and some fantastic IBMers who travelled to Ballarat especially to spend time with our campers.

The girls and the mentors

The girls and the mentors

However, all good things must come to an end…

We invited the girls’ families and special guests to our closing ceremony and afternoon tea. The chief camp organiser, Pearl Myers and guest IBMer/mentor Carla Ramchand, both spoke wonderful words of encouragement. The girls were presented with certificates, which was a lovely end to 4 days of fun and opening doors to a world full of opportunities in STEM.

PS: A big thank you to my fellow organisers and all the IBMers, Federation University and Ballarat Tech School staff who volunteered their time to ensure the camp was a success!

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