At UC Berkeley’s Girls in Engineering summer camps, middle schoolers go from robots to cow legs to edible juice caviar, all in one whirlwind week.

The camps are part of a pilot program run by the College of Engineering as part of an effort to narrow the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Each summer there are two one-week sessions with 30 participants for each week. Instructors are professors, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate and undergraduate students, covering topics ranging from nanotechnology to data science. By design, nearly all instructors are women.

In one workshop, instructor Lavanya Jawaharlal, a UC Berkeley senior in mechanical engineering and co-creator of the Pi-Bot robotics kit, insisted that the girls master the “proper names” and functions of the robotic parts they were about to assemble. They went over terms like chassis, micro-controller and breadboard, a platform used to build electronic circuits.

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