The Department of Aerospace Engineering and the UM College of Engineering Center for Engineering, Diversity and Outreach (CEDO) Galaxy Girls summer program went online in 2020 in response to COVID-19 as a safe alternative to the traditional residential program that introduces young people to aerospace engineering.
Operated as a partnership between the University of Michigan and the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP), Galaxy Girls is an annual week-long residential program aimed at teaching 8th and 9th graders regardless of gender about aerospace engineering and space sciences.
The highly popular event is open to all students with a minimum 2.7 GPA with at least a B in both math and science. It’s goal is to teach and inspire young people by immersing them in engineering disciples at the nation’s oldest aerospace program. This normally involves the participants living in University of Michigan housing and touring campus facilities, as well as direct instruction from engineering and STEM professionals, but the COVID-19 pandemic made this impossible, so Galaxy Girls 2020 was cancelled.
This would have been the downbeat end of the story if it hadn’t been for associate professor Anouck Girard and assistant professor Dimitra Panagou, who arranged to swap the in-person event for a virtual one. By replacing the U-M campus with Zoom, 34 students participated in an on-line camp that included presentations, chats, webinars, and break-out groups.
Topics discussed included what one needs to become an engineer with an emphasis on the need for science and math, computer and communication skills, and a good university education, as well as presentations of some of the projects being developed at the Department of Aerospace Engineering, such as those dealing with autonomous aircraft and spacecraft, robotics, CubeSats, planetary missions, and virtual reality and modeling.
A university spokesperson said that the virtual Galaxy Girls was a complete success and that the young participants found the experience suitably awesome.