CSU expands annual summer camp that introduces girls to construction industry

Video by Jesse Grace. Downloadable version on Vimeo

A Colorado State University summer camp intended to help high school girls picture themselves in the male-dominated construction industry became bigger and better in its second year.

Girls doing construction activitiesThe Women in Construction Management Summer Institute welcomed 22 young women to campus June 5-9. About half of the girls came from CSU’s Alliance Partnership high schools around Colorado, and one came all the way from Virginia.

Three returning participants in last year’s inaugural institute served as junior mentors, joining four CSU students from the Department of Construction Management in helping to run the activities.

The institute was expanded from four days to five, thanks to a $20,000 grant from The Beavers, a heavy engineering construction association. Organizers added new hands-on exercises like an “equipment rodeo,” in which the girls learned how to operate several types of construction equipment. There was also a new “smash lab” for participants to test the strength of materials like concrete and rebar.

Girls doing construction activitiesGuest speakers this year included Dee Oswald of the Kiewit Corporation, who spoke about self-confidence and empowerment for women in the construction industry.


The participants wired and poured their own working concrete lamps, as well as bookends constructed of wood and industrial pipe. They built bridges out of LEGO bricks and got to experiment with various computer modeling programs used in construction projects. They also heard a presentation about sustainability from CSU alumna Ara Massey, sustainability director for Denver architectural firm Hord Coplan Macht.

“When you’re new to the construction industry, people don’t always pay attention to you, whether you’re female or not,” she told the girls. “Sometimes you have to pave your own road and forge your own path.”

In addition, the girls toured construction sites, including the Richardson Design Center that is slated to open west of the Gifford Building in January 2019. Joining the girls on that tour was Maddison Rozeski of Loveland, who attended the institute last year and is working on the Richardson Design Center this summer with Kuck Mechanical. On the final day of the institute, the participants volunteered at a local Habitat for Humanity project under construction.

Girls doing construction activitiesCorporate donations

The girls stayed in CSU residence halls during the week, and each received a stocked tool bag donated by Milwaukee Tools and the Colorado Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Contractors. Sunstate Equipment Company brought out all the equipment for the “Rodeo,” Trimble provided mixed-reality headsets, and U.S. Engineering donated the industrial pipe for the week’s activities.

“The Women in Construction Management Summer Institute is an opportunity for young women to come and get exposed to different fields in the construction industry, play around with different tools, and meet successful women in the industry,” said Anna Fontana, who coordinates the institute with Jennifer Fyhrie.

With one of the highest placement rates and lowest gender wage gaps of all employment opportunities, construction management is an excellent field for women to pursue, Fontana said. The camp is aimed at exposing young women to the field earlier and breaking the stereotype that it is only for males.

The Beavers has already committed another $20,000 to fund next summer’s institute.

For more information, visit the summer institute’s website. The Department of Construction Management is based in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

Learn more about Outreach by Colorado State University.