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AAUW Tech Trekkers Thrilled By Their Experiences at Grace Hopper STEM Camp

"This has truly been one of the most amazing experiences in my lifetime... This camp has helped me gain confidence of who I am as a person and that doesn't come around every day " - Reese

Six rising 8th grade girls from Lamorinda have returned from their week-long (July 3-9) Tech Trek camp on the Stanford University campus with glowing reports of fun and learning. The girls attended camp on scholarships sponsored by the Orinda/Moraga/Lafayette branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). The OML Branch has been sending middle school girls to Tech Trek camp since 1998, and to date, it has sponsored 72 girls. The girls who went to Stanford this year are: Emilia Gutman, Henel Kaidantzis, Abbie Lee, Shannon Lipp, Hannah Liu and Reese Whipple. The cost to send each girl to Tech Trek camp is currently $900.

Tech Trek math/science camp is designed to encourage 7th grade girls to persist with their excitement about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through high school, college, and into their careers. The program features numerous hands-on activities as well as a chance for the girls make friends with other girls interested in STEM and to meet professional women in STEM fields. All sleeping, eating, instructional and recreational facilities are located on a university campus where camps are held. Tech Trek camps are organized, managed, and funded by AAUW volunteer leaders, with core classes taught by paid credentialed teachers. Each camp is unique with varied field trips and laboratory experiences.

This year, core classes at camp included Computer Coding and Cyber Sleuthing, as well as Marine Biology, CSI forensics, 3D Math, and Engineering Design. At camp, they took apart computers, wrote computer code, dissected fish, solved problems using DNA code, measured vitamin C in chemistry lab, built functional robots that did tricks, and attended field trips to a marsh, Symantec, VMWare, the Stanford blood lab, virtual reality lab, and solar car. When challenged to make a structure using only rolled up newspapers and tape based on engineering principles, they worked with their dorm teams to design and make a rocket, a windmill and the Golden Gate Bridge. They also met numerous professional women scientists and engineers, just to mention a few of the activities. This was an incredibly busy week!

The success of AAUW-CA's Tech Trek Project has gained national recognition. Corporations that see the need for more women in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) are discovering the value of AAUW's project nurturing budding scientists and engineers of the future. The project has been rolled out to other states with 21 camps now serving 1600 girls. Only girls nominated by a science or math teacher are eligible.

Here are a few additional comments from the girls about their experiences:

"For me, the professional women's night was my favorite part. I loved hearing about all their careers and the different paths they took to get to where they are now." -Abbie

"Tech Trek opened up so many doors for me. For example, I never knew I liked astronomy, but because of Tech Trek, I learned that I love astronomy and would like to study it in high school and/or college. " -Shannon

"The mouse trap cars were so great [engineering core class]. I got mine to go the farthest. ...We also learned many physics laws and different calculations for engineering." -Emilia

"I was in the 3D math group....We solved many math puzzles and some were pretty challenging. There was one I loved so much and was difficult... I didn't want to give it up so I used my flashlight [after lights out].. It was around 11:00 pm I guess when I finally got the answer! I was very excited and couldn't go to sleep for a long time!" -Hannah

"My favorite part of the week was visiting the VMWare company to see how real life programmers work. This experience really was life changing and I wish I could do it again. I grew in so many ways." -Helen

If you would like to donate to the AAUW OML Tech Trek scholarship program, or if you would like to attend a Tech Trek fundraising event such as the Walnut Creek Restaurant Walk on October 18, 2016, please contact Jan Cushman at jancushman@comcast.net.

The American Association of University Women, empowering women since 1881, was the first organization to provide educational scholarships for women. See the OML-AAUW website for more information: http://oml-ca.aauw.net/tech-trek/

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