When it comes to fun and safe overnight summer camps for children, opportunities to attend one can be a pricey prospect for parents.
A no-cost Exelon Foundation STEM Academy was underway at the University of Maryland College Park from Monday, July 31 – Friday, Aug. 4, 2023, compliments of The Exelon Foundation and Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE). Lodging and meals were provided during the in-person, immersive experience that integrated a camp feel.
“We brought together over 60 local female high school students from across the Maryland and DC areas to stay on campus for a week and engage in hands-on learning activities, field trips and networking opportunities with professionals from Exelon and BGE. We also had STEM Academies in Chicago and Philadelphia, each also with 60 girls, before this one,” said Paula Conrad, president, Exelon Foundation.
Exelon, a Fortune 250 company and the nation’s largest utility company, serves customers through six fully regulated transmission and distribution utilities, including Baltimore Gas and Electric.
Conrad further explained that the partnership with BGE evolved to provide young women in high school with hands-on experience in STEM, energy and sustainability.
“With our 2023 Academies complete, we are so excited to have reached a milestone of 1,000 young women having participated in the past six years in STEM Academy in Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore/DC,” Conrad said.
STEM Academy graduates are also invited to apply for a college scholarship from the Exelon Foundation, if they opt to pursue degrees in engineering, IT or business/finance. Additionally, scholarship winners are encouraged to intern with Exelon, BGE and other utilities. Exelon hopes to employ a portion of previous winners, when they graduate from college, according to Conrad.
Violette Wood, a 16-year-old Baltimore Polytechnic Institute student from Baltimore, Maryland, gained STEM career insight while attending the STEM Academy. Making a parallel circuit that lit four lights was among her favorite activities.
“Though I attend a STEM school, this was my first actual STEM camp. I absolutely loved my experience here,” Violette said. “Participating in the Exelon Foundation STEM Leadership Academy has been my first real-world exposure to the field of renewable energy.”
The rising high school junior also had the opportunity to speak to a few academy staff members who earned degrees in her career fields of interest. Rodney Oddoye, Exelon’s Senior Vice President of Governmental, Regulatory, and External Affairs of Pepco Holdings was among them.
“It was great talking to him and hearing his goals for increased coordination between energy professionals and policymakers to enact change, because that’s exactly what I hope to do in my career,” Violette said.
This year’s STEM Academy focused on issues related to the critical state of the climate crisis.
Teams of students identified a problem, designed solutions with technology and materials and presented their proposed solutions to a panel of judges on Friday, Aug. 4, 2023 during a final challenge. BGE and Exelon employees served as judges for student projects.
PIPE (Power in Pink Electric), the winning team of the final challenge, addressed power outages caused by extreme heat in Marcus Hook, a borough that is located in Philadelphia. The proposed solution entailed introducing hydroelectric facilities to reduce the energy burden and bring increased energy during heat waves.
Seventeen-year-old Kemisola Benson, a rising high school senior who attends College Park Academy, located in Prince George’s County, Maryland also participated in the unique STEM Academy.
“When I grow up, I want to be a chemist or chemical engineer who concentrates on solving problems in the energy industry,” Kemisola said.
The ambitious student “had plenty of opportunities to meet with like-minded girls” with whom she could make peer connections.
“I definitely plan to keep in touch with the people I’ve met,” Kemisola said.
She added, “Exelon and BGE truly changed my life in these past six days. The program gave me so many opportunities to see the “finish line” of what I want to become in life and genuinely realize all of it is possible. It opened a lot of doors into people and places I’d never get to see on the traditional school route.”
More high school girls who will be rising juniors and seniors in the summer may apply for the STEM Academy, in the future. Young women must hail from specific geographical locations to apply, including Washington, D.C.; Baltimore City; Anne Arundel; Baltimore; Caroline; Carroll; Cecil; Dorchester; Harford; Howard; Kent; Montgomery; Prince Georges; Wicomico; and Worcester Counties in Maryland. An application opens at the beginning of the year. Visit www.exelonstemacademy.org to obtain details.