Tech Trek (Math/Science) Camp for Girls - Campers Release Their Inner Scientists​


OML Tech Trek Girls 2014 (L to R--Sharon, Jane, Ally, Dara, Sofia, Claire)


Submitted by AAUW Members Gail Chesler and Jan Cushman

In the past 17 years, the Orinda-Moraga-Lafayette (OML) branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) has granted a total of 59 scholarships to Tech Trek camp, a science and math camp for local middle school girls. This summer, a total of approximately 800 middle school girls attended 10 Tech Trek camps at college campuses in California, and the program has now expanded to 7 additional states.

AAUW OML chose six Lamorinda girls to attend the week long Grace Hopper Tech Trek Camp at Stanford University this year: Jane Fong and Dara Kazmierowski from Orinda Intermediate School, Ally Scarpitti and Sharon Yuan from Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School, and Sofia Elise West and Claire Gallagher from Stanley Intermediate School. These scholarship recipients, outstanding students with a passion for science and math, were selected on the basis of written applications and personal interviews, potential career goals, and their other outside interests. Potential career goals spanned a broad range of pursuits—computer scientist, astronomer, engineer, robotics, and forensic scientist.

The camp was kicked off by an inspiring speech by Ellen Le, a former Tech Trekker who graduated from Stanford in Chem Engineering last year, and works for a startup perfume company. She challenged the girls to celebrate their interest in STEM classes (embrace your inner nerd!).

The girls, returning from the Tech Trek camp this summer, spoke of fabulous “hands on” experiences including constructing a robot with sensors and programmable actions (like turning a figure 8 or slamming a golf ball); learning how to suture from a veterinarian; dissecting a squid; creating a group machine during an improv session; impressive field trips, including a visit to see a solar-powered full-size automobile; constructing balloon-powered and mousetrap-powered car models designed for long travel or for speed; extracting DNA from strawberries; visiting NASA with a behind-the-scenes tour including the astronaut training simulators and a wind tunnel; touring the Stanford Blood Lab; building the Golden Gate Bridge with newspapers; experiencing another world through a virtual reality headset; viewing the planet Saturn and other phenomena in huge telescopes after dark; listening to a researcher with current experience in Antarctica; and to beat all, staging a murder mystery in the dorm after a forensics session.

OML Dorm Mom (and AAUW member) Jan Cushman kept very busy with the six OML campers and six additional girls (from other districts) in her dorm group – facilitating the girls' week so they optimized their learning and their adventure. Gail Chesler (an OML AAUW member, too) served as dorm mom at the UC Davis Tech Trek Camp which offered very similar classes and field trips for similarly wonderful girls. The girls had a unique opportunity to hear from the Stanford director of student aid funds about how private colleges like Stanford make higher education possible for people of all incomes.

The girls also participated in Professional Women’s Night – sort of like “speed dating” for the girls to meet and ask questions of 12 women with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math)-related careers. The girls even got to get some sleep – except for that last night when everyone was excited to be going home and sad to say goodbye to their new friends. Everyone left with huge smiles on their faces, many unique experiences and a world of promise.

The girls’ own personal comments include some of the following: “I had the best week of my life,” “This experience was life changing and meant a lot to me,” “I was exposed to so many new ideas,” “Listening to different women talk about their careers was a totally empowering experience.”

AAUW will be selecting another round of Tech Trekkers in the spring of 2015, and some of the 2014 girls may have a chance to return as junior counselors in future years. This year Caiseen Kelly, a former Lamorinda Tech Trekker, served as a junior counselor at Stanford. The cost to send each girl to camp is $1,000. Donations to support these young scientists and engineers can be made out to the non-profit organization: “AAUW OML Community Outreach Fund, Inc. Tech Trek”, P.O. Box 6705, Moraga, CA 94570.

Help support Tech Trek at the annual secure shredding event held at 5A Rent-A-Space in Moraga every spring. Mark your calendar to "Shred" on May 16, 2015.

Anyone interested in supporting the AAUW-OML Tech Trek program further may obtain more information by visiting


Tech Trek is a math/science camp designed to develop interest, excitement and self-confidence in young women who will enter eighth grade in the fall. It features hands-on activities in math, science and related fields. All sleeping, eating, instructional and recreational facilities are located on a university campus where camps are held. For more information about the event or scholarship opportunities, one can call Sandra Fox-Sohner, Tech Trek chair, at 925-631-0668.

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