By Julie O’Connor

Many students, particularly girls, don’t realize the vast opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research areas. Research experience in these areas provides students with higher quality, hands-on and meaningful educational experiences that broadens their knowledge base by giving access to leading-edge knowledge and methods, and critical thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation of quality of information.

In addition, it prepares students to be competitive in a knowledge-based economy, provides a foundation for further education, and places learning in a context that connects theory in the classroom with practice. It gives students an opportunity to apply their knowledge, problem solve and participate in teams.

In collaboration with the Southeastern Michigan Girl Scouts, Wayne State University is working to increase interest and participation in the STEM-related disciplines of technology and math among young women by developing a technology-based curriculum for a summer camp.

The research team is led by Monica Tracey, Ph.D., and Ingrid Guerra-López, Ph.D., associate professors in the College of Education, and Dr. Kenneth Chelst, Ph.D., professor of operations research and director of the engineering management program at Wayne State University. Together, they will design a data-driven intervention program that uses social network tools including Twitter and a website to collaborate and solve problems surrounding bullying as a part of Camp Moxie, a four-day leadership adventure for 100 girls aged 14 to 18 who want to make a difference in the world.

In the camp, the girls explore their interests and talents, build confidence and strengthen leadership skills while cultivating valuable professional relationships. Hands-on interactive activities facilitated by leading women executives in business, philanthropy and government will help girls identify areas of need in their own community, and challenge them to find innovative ways to improve the world around them using sustainable solutions that create social value.

“The program is designed to highlight the power of data for societal problem identification and resolution,” said Guerra-López. “The Girl Scout research teams will analyze the data collected daily through the social network tools and provide the participants with ongoing feedback regarding the evolving parameters of the problem. At the end of the camp, they will present the social network analysis findings to camp participants, parents and sponsors on the final day of camp to illustrate the power of data harnessed through social networking to support decision making and problem solving.”

Associate Vice President for Research Gloria Heppner said, “The program gives Girl Scouts a great opportunity to take their motto – Be Prepared – to another level: Be prepared for your future by exploring STEM education.”