Written by CUE Member and Guest Blogger Debra White
Is there a girl in your 7th grade math or science class this year that has a tremendous passion and aptitude for your subject? AAUW Tech Trek is looking for that girl and you, CUE members, can help AAUW find her. Science and math teachers are the first step in AAUW’s Tech Trek selection process, by recommending students they think would benefit from camp. Did I mention, girls attend Tech Trek on scholarship? Families of those selected are asked to contribute $50 to the cost of attendance, and if there is a need financial support to cover that cost can be found.
What is Tech Trek?
Tech Trek is a week-long residential STEM camp on a university or college campus. The program, which began at Stanford University in 1998, has expanded to ten camps in California and an additional ten camps in other states. AAUW Tech Trek is designed to help girls continue their interests in science, math, engineering & technology (STEM) exploration and learning, through the tricky years when new distractions enter their lives. Studies have shown that girls’ interests can be sustained if they are exposed to the careers available to women in science today, and that middle school is the time to capture and support them in sustaining this interest. Tech Trek provides some of that exposure and support during the summer before girls enter eighth grade.
Surveys and follow up with Tech Trek alumnae has found that they surpass the national average in most advanced science and math courses. In a survey of past Tech Trekkers conducted in 2009, 77% had completed pre-calculus in high school. 73% said that attending Tech Trek had introduced them to STEM college majors of which they were previously unaware. Follow-up with alumnae has shown they attend college in greater numbers and many pursue STEM degrees and careers. Additional testament to the success of Tech Trek is the number of alumnae who return to camps to serve as junior counselors, dorm moms, teachers and other camp staff.
Who Supports Tech Trek?
Tech Trek works because it is a camp created for girls and built and supported by women. Girls participate daily in hands-on classes, workshops and field trips. They interact daily with professional role models in STEM careers, teachers in STEM fields and a staff that supports their curiosity, self-expression and leadership abilities. Girls get to envision themselves attending college as they experience day-to-day life on a college campus. Every camp takes advantage of the latest technology; the Verizon Foundation launched a MIT-developed Apps inventor course at selected campus this year. Camps also offer focus on local environmental issues and highlight strengths of individual college campuses.
I have taught at Tech Trek UC Irvine for five summers since the camp opened in 2010. I work with an amazing staff of teachers, dorm moms, and other support staff. The 80 girls selected each summer to attend Tech Trek at UC Irvine are a varied group, but all have a desire to succeed and the potential for leadership. They are creative, enthusiastic and eager to learn everything they can in a week. What more could a teacher ask for in their students? I teach our core class in Video Production. This past summer our other camp core classes were robotics, ecology and physiology. I get to work in a college computer lab, with the latest software and an amazing university support staff. Young women working on their PHD’s in STEM fields I have never heard of, work with us to share their labs and research. Each year former campers return to serve as junior counselors, and share their experiences as they complete high school and head off to college, many with majors in STEM fields. Tech Trek is an opportunity for me to teach and share, but the inspiration and the collaboration that takes place at Tech Trek is what brings me back each summer.
So, CUE members at the middle school level, get connected and get involved with Tech Trek. Check out the ten camps in California, and see which ones are close to your school. Find out if your school nominates girls for Tech Trek, if not find your local branch or closest branch of AAUW and see what schools they are working with this year or next year for selection of Tech Trek candidates. Many branches rotate schools each year, so if your school is not in the candidate pool for this year perhaps it will be in the candidate pool for next year. Let your local AAUW branch or branches know that you support girls in STEM.
Debra White teaches video production at the AAUW Tech Trek camp at UC Irvine. She has been a part of the staff at Irvine since the camp opened in 2010. She serves as the Public Policy Chair for her local branch of AAUW. Debra is the current chair of CUE’s Award Committee and served two terms on the CUE Inc. Board of Directors.