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Feature Story | Argonne National Laboratory

A summer of coding, research and fun: a Q&A with participants in Argonne’s 2021 summer camps

Find out from our summer students how Argonne’s camps have reshaped their interest and journeys in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)

Each year, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory hosts a wide range of summer camps. These authentic opportunities let middle and high school students experience unique facets of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, guiding them on pathways to become the next generation of STEM leaders.

This year’s campers have been inspired by the camps in numerous ways, from starting their own artificial intelligence (AI) clubs in school to seeing a future for themselves in sustainable architecture. What reshaped these students’ STEM pathways over the course of the summer?

Before the camp, I only knew that I wanted to go into the computer science field in the future, but I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do. Now, after hearing all the guest speakers talk about their jobs and what they do, I realized that I want to go into cyber security.” — Lamija Cenan, Coding for Science Camp student

In this article, you can find out for yourself, as students from each of our summer camps share how their unique camp experiences influenced their futures in STEM.


CodeGirls@Argonne Camp strives to inspire sixth- and seventh-grade girls to explore the fascinating world of coding, helping create more diverse STEM pathways for young women. Women scientists and engineers from the lab share their own STEM stories with campers, and students learn about the lab’s advanced technologies like the upcoming Aurora exascale supercomputer.

We interviewed several campers from CodeGirls about their experience this summer, and they were happy to share their thoughts on the program.

Q. Why did you choose to be a part of CodeGirls this summer? Are you happy that you attended?

A. Ilyana Becker: When I was first introduced to CodeGirls, it immediately interested me, especially because of how it’s put together. I was glad that it was a camp run by female scientists and that I would get to be working with a group of other girls who were interested in science/STEM and the same things as me. Yes, I’m happy that I attended CodeGirls this summer, and I would definitely be interested in future Argonne camps and projects, especially after being introduced to how friendly and open the environment of Argonne is. Often, people don’t enjoy the summer camps they attend, but with something like CodeGirls, it gives kids the opportunity to be open about their ideas and be able to learn while also having fun, making friends, and enjoying something they’ve maybe been wanting to do for a while but haven’t had the chance to, or just haven’t gotten around to or had the courage to do.

Q. What has been your favorite part of the CodeGirls experience? How has CodeGirls affected your view of science and computing?

A. Janeece Boyd: In my opinion, the best part of the CodeGirls program was when we worked on our projects, because I was able to improve my coding, while interacting with young women who shared the same interests as me. CodeGirls has increased my excitement for STEM career opportunities, because we don’t know the complete impact STEM will have in our future. If I chose a career in STEM, I think I can help define the future for women in STEM fields, and that excites me.

Q. After this summer, do you think you would be interested in pursuing more programs with Argonne (camps, internships, etc.)?

A. Ilona Kudirka: If I had the chance, I would definitely be interested in pursuing more programs with Argonne, especially camps. I had so much fun, and I would love to learn more. In my opinion, the most important part of CodeGirls in promoting STEM education is teaching the different options that you have for STEM careers in the future. There are STEM jobs for every type of person, and it doesn’t just have to be what people normally consider as a STEM job.

Coding for Science Camp

Coding for Science is a high school-level STEM camp that teaches students critical coding skills like using Python. With this new knowledge, students collaboratively problem-solve alongside the lab’s computer scientists. No prior coding experience is required, making this a great way to take first steps into coding.

Q. What has been your favorite part of Coding for Science Camp?

A. Emily Boyd: My favorite part of the Argonne’s Coding for Science Camp was the final project day. I liked using the knowledge that I had learned all week for something that I was interested in. I got to work with partners and create something that will help me to further understand how to code. I also was able to use loops [instructions that repeat until a certain condition happens] and if-then statements [when a certain value is true, a code will activate] to further extend my knowledge.

Q. What are your thoughts on participating in other camps and programs with Argonne? Has anything from Coding for Science Camp increased your interest in Argonne and STEM areas?

A. Lamija Cenan: I would love to participate in other camps and programs with Argonne, because I learned a lot and it was an amazing experience. I think that having the guest speakers talk about what they do and their job helped increase my interest in cyber security. Before the camp, I only knew that I wanted to go into the computer science field in the future, but I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do. Now, after hearing all the guest speakers talk about their jobs and what they do, I realized that I want to go into cyber security.

Q. What do you think is the most important part of Coding for Science Camp?

A. Shouri Dharanipagada: As a new generation of coders rises, Argonne’s Coding for Science Camp provided an amazing opportunity for people like me to learn from experienced instructors and camp leaders. The camp was a great experience and educated all the campers about the vast topics of computer science. In only a five-day camp, I became comfortable with Python and was able to comprehend a new language. It is very important to educate the up-and-coming generation, and through this summer camp, I and other campers were able to learn a lot about coding.

Big Data Camp

Big Data Camp lets high school juniors and seniors take part in a professional computer science workshop. This unique experience features computer experts from the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF), a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science user facility, and data from the lab’s Array of Things (AoT) urban sensor project, with students discovering firsthand what it’s like to be a real-world data scientist.

Q. How did it feel to use data from Argonne’s Array of Things (AoT) urban sensor project and Chameleon (Jupyter notebooks), and to see firsthand what it’s like to be a real data scientist?

A. Anagha Tiwari: It was such an invaluable and amazing experience. Being able to access and use top-notch data from one of the most famous laboratories in the country, as well as the super-powerful Chameleon program, allowed me to utilize the cutting-edge technology first hand. I was able to gain a deeper understanding of what it is like to be a real data scientist, and because of this camp, I am even more passionate about pursuing such a career in the future!

Q. Looking back at the five-day camp, what do you feel was your favorite part of Big Data Camp?

A. Drew Bixler: There was a lot to appreciate about the Big Data Camp, but my favorite part was the exercise of solving the cholera problem. We analyzed historical data by producing graphs and tables that helped us solve one of the world’s most famous science questions. This exercise really helped me to appreciate the power of data science.

Q. What are your plans for your STEM journey moving forward, and how has Big Data Camp helped you with your goals?

A. Sagar Patange: Inspired by the Big Data Camp, I have taken immediate steps to not only improve my knowledge by doing more online courses in Big Data and AI, but also have started an AI club in the teenage community organization Alive Center. I also plan to start an AI club in my school, Metea Valley High School.

All About Energy

A collaborative effort between Argonne and the University of Chicago, All About Energy (an extension of the nationwide After School Matters program) challenges high school teams to research, develop, and present professional sustainability improvement proposals for specific Chicago neighborhoods. In doing so, students realize how STEM research can support environmental and social justice in local communities such as their own neighborhoods.

Q. What is the most important thing you have learned in All About Energy about professional STEM research, and how it can be applied in the real world?

A. Daniela Serna: I’ve learned that retrofitting a building is a viable way to provide more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly services to the community. Instead of building a whole new building altogether, it is possible to add aspects to the existing building that make it more green and open it up to new influxes of visitors.

Q. How do you feel you have grown through the All About Energy program, and how has the experience impacted you?

A. Gabriela Brie” Gomez-Torres: My time in the All About Energy program has helped me with self-improvement, in the sense that it gave me a platform to extend my knowledge, help the environment, and publicly advocate for a topic I am passionate about. I can confidently say I am a better person now than when I first joined.

Q. After participating in All About Energy, how do you envision yourself making a positive difference in the world through STEM and your talents? Do you have any specific goals in mind for your STEM future?

A. Daniela Serna: I envision myself in architecture, but specifically, green architecture or sustainable architecture. I want to take what I have learned in this program and combine it with my interest for architecture, so the future will consist of more buildings that keep in mind the environment and energy-efficient appliances/aspects. I  want to be able to design a modern building that helps the environment, whether that be through greenery, the use of solar panels, etc., so that future generations are living in a healthier, more environmentally conscious world.

For more information on CodeGirls, Coding for Science Camp, Big Data Camp, and All About Energy, please check out Argonne’s Educational Programs and Outreach website.

The Argonne Leadership Computing Facility provides supercomputing capabilities to the scientific and engineering community to advance fundamental discovery and understanding in a broad range of disciplines. Supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science, Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, the ALCF is one of two DOE Leadership Computing Facilities in the nation dedicated to open science.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.