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BEST1 LAFAYETTE, CO – NOVEMBER 11:Senior Holly Sullivan helps Superior Elementary third grader Audrey Mertz design a pendant that will be 3D printed during the Galgorithms engineering camp for girls at Centaurus High School on Nov. 11, 2019. (Photo by Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
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Senior Cassidy Cheesman was one of just five girls in Advanced Placement Computer Science last school year at Lafayette’s Centaurus High School.

The girls gravitated to the same table, started talking and decided to start The Galgorithms club to support each other and encourage more girls to try coding and engineering classes.

“There were five girls and 25 boys,” said Cheesman, who is planning to major in computer science in college. “We said, ‘We need to fix this.’ The club is kind of a sisterhood of engineers.”

Centaurus senior Cassidy Cheesman helps a group of third graders design a pendant to be 3D printed during the Galgorithms engineering camp for girls Monday at Centaurus High School.

On Monday, a day off from school for Veterans Day, the club led an engineering camp for 40 third- to fifth-grade girls in the Centaurus engineering wing. They had planned for 25 students, but ended up letting all those on the wait list attend.

“We thought the best way to fix having no girls in our computer science class was to start early,” Cheesman said. “We’re trying to get these girls interested and show them what we love about engineering. It’s what I love to do — build, create, solve problems.”

The Centaurus students worked on planning for the camp over the summer, including fundraising by asking local businesses to sponsor the camp. They raised enough money to cut the cost of the camp by half, charging $20, and to offer scholarships.

The students also handled everything from permission slip paperwork to choosing activities to shopping for snacks. They even created camp t-shirts.

“They did everything,” said club sponsor and engineering teacher Ann Root.

The four-hour camp included trying Hour of Code computer activities and drawing a pendant using computer program that was printed on the school’s 3D printers, plus several hands-on stations.

At the stations, students built marshmallow and spaghetti towers, made paper airplanes and talked about chemical reactions while making slime and watching an “elephant toothpaste” experiment.

Stella Carter, a fourth-grader at Pioneer Elementary, said she was excited about her group’s marshmallow-and-spaghetti tower.

“We really listened to each other’s ideas, and it worked out really well,” she said. “It’s fun because we get to make stuff, and I like making stuff.”

Harmony Peltier, a fifth grader at Eldorado K-8, said she liked all the activities.

“I like inventing things,” she said. “I like art and engineering. I like to build things.”

Cheesman said the club would like to host another camp in the spring and is hoping to raise enough money to cover all the costs so it’s free. Providing transportation is another goal, she said.

As a volunteer in Alicia Sanchez Elementary’s engineering program, she added, she knows there are talented students whose parents can’t afford to send them to camps.

“We want as many girls to be a part of it as possible,” she said.

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