Since 1998, AAUW has helped change girls’ lives through Tech Trek, an experiential summer camp designed to pique the interest of rising 8th grade girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Girls attend a week-long STEM-focused summer camp on a college campus, where they share hands-on experiences in core classes, rotating labs, and field trips and connect with girls who have similar interests. A woman-led team of instructors serves as mentors and role models in focus areas of marine biology, rocket science, and coding. AAUW Camarillo has been actively involved in Tech Trek since the beginning, with members serving as state and local program directors, instructors, dorm moms, and donors.
Since we sent one girl to that first camp at Stanford University in 1998, AAUW Camarillo has raised funds to send over 200 girls to the program (currently $1,000 per girl). In 2005, a program opened at UCSB, and we started sending 8-12 girls each year. In 2011, Camarillo became the only active branch between Thousand Oaks and Santa Barbara. Since that time, we have expanded our reach and send girls from Oxnard, Port Hueneme, and Ventura.
National data on Tech Trek indicate that the program introduces girls to STEM majors and new STEM careers of which they were previously unaware. Girls report that Tech Trek resulted in greater self-confidence in their ability to be successful in science and math classes and being more likely to choose to take more science classes in high school. The alumnae of AAUW Camarillo’s Tech Trek program have gone on to become, for example, a biopharmaceutical engineer, toxicologist, civil engineer, doctor, geologist, and water chemist. The program lights a spark in a long-term commitment to STEM.
Every year, the Tech Trek girls attend our annual meeting to talk about their experiences at camp. We are always so impressed with how articulate, confident and poised they are to speak about the program to a room of 100 people. Here are some quotes from a few:
“I am very grateful to have come here, otherwise I wouldn’t have found an interest in engineering.”
“I was not planning to go to college before the camp. At the camp I learned you need a good education to get a good job. This camp helps me pave my future and path.”
“My favorite thing was that I got to code in my core class! I made an app, it’s a game, with an octopus, a shark, a green sea turtle, a fish and a jellyfish. You tilt your device to make the octopus move, but avoid the shark and the turtle, but eat the fish and the jellyfish.”
“Math is not my favorite subject, but I actually had fun because of our teacher, Mrs. Grace Martin, was fun and entertaining. She showed me that math is not only numbers, it is about patterns and logic. Mrs. Grace taught us all to look at math with a new perspective.”
More on Tech Trek in this video: