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Hi! my name is Vinnessa and I am a rising sophomore participating in Duke Engage Orange County this summer. Using this partnership with Girls Inc., and working with the Eureka Sumer Camp, my main goal for this project is to be able to create a supportive and inspiring environment for young girls to pursue their interests in STEM. I chose to apply for this project because as a woman in STEM myself, I struggled to gain confidence in a field dominated by men. Despite that, what drove me to pursue my interests in physics and engineering was seeing other women accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish. They were teachers and fellow students, some I knew better than others, but I saw them all as role models that I aspire to be like. I joined this project because I wanted to be a mentor and role model for the young girls at Eureka Summer Camp.

In the first week, we have helped with recruitment and proposed ideas for our lesson plans. My lesson plan idea is centered around projectiles. The girls could build any kind of gadget that made something fly, using the items in their house. Since materials vary from household to household, I left it open-ended so that the girls could fit their project around what they had. They could create a slingshot, bottle rocket, catapult, etc. I wanted to create a hands-on experience because as a young girl, that’s how I gained confidence in my abilities and became really interested in the STEM field. However, this is still just a proposed lesson plan.

For recruitment, I sent out an email blast to potential campers. I know in past years Duke Engage students would go out to schools to help recruit. It is a bit disappointing that we can’t do that this year, given that we are all remote, but I am still glad we can help out however we can. Right now, one of the most saddening things about the pandemic and the project being remote is that the entire group would have been living together and forming friendships. We haven’t had the opportunity to do that yet, but I am hopeful that when we get paired up for our lesson plans in the next few weeks that I’ll get to know my fellow Duke Engagers better. Since we won’t meet our campers until the last few weeks of the project, becoming closer with my group is probably what I am looking forward to most in the coming weeks. Next week we start Eureka! training. I am not quite sure what to expect, but I am excited nonetheless.