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Camp Reach Claims National Award



WPI’s Camp Reach is not your typical pre-teen girls’ summer camp. There are few pillow fights and no macaroni sculpture. Instead, young women about to enter seventh grade have fun with technology, tackle real problems, and get up close and personal with the way things work.

At the end of two weeks, this year’s campers advised how best to equip classrooms in the American Red Cross’s new regional training facility, outlined a plan for creating a computer study room at the Henry Lee Willis Community Center, and designed a field day for the Flagg Street School Community Playground Initiative.

Camp Reach received the 2003 Women in Engineering Program Award for its role in encouraging young women in engineering and science and as an outstanding model program. “We were thrilled to receive this national award,” says Chrys Demetry, associate professor of mechanical engineering, who co-directs Camp Reach with Stephanie Blaisdell, director of diversity and women’s programs. “I think what stands out about our camp is that we don’t wave goodbye to these girls after the two weeks are over. Many of our campers have come back to be counselors. One-third of those eligible to come back this year inquired about doing so. We think that’s amazing since it’s an unpaid position, and often the counselors will work from 7 a.m. ‘til 10 at night.”

Women in Engineering Programs & Advocates Network is a national nonprofit organization of over 600 individuals representing nearly 200 engineering schools, Fortune 500 corporations and nonprofit organizations. Its Women in Engineering Program Award recognized Camp Reach for improving the educational environment for women in engineering.

“The award is also a fitting tribute to Denise Nicoletti, who was the passion behind this program for its first six years,” says Demetry. Nicoletti was the first tenured female professor of electrical and computer engineering at WPI. She and Demetry wrote the original grant for Camp Reach and started the program with funding from the National Science Foundation in 1997. Nicoletti was killed in an auto accident in the summer of 2002.

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