Legos, computer programming, underwater robots, coding and creativity – for 125 middle school girls they were the components for the perfect summer.

Students at work on underwater robots.

For the third consecutive year, the University has been the site of miniGems, a free-two week summer camp teaching programming and STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, to girls in grades 6 to 8.

Hosted by Autonomous Vehicle Services Research and Educational Laboratory, and co-directed by Dr. Michael Frye, of the engineering department, and Dr. Sreerenjini Nair, of the physics department, the camp’s goal is to introduce girls to science and engineering, and spark interests in the fields.

Over the two-week camps, attendees built EV3 Lego Mindstorm robots utilizing skills in robotics and computer programming. Campers also put their

Dr. Michael Frye

talents to work constructing underwater remotely operated vehicles via the SeaPerch program. Members of the Navy Recruiting District in San Antonio oversaw as the girls competed with their robots in the UIW Natatorium.

MiniGems was the first camp in San Antonio designed exclusively for middle school girls that focused on autonomous ground, air and underwater robots.

Since its founding in 2015, miniGems has grown from one week to two, and by more than 100 participants thanks to a $94,950 grant from the Texas Workforce Commission. With such innovative approaches and dedicated organizers, miniGems will continue to foster future scientists and inspire invention.