GAMES camp cultivates interest in AE
One week every summer, the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hosts a camp called GAMES. It is a women-focused camp, designed to encourage high school girls who have an interest in space and aviation. In addition to building and flying rockets and gliders, the girls learn about the physics of flight and aerodynamics, visit labs, participate in group activities, and go on a couple of field trips.
This year, 25 students participated in GAMES. AE Director of Undergraduate Programs Brian Woodard developed the camp curriculum and has served as its director since it began in 2011.
“There are classes and laboratory sessions led by graduate students and faculty who are working on current research projects,” Woodard said. “We also bring in guest speakers from aerospace industry leaders such as NASA and the Jet Propulsion Lab.
“The activities guide participants as they investigate flight mechanics, aerodynamics, aerospace structures, orbital mechanics, and propulsion systems and apply them to aircraft and spacecraft design. For example, throughout the week, the campers build model rockets and rocket-boosted gliders,” Woodard said. “On the last day of the camp, we go to an area park and launch all of them.”
One of the highlights every year is a field trip to Willard Airport. They have the opportunity to take an actual flight in a small aircraft operated by the Institute of Aviation, take a turn ”flying” flight simulators that are used to train pilots, and climb aboard a corporate jet.
“While at the airport, they also visited the airport fire department,” Woodard said. “They learned practical skills for extinguishing fires. It is not exactly aerospace, but it was a fun break on a hot day.”
Of course, Woodard admits recruiting women into the aerospace engineering program at U of I is one of the goals of hosting summer camps like GAMES for high school students.
“It gives them a chance to experience being on campus, see inside the labs, and even meet some of the faculty,” he said. “It can also help those students who want to go into a STEM field but aren’t sure which one. By the end of the week, they should be able to decide whether or not aerospace engineering is a good fit for them.”
Woodard said this year’s staff included current AE undergraduate students Suzanne Peterson and Zana Essmyer, and 2019 graduate Katie Carroll. Two 2018 AE graduates also on the camp staff had their time donated by their employers. Cassie Dickey works for the inflight internet company Gogo and Jess Hart works for Space Telescope Science Institute.
To learn more about GAMES and other camps, visit the website.