AAUW’s Tech Trek inspires career dreams, college plans
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Building robots, bridges and making a documentary were just some activities Rancho Bernardo and Poway incoming eighth-grade girls experienced at Tech Trek.
The annual science and math camp for girls organized by American Association of University Women was held June 23-29 at the University of California, San Diego. Similar camps are held at other California universities with the goal of encouraging girls’ enthusiasm for science-related education and careers in high school, college and beyond.
According to the Tech Trek website, AAUW started the camps in 1998 to counteract the trend of girls shying away from math and science achievement in favor of being socially accepted by peers.
Selected by the AAUW Rancho Bernardo chapter were Kelly Marsh and Elizabeth Wachira from Bernardo Heights Middle School and Maria “Swift” Cullen from Twin Peaks Middle School.
The $900 per girl camp fee was paid for by the AAUW RB chapter plus Rancho Bernardo Sunrise Rotary and Rancho Bernardo “Noon” Rotary clubs, said Irene Dunny, the AAUW member who chaperoned the trio at camp.
Kelly, a 13-year-old Rancho Bernardan, said she attended because “it sounded like it would be a whole lot of fun. And it has been so much fun.”
Her core class was on making documentaries, so her group went to La Jolla Cove to report on the bird dropping clean-up by city crews to alleviate the unpleasant odor.
“We did man-on-the-street interviews about the topic … and planned interviews,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in filmmaking but usually have not had a chance to do it. (Previous efforts) did not work well at home.”
Kelly said she was “really excited” about showing the three-minute video to fellow campers and is considering filmmaking as a career.
“It was really cool staying on a college campus and living in the dorms,” Kelly said. “Everyone is so nice.”
Elizabeth, a 12-year-old Rancho Bernardan, said she wanted to attend camp right after reading about it. “I instantly knew it would be a great experience to see science careers in action with lots of hands-on activities.”
She chose robotics as her core class due to an interest in engineering and her father’s introduction to the field when he had her help him work on cars.
“I thought this was an awesome way to continue that,” she said, adding the bridge-building team activity was her favorite. It required each team to build a 16-inch-by-4-inch bridge that weighed up to 160 grams and had to hold as much weight as possible.
Elizabeth said a field trip to the Carlsbad-based ViaSat, where the girls learned about the satellites it makes, was “cool” and gave her more ideas of ways she could be an engineer when she grows up.
Maria, who goes by Swift, is a 13-year-old Powegian who said she picked the robotics core class “because I’ve always loved computers” and she thought it would enhance what she learned at a computer camp last year.
“I liked mostly the coding and learning what letters mean in computer (language),” Swift said. “I like learning codes.”
She added, “I always liked science and math and might be an engineer when I grow up. I got to see if it would be a good job for me.”
The ViaSat field trip sparked an interest in building satellites, she said.
“I liked living in the dorm and seeing what it is like to live at college,” Swift said, adding she would like to return to Tech Trek as a helper.
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