Our Mission

The existing gender disparities in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields

underscore the need for outreach programs to help engage young women in such areas.

Founded in 2006 by Vicki Weston, FEMMES (Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering and

Science) is a student-led organization at Duke University that hosts educational outreach

programs related to math, science, and engineering for 4th-6th grade girls in Durham.


Our Philosophy

By incorporating engaging, hands-on activities into all of our programs, we allow the girls to

learn in a fun, supportive environment and explore their potential in the STEM fields. We hope

to build our participants’ confidence in their academic skills and to empower them to pursue

their dreams. Many of our students’ parents and teachers have told us that after attending

FEMMES, the girls become more motivated, participate more in class, and show a greater

interest in school. The real power of our program lies in the way we use female role models to

demonstrate how women can and do excel in these fields. In all components of FEMMES,

female students and faculty members volunteer their time to instill enthusiasm about their

careers in the developing minds of young women. Through the years, our volunteers have

developed personal relationships with the participants and have had a positive influence on

their attitudes towards STEM fields. Our programs provide excellent opportunities for female

faculty and students to serve as role models and provide mentor-ship.


Our Programs

The FEMMES organization seeks to improve female participation in STEM subjects with three

main components: an annual one-day capstone event, an after-school program, and a summer

camp program.


Capstone Event

The capstone event at Duke University is held each Spring. The capstone event is a free

program held on a Saturday from 9:00AM-4:00PM for 4th-6th grade students in the Durham

area. This year, we will be hosting more than 275 girls at Duke, which is the most participation

we have had since FEMMES was founded in 2006. The day includes keynote speakers who

explain their roles in their particular STEM fields and the paths that led them to those roles,

followed by two morning activities, lunch, two afternoon activities, and closing remarks. Each

hands-on activity is designed and led by female faculty members, female graduate students,

and STEM undergraduate female organizations. Participants are placed in groups of 12-15 girls

led by 2-3 undergraduate or graduate student volunteers who guide the participants through

four different activities held in the engineering, science, math, and laboratory buildings on

campus. As an assessment of our program, surveys are given to the participants prior to, on the

day of, and six weeks after the capstone event.


After-School Program

Despite the success of the capstone event, we understand the need for continuous outreach in

order to maintain interest. Studies have shown that while one-day events produce great short

term effects on interest and confidence, they may not last long enough to really influence a

child’s drive and ambition. For this reason, the FEMMES concept was expanded in Spring 2008

to an after-school mentor-ship program that fosters long-term relationships and constant

encouragement. This mentor-ship opportunity invites 4th-6th grade girls to learn from Duke

students for six weeks per semester at select elementary schools in the Durham area. Student

volunteers travel to several Durham schools throughout the week to lead activities that expose

girls to more applications of science, engineering, and math and to teach fundamental concepts

in an engaging, hands-on manner. Some activities that we have done in the past include

designing egg-drop parachutes and trebuchets (Physics and Engineering), performing ink

chromatography (Chemistry), and making respiratory system models (Biology). An after-school

committee meets throughout the year to design activities for the curriculum, acquire materials,

and train the volunteers ahead of time so that all activities run smoothly.


Saturday Program

In addition to our weekday after-school program, we decided to add a six-week Saturday series

in Fall 2009. The Saturday series, held on Duke’s West Campus, integrates activities that parallel

the ones we plan for the after-school program. However, instead of going to the elementary

schools during the week, we invite sixty 4th-6th graders to Duke to do the activities.This way,

we are able to reach out to other young girls who do not attend the elementary schools with

whom we have partnered with for our after-school program. We plan to continue the Saturday

series as a vital component of our after-school program.


Summer Camp

This past August, FEMMES also held its fourth annual week-long summer day camp at Duke for fifty

5th-6th grade Durham girls. Duke University undergraduate and graduate females served as

both counselors and mentors. A past summer program’s theme was Forensic Science, during which we

incorporated fun hands-on activities, such as fingerprint analysis, DNA extraction from cheek

cells, blood spatter analysis, footprint impression, and powder analysis. In addition,

participants were introduced to several exciting STEM research projects being conducted on

Duke’s campus including the Smart Home and the Duke Immersive Virtual Environment

(DiVE), a six-sided virtual reality theater. A field trip to the Duke Lemur Center has been

integrated into the summer camp curriculum as well. The camp was a huge success, and we are

in the process of establishing this summer camp program as a long-standing component of FEMMES.


If you would like your daughter to be involved, please keep an eye out for registration updates for our various programs, posted on our homepage!


5 Responses to About FEMMES

  1. […] learning the physical conditions and organic materials required to make compost. Saturday was the FEMMES (Females Excelling More in Math Engineering and Science) annual Capstone Event at Duke. Girls in 4th […]

  2. Marva Smith says:

    How can I get added to your list to receive email updates and registration information about your programs for my daughter?

    • Hailey Cunningham says:

      Thank you for your interest. You have been added to our mailing list, which includes information about our programs and updates.

  3. Maria Elena Galang says:

    Hi! Can I get my email added please. thanks

  4. Pamela Gray says:

    Hello! Can you please add me email address to the mailing list? I have a rising 4th grade girls who is very interested in attending camp this summer . . . Many thanks!

    Pam Gray

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.