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Sasha Brown, 12, Alana Keller, 11, Maggie Klein, 12 and Khushi Patel, 11, are middle school girls learning about brain phantoms, which are a material that have specific characteristics to the brain tissue.

 

Kayla Bain / Alligator

Sasha Brown hunched over a petri dish, poking gelatin with a metal stick alongside three other middle schoolers.

“I want to be a chemist when I grow up,” Brown said. “I don’t know what in chemistry, but something to do with chemistry.”

Brown, a 12-year-old seventh grader from Howard Bishop Middle School, was one of four girls who attended UF’s Women in Science and Engineering fifth-annual Girlz Science Spring Camp. The week-long camp lets sixth and seventh grade girls experience different elements of Science, Mathematics, Technology and Engineering, said May Mansy, a UF biomedical engineering doctoral student.

A maximum of 15 girls can attend the $50 five-day camp, Mansy said.

Mansy said the camp makes big concepts easier to understand by breaking them down step by step. For their experiment Brown did Tuesday, the girls made models of the brain by mixing agar, which is similar to Jell-O.

The organization aims to expose girls to different areas of STEM and introduce them to other female scientists, Mansy said.

“We are trying to show them that we are there in the field and there are other people like you who can do it,” Mansy said. “If we can do it, you can do it.”

Compared to the previous four camps, this year the lessons are more in-depth and explore fields like biomedical, electrical, chemical and computer engineering, Mansy said.

Khushi Patel, an 11-year-old Lincoln Middle School sixth grader, said it was her first year attending the camp, and she is excited for the food sciences experiment scheduled for Friday.

“I am really interested in science, and I really like this camp because we get hands on experiences,” Patel said.

Alana Keller, an 11-year-old Howard Bishop Middle School sixth grader, said she enjoyed the Monday trip to Three Lakes Creek, located at 2730 NW 39th Ave., to hunt for shark’s teeth.

Throughout the week, the girls will use a machine to hear their heartbeat and listen to their brain waves, said Sarah Rowlinson, a UF biomedical engineering professor.

She said she’s excited to engage with the girls and foster a love of science.

“I remember when I was a little girl at a science camp, and that really changed things for me,” Rowlinson said.