Penn Hills resident organizes STEM student summer camp

Patrick Varine
| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Chelsea Canedy is interested in all things science.

The 17-year-old senior at the Ellis School in Shadyside has an interest in psychology, which led her to start thinking about how socioeconomic factors affect learning in the classroom.

That in turn led to a project for the school's annual Culture Jam, where Canedy and a partner studied the learning achievement gap in Pittsburgh area schools.

“I really like giving back to my community and like to help people,” said Canedy.

Those combined interests led her to develop what will become the Girls Bridging Communities STEM summer camp at the Ellis School. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

The camp will run from July 8 to 12 and will bring socioeconomically disadvantaged female middle-schoolers to the Ellis campus for a day of immersion in STEM topics.

Dr. Lisa Abel-Palmieri, director of instruction and information technology and the head of computer science at the Ellis School, said the camp is an example of the kind of initiative Ellis officials would like to see from all of the students there.

“We want to help our girls find their voice and be bold,” Abel-Palmieri said. “It makes us feel like we've done our job. She's not afraid to create, whatever that creation may be.”

The camp will give 18 female students a chance to experience some of what Canedy has learned during her 13 years at the Ellis School, Abel-Palmieri said.

“It's a way for her to give back to girls who wouldn't otherwise be able to attend Ellis,” she said.

The first part of the camp will introduce students to the concept of robotics. Abel-Palmieri said instructors will have access to the Ellis's existing equipment for its Lego robotics program. Ellis instructors, along with members of the Girls of Steel, a 24-student robotics team mentored by Carnegie Mellon University faculty, will lead a morning session. In the afternoon, Canedy said, campers will hear from Pittsburgh-area women involved in various STEM disciplines.

And the best part, Ellis officials said, is that Canedy pursued grant funding for the camp, eventually securing a Pennsylvania STEM Girls Collaborative Grant.

“I wrote a lot of grants,” Canedy said with a laugh, adding that she hopes some of the other grant funding comes through as well.

Terry Richards, an Ellis science teacher and faculty adviser to the Girls of Steel team, said she admires Canedy's work.

“It says to me that she is very interested in helping girls to get involved in areas of study that they might not even realize they enjoy,” Richards said.

Canedy said she initially became interested in technology because of her older brother, who attended Winchester Thurston and also was big into technology.

“It's something I've always liked doing, even when it was hard,” she said.

The camp is currently accepting applicants. Information and applications are available by visiting and searching “girls bridging communities.”

Canedy, who graduates this year, will visit colleges in Minnesota and Boston this week. She already has been accepted at the University of Pittsburgh. Her goal is to become a surgeon.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or

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