Go-cart for girls
Program designed to foster interest in workshop skills

by Nancy Gardiner
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 31/97) - Girls tinkering with a go-cart designed on a computer may be an odd way to spend time at summer camp.

But a local advocacy group intends to set up these camps in the North.

Six women spent the better part of last week learning how to build go-carts and make presentations to female students.

Some adaptations may have to be made for the North, though.

"There's been some talk about snow-carts in the communities," says Jean Wallace, co-ordinator of this project with North of Sixty Women in Trades and Technology (WITT).

Initially, there are plans to introduce the go-cart camps to communities in the Western Arctic," she says.

The program to build go-carts teaches computer-aided drafting, woodworking and basic machine skills.

Girls are taught how to use "low-risk" power tools such as drills, jigsaws, a drill press and sanders."

Girls also learn design techniques, painting and safety procedures.

"We try to demystify tools, so they're not just "boy" or "shop" things," says Val Overend, a spokesperson for the program.

At the end of the week, the girls race their go-carts and the whole community is invited to watch and attend a barbecue. "It's an exceptional way to introduce the girls to it," she says.

Most of the camps are offered in Regina, but they can be offered at schools in other locations. Construction of the go-carts is done in a school's carpentry shop during breaks.

In Regina, GETT (Girls Exploring Trades and Technology) camps are offered over Easter and summer breaks. The go-cart camps are offered to give girls in grades 7 and 8 to learn some basic trade skills.

There is also an Indian and Metis (IM)GETT week-long camp offered in Saskatchewan.

The camps are free to the girls, but they have to pay their way to get there. As a result, most of the students in the program live in the general area.

Donations are sought from industry to try to cover the cost and there's some core funding available too.

Girls attend the summer camps offered in Regina through the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology Wascana Institute, says Overend.

"A lot of times, men in industrial settings have problems letting women in. It helps break down gender lines," says Overend.

And the GETT camps are already paying off.

"I had one girl who was at a GETT camp in Grade 7 and she told me she was out of high school and was now coming to school to take a welding course. That was a direct payoff. We don't have 300 girls in welding, but our goal is to educate girls so they know they have career options," says Overend.

"We're careful not to build traditional "girl" things like jewelry boxes. We want to give them diverse experience, such as building stilts and getting them out in the community so people see them -- something they're not going to put in a closet."

"People will ask: 'Where'd you get those,' and they can say: 'My sister made them.'"

The camps have been run for several years.

"They're the high point of the summer for me, all these young folks just having a good time," says Wayne Inverarity, co-ordinator of communication sciences programs at Wascana Institute.

What makes it unique is the enthusiasm of the young women that come to us, he adds. "There's also a fair amount of creativity, incredible paint jobs and shapes. And their families have been really good about coming out."