PHARR - Twenty years since its inception, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD’s (PSJA) Gifted and Talented Program hosted their first all-girls summer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Camp. The GT camp, running from June 3-6 at Liberty Middle School, offers courses on coding, robotics, programming and flying drones.

The girls, left to solve their daily mini challenges, watched in awe as their robots darted in a frenzy beneath them on a makeshift, hand-drawn maze. Just the day before they had received their first lesson in flying drones, the remnants of their exciting day still left above the roof of Liberty Middle School.

“We had our first drone lesson yesterday and it was an experience because a lot of the girls have not had an opportunity to fly drones,” said Noemi Serna, GT coordinator. “We sort of lost a couple of them because they’re up on the roof. I could hear the girls really excited about being able to fly a drone. One of them said, ‘I never thought I’d be able to fly a drone.’”

According to Serna, the all-girls camp was created in an effort to encourage women to enter the STEM field.

“This time around we have just girls because we understand there is a need for women in the STEM areas,” Serna said. “We want to make sure that they don’t miss out on that opportunity (and) to introduce them to new ideas, new concepts, new skills that are going to help them discover maybe an unknown talent or an unknown desire

to explore those areas of STEM.”

Some lessons included learning how to code by creating a custom bracelet using binary numbers to spell out their names. Like the coding class, the camps are designed to be fun while giving girls the foundation and confidence to one day enter the field. Students like Priscilla Maldonado, incoming 6th grader, have since become interested in pursuing a career in STEM.

“I really like code and its always been really easy,” Maldonado said. “My dad works at an oil factory so he really does know how to work with like EV3s and other machines and so I think I really have some of that (because) it’s really easy.”

Following this week, the annual summer GT camps for boys and girls for 1st through 3rd graders will take place June 10-13, while camps for 4th through 8th grade students will be held June 17-20.