STEM Gems: Empowering the Next Generation of Women

STEM Gems at Georgia Tech

In June, 50 metro Atlanta teenage girls from diverse backgrounds convened at Georgia Tech for the first in-person STEM Gems summer camp. STEM Gems was founded by Stephanie Espy, CEO and founder of MathSP, a STEM-focused academic and test prep coaching company based in Georgia. Espy received her bachelor's and master's degrees in chemical engineering from MIT and the University of California at Berkeley, respectively. The strikingly lower percentage of women in engineering compared to men inspired her to undertake a project in which she spent several years researching and compiling the stories of women in STEM fields. This project became STEM Gems, a book highlighting the stories of 44 inspiring women in STEM careers and their paths, obstacles, and accomplishments. Espy says it's a book she wishes she had when she was growing up.

STEM careers are still male dominated, with 19% of bachelor's degrees in engineering awarded to women, and 3% to minority women. STEM Gems is shining a light on successful women working in these fields and providing young girls with encouragement and practical advice as they navigate their own paths. Campers spent the week learning about a variety of careers in STEM, engaging in hands-on activities, touring labs at Georgia Tech, and interacting with leading female engineering professors. They even learned about the college admissions process and bonded through workshops and group discussions on topics such as risk-taking and the importance of a growth mindset.

"The thing I was most interested in this week was the lab tours," said Darshika Domma, a STEM Gem and first-year student at Lambert High School. "We saw what it's really like in the research labs, what it looks like, what they do there. I got to learn a lot more about how STEM is applied to real life."

Nithya Neelagiri, a sophomore at South Forsyth, heard about STEM Gems from her younger sister. "I'm already interested in chemical engineering and thought the camp would be a great way to gain some experience," she said. One of her favorite activities was a probability game played with marbles. "At that point, I had already really bonded with my teammates, so we had a lot of fun doing the math together." Several other campers shared how fascinated they were with a lab tour that featured research being done on rat brains and the potential biomedical applications for humans. The girls' excitement at the end of the week is a testament to the camp's inspiring mission — and the bright futures ahead of them.

Highlights by the numbers:

50 energetic girls.
44 world-changing careers in STEM.
20 eye-opening lab tours.
12 hands-on activities.
7 exceptional women in STEM facilitators. 6 leading female engineering professors.

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Savannah Williamson

Group photo: Malcolm Davie Photography