Eleven-year-old Lauren Rouse doesn't like to wear dresses, which is why she went with a blue-and-white striped jumper, added some bright pink shorts and made a belt using a discarded white collar from another dress.

As if that's not enough to grab the crowd's attention at her upcoming runway shows, the sixth-grader added LED lights to accentuate the bows and a spinning, motor-powered flower pin.

"I want the bows to stand out," she said. "They're easy to miss."

In an effort to inspire the next generation of female scientists, spectrUM, the children's museum located on the University of Montana campus, for the first time incorporated fashion and science into a four-day camp only for girls.

Held last week, the SciGirls High Tech Fashion camp was based on the popular PBS KIDS weekly TV series, "SciGrls," which premiered in February. In those shows, animated characters Izzie and best friend Jake find themselves in jams that only science can fix.

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spectrUM was one of 10 children's museums across the country selected by Twin Cities Public Television to receive a grant that paid for spectrUM administrators to learn about the "SciGirls" mission and techniques - with the idea of developing local summer programs that encourage "tween" girls to explore science, engineering, technology and math fields, said Jessie Gajewski, museum operations manager.

Since 2000, the number of women in science-related fields has increased. Over the past decade, colleges have awarded equal numbers of bachelor's degrees in science and engineering to women as men, according to a report by the National Science Foundation.

However, in 2007, women constituted 41 percent of all biological and life scientists,  26 percent of mathematical  and computer scientists, and  11 percent of engineers. And research has shown that girls start out having similar interests and abilities as boys in terms of science, but that interest wanes during high school.

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Some think the problem  is how science is marketed to girls.

Missoula's SciGirls High Tech Fashion camp was based on a "SciGirls" episode where lights, motors, batteries and inflatable tablecloths were used to make a dress.

Fourteen girls, ages 9 to 12, attended the camp and each one designed her own outfit, which she will model during fashion shows at the River City Roots Festival in August and the Hip Strip Block Party in September.

"It bridges science and fashion, and girls see an engineer as someone who can also be creative," Gajewski said.

Sevrena Donnelly hand-stitched a pink strip of fabric to the bottom of a mini black-and-white sweatshirt - a color combination often worn by Nicki Minaj, the 10-year-old's favorite rapper and singer.

"I want to look just like her," said Donnelly, who was wearing a Lady Griz basketball camp T-shirt and pink flip-flops. When asked what she likes better, fashion or sports, Donnelly couldn't chose.

"That's a toughy," she said.

Donnelly, like other girls attending the camp, kept a journal of fashion designs. They sketched and created outfits, as an outlet for their creative juices.

"I love fashion," said Donnelly, who described her style as "sweet and sassy."

"I nearly lost it when I heard there was a fashion camp," she said.

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Miss Montana United States Jennifer Fleming-Lovely gave the girls a lesson in runway walking, but the lessons went far beyond fashion.

The girls also learned about electricity and conductors and the electrical components of a sewing machine. Then they incorporated LED lights, conductor thread and motors into their outfits.

Rouse created a flower pin using wire and colored yarn and hooked a motor to it so the pin spins.

"Science is my favorite subject," said 11-year-old Ellie Brown.

The camp has helped Brown realize that fashion and science - two subjects that seemed opposite - can be complementary.

Last week's fashion camp was one of a dozen summer camps offered by spectrUM, but the only one restricted to girls. The other camps focus on everything from astronomy to veterinary science and bikes.

Reporter Chelsi Moy can be reached at 523-5260 or at chelsi.moy@missoulian.com.

 

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