The University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Tech Trek Camp is back! After a 2-year haitus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the university is again hosting rising 8th grade girls for a STEM-based camp experience.
This year’s version of the program will mark the seventh time UAH has hosted the weeklong residential camp.
The demand for women in science
So, why the need for a STEM-based camp just for girls?
A study by the National Science Foundation, “Why so Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics,” revealed that eighth grade is the time when most school-age girls tend to fall away from STEM as an academic path.
Research shows that girls who see successful women in STEM careers can overcome the stereotypes sometimes associated with STEM-based jobs.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) worked to reverse that trend by founding Tech Trek in 1998, which local advocate Dr. Rhonda Gaede, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and UAH Tech Trek Camp Director, brought to the university in 2014.
The idea was to invite rising eighth grade girls across the state to experiential summer camps that immerse them in the wonders of science and technology, all led by successful women scientists, engineers and professionals. A total of 64 girls from 24 Alabama counties are participating this week on the UAH campus from June 12 to June 18.
“The seventh camp was put off for two years because of COVID. We didn’t feel a virtual camp would give the girls the same experience. We wanted them to be living and working together, with a lot of diversity along as many different dimensions as we could get. Leaders, followers, rural, urban, different ethnicities, so they could learn there are people out there who are different from them. Also, to show that we all have gifts we are sharing when we put them all together.”Dr. Rhonda Gaede, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at UAH
How the campers were chosen, and what they do this week
The girls are nominated by their teachers from counties all over Alabama. The camp features intensive hands-on experiments and activities that promote interest in the STEM fields. This year, UAH had around 160 girls nominated and 140 of those nominees applied.
The camp’s curriculum comprises morning and evening activities, several field trips and a Professional Women’s Night to provide invaluable mentoring opportunities for the students.
One special treat for participants will be visiting the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, where the campers will tour the exhibits and even launch their own rockets. Most importantly, the attendees will be taking part in a new activity that will help them visualize their futures in STEM.