Annual Tech Trek event inspires young girls to enter STEM fields

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The Santa Clarita chapter of the AAUW, the American Association of University Women, held their annual Tech Trek Homecoming at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Newhall on Saturday morning.

The Tech Trek is a week-long science camp hosted by the AAUW with hopes of increasing young girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. (STEM)

Over the past decade, with rising college tuition costs and unpredictable job markets, schools have placed a greater emphasis on incorporating STEM into their curriculums. Despite the rising prevalence of STEM, women are still disproportionately underrepresented in its fields.

“Studies show that after seventh grade, girls’ interests in science and engineering and math really begin to wane,” said Sonja Wendt, a volunteer with the program.

The Tech Trek, says Wendt, is an attempt to change this trend.

At the beginning of each school year, seventh-grade girls who exhibit an interest in science and math are recommended for the program by their teachers and counselors. After receiving this endorsement, they must undergo a rigorous application process to gain admission to the program which includes both an essay and an in-person interview.

But the real fun begins once they have been accepted into the prestigious program.

“It’s a week long camp where seventh-grade girls go to a partner university and stay overnight in the dorms,” Wendt said.

While at the university, the girls attend lectures, core classes, and field trips; all while preparing for a presentation at the end of the week. This year’s core classes included cyber security, rocketry, and engineering.

Field trips often include excursions to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USC’s cadaver lab and the Bolsa Chica Wetlands.

The AAUW provides scholarships for the girls to attend, said Ginny Gregor, upon which the number of girls who can be accepted to the program is entirely dependent.

In 2016 the AAUW was able to take 30 girls to the Tech Trek, but this year the budget only afforded the opportunity to 21, said Gregor.

Volunteers, families and participants, however, still saw this year’s event as a success.

“My daughter was nominated for the program,” said local teacher Marie Pierre. “This is the push across the country – to integrate STEM into all classes.”

Pierre believes the program to be so essential that she herself has joined as a volunteer.

“I came to the program that they [AAUW] had back in May, and I just fell in love with it.”

 

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