XCITE Empowers Young Women in STEM

Camp coordinators and presenters at the annual eXploration Camp for Inspiring Tomorrow’s Engineers (XCITE) said that the event allowed them to interact with bright and creative high school students. College of Engineering faculty and staff members each marveled in their own ways at the undeniable talent that the young women exhibited throughout the camp, which was held July 10 – 16.

The 22 girls, ranging from sophomores to seniors in high school, were guided through the engineering disciplines by participating in “Engineering 101” workshops. The workshops were led by College faculty and staff members, and focused on giving the campers an up-close look at what fields like chemical and industrial engineering look like today.

David Giurintano, a Capstone Design instructor in the College’s mechanical and industrial engineering department, gave the girls an overview of mechanical engineering and ended the presentation with an interactive learning activity.

“I assembled teams of three girls, and one team of four, to design a passive child restraint,”Giurintano said. “This a concept generation exercise I have the Capstone students do each fall.”

The students were given 12 minutes to come up with several ideas and select their best design, while considering four factors: customer needs, objectives, concepts and evaluation of concept. Giurintano then asked a member of each team to present their idea to the entire group for one minute. Counselors asked the teams questions and chose the best design based on the presentation.

“While the counselors pondered a winner, I shared with all of the girls that they did not mention any of the traditional answers that are usually presented in Capstone,” he said. “It was good that they explored ideas related to keeping the baby happy versus just restrained.”

Keiron Durant, a camp coordinator and chemical engineering graduate student, shared similar sentiments and said the campers were “a high-quality group.”

“They asked a lot of questions,” Durant said with a laugh. “They were really great questions, though, about everything from college, to a job and even beyond that. They were well-rounded questions that really illustrated how engaged they all were.”

Biological engineering senior Tekia Chess volunteered with the XCITE residential camp in previous years and said she saw how it helped the girls solidify their interest in engineering. Chess added the camp it was “never like coming to work at all” because she enjoys working with the young women.

“I’m always up for interacting with younger students—it’s fun!” Chess said. “But going through an engineering major, it’s different and it’s hard, and I always want students to be sure of what path they choose in the field.”

Elizabeth Kibodeaux, a Rayne native and rising senior at Notre Dame High School, said the camp gave her much needed insight into the different aspects of engineering.

“I finally figured out what I want to do,” Kibodeaux said, laughing, and added she is currently leaning toward computer and electrical engineering.

“I love this camp and honestly wouldn’t change a thing,” she said. “I love meeting everyone, and I think that everything we did this week played a part; it was all necessary.”

Jaz’myne Perry, a Houston native and rising senior at Lamar High School, echoed Kibodeaux’s concern with finding the right path in engineering, and said the camp helped strengthened her decision to enter the field.

“Everything was perfect,” Perry said of the camp experience. “I enjoyed getting to know more about engineering and meeting girls who have same interests.”

In addition to the Engineering 101 workshops, the girls toured the Marathon refinery and the LSU campus, participated in a challenge course at LSU University Recreation and competed in a design competition.

During the competition teams were able to complete a series of challenges centered on the use of Boe-bots, or “Board of Education” robots, which are used for introductory robotics programs nationwide. They were tasked with completing a series of challenges, such as navigating a narrow bridge system and removing a block from a Jenga tower.

The camp also featured an industry lunch where students were able to network with representatives from companies like Dow, Abermarle and ExxonMobil.

Kay Johnson, who has been with BASF for six years, talked with the young women she lunched with at her table candidly about negotiating needs as a woman in engineering, balancing a career and children and generally being aware of yourself and your limitations.

“You have to evaluate what’s best for your and your family. Be aware of your tolerance,” Johnson said. “Everything you do in life has trade-offs.”


To see the XCITE photo album, please visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/lsuengineering/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10157291582030595.

For more information, please contact communications assistant M.B. Humphrey at 225-578-5660 or marissah@lsu.edu.