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Girls’ Summer STEM Camp is coming… Let the (FUN) Learning Begin!

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

Today’s guest columnist is Joanne Smith, owner of FAB Creative Services 

Planning is underway for our second annual “No Limitations” summer camp for middle school girls! 

OK, that’s not the real name of the camp, but it’s the real mission.  

The Verizon Innovative Learning Summer STEM Camp for girls entering 6th through 8th grade is an experience like none other in the area – or even in the state. Independence Community College is one of 16 community colleges across the United States (the next closest is in Nebraska) selected in 2018 by the Verizon Foundation to participate in the grant-funded STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education program for girls. The objective? To narrow the gender gap when it comes to interest, education and careers in STEM and help both girls and boys in under-resourced areas access advanced technology and curriculum. 

To that end, Verizon has committed more than $400 million since 2012 to support STEM programming for middle school age youth in under-represented populations and rural areas. The girls’ STEM program is in its second year in Independence, operating under the umbrella of Independence Community College and facilitated by Fab Lab ICC. In 2018, we hosted our first three-week summer camp, with approximately 90 girls ages 9-15 participating from throughout southeast Kansas. Curriculum for the camp included Design Thinking (problem solving); 3D Modeling and Printing; Coding and Circuits; Virtual and Augmented Reality, and more. Each girl also participated in a final project, using the skills they learned at camp to develop a solution to a global, national, local or personal problem. We took field trips, entertained both in-person and virtual guest speakers, played games and sang karaoke! 

And every bit of it was ABSOLUTELY FREE to the girls. The Verizon funding supplied everything needed for the camp, including technology, tools and equipment, teaching staff, food (So. Much. Food!) and transportation. And, as part of the funding package, camp has been followed by monthly Saturday workshops to keep the girls engaged throughout the school year. The workshops we’ve devised have included a variety of activities and lessons – everything from learning the chemistry behind personal hygiene to building haunted escape rooms - and we routinely see approximately 40 girls at the monthly events. 

As you can guess from our solid attendance numbers and creative curriculum, we’re doing something unusual in the STEM program. We’re bringing together girls from all different backgrounds into a community of excited learners. Girls are finding new areas of interest in problem solving for their families, communities and world, using technology they’ve never touched before and pushing the boundaries of their own creativity. Moreover, they are making new friends, learning social skills and having FUN with subjects they may never really have enjoyed before. We teach them that there are no boundaries, no limitations to their potential. There are not “girl” professions and “boy” professions, there are just wide open possibilities. 

If you’re teen or pre-teen girl has never had the opportunity to truly explore STEM beyond the school classroom, see the real-world application or learn how fun it can be, this is the chance of a lifetime. I promise we’re not a bunch of math geeks! Our instructors are hometown teachers at the elementary, middle school and college levels who take a strong personal interest in our girls, their success and their fulfillment at camp. Our goal is to make sure each girl gets as much reward from the experience as the effort she puts in. 

The online application process for summer camp is now live, and at this point, we still have about 70 spots open. To apply, visit and click on the link labeled VIL Girls STEM Summer Camp, and make sure to have your student handy. There is a place on the application for her to write, in her words, why she wants to attend STEM camp. (If you need more room than what’s provided, please email your student’s response to me at All successful applicants will be notified by May 31. 

We hope to see your girl at summer camp! 

About today’s guest columnist: 

Joanne Smith is the owner of FAB Creative Services, a multi-specialty marketing company based in Independence. She works closely with Fab Lab ICC and Independence Community College to provide marketing support and direct the Verizon Innovative Learning Girls’ STEM Program, as well as the Women 4 Women initiative to expose adult women to entrepreneurial concepts and opportunities. She may be contacted at; or (620) 330-3006. More information is available at 

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at or Twitter @jimcorrellks.  

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