Inspiration, excitement and confidence. This past summer, five local attendees at the American Association of University Women’s Tech Trek camp gained all of those qualities and more — and even got to eat some liquid nitrogen ice cream while they were at the camp, too.
Tech Trek is a week-long summer camp created for girls entering the eighth grade who are interested in math and science.
The camp participants live on a college campus for a week, take classes from credentialed teachers and women in the science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM), go on off-campus field trips and experience many opportunities they will never forget.
In order to attend this camp, girls must be nominated by their teachers and asked to apply. Candidates then turn in their applications to different branches of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and are asked to interview in front of a panel of AAUW board members. From there, as many girls as the branch can afford to sponsor are chosen to attend the camp.
This year, the Placerville AAUW chapter chose five girls from the area to attend the summer Tech Trek camp at the University of California, Davis.
Usually, only four girls are selected due to the club budget, with three of the girls sponsored by the Placerville AAUW and the other by the Placerville Soroptimist International club. However, there was an additional candidate this year that the club really wanted to sponsor, so individual club members personally donated from their own funds to cover the $850 tuition.
“There are just so many eligible and deserving girls in the county,” said Jan Cokely, program chairwoman of the Placerville AAUW. “We wanted to send just one more girl than we usually do.”
The five girls chosen were Abigail Holt, Natanya Ackerly, Elizabeth Gilligan, Resya Sastry and Allison Marcus, all from local middle schools.
Although there are eight Tech Trek camps in California and this is also a nationwide camp, the girls went to the UC Davis location because it was the closest to home.
The girls spent a week living the life of a college student, complete with sleeping in dorms, eating in the dining halls and attending core classes and special activities.
For one of the camp participants, Natanya Ackerly of Camerado Springs Middle School, this experience was perfect, because she hopes to one day be a UC Davis student.
Ackerly enjoyed taking classes in the subject of genetics, which was one of the four subject tracks that the girls were given to study. She also liked the different activities such as watching a rocket demonstration and making vanilla-flavored liquid nitrogen ice cream.
Her favorite experience was getting to take a tour of a veterinary lab, since she is thinking about pursuing veterinary medicine. She also enjoyed the field trips to dairy farms and the Mondavi Center, among others.
“I was really excited when I found out I was chosen to go,” Ackerly said. “It sounded like a once in a lifetime opportunity and I couldn’t wait.”
Ackerly said that during this camp, she was exposed to new topics and now looks at various subjects from different perspectives. There were discussions about ethics, and girls were asked to talk about their stances on numerous issues.
Another camper, Elizabeth Gilligan, participated in a different subject track. She signed up for the 3-D math course, where she was able to build a catapult using the Pythagorean Theorem to calculate the angles. She also had to opportunity to witness a horse having surgery.
“I found that very interesting because they were removing a tumor that was making her act like a stallion,” Gilligan said.
Aside from all of the classes and activities, there was also a special night where women spoke to the girls about the scarcity of females in math and science fields, and how important it is for them pursue their passions.
“Girls often feel isolated because they are interested in math and science,” Cokely said. “This is such a pivotal time in a young girl’s life and they need to know that it’s okay for them to do what they love.”
This speech given by the women in science and the entire attitude of the camp were just a few of the ways that AAUW aims to inspire girls and advance the equity of women.
“The entire camp was just a blast and I really want to thank AAUW for giving me this opportunity,” Ackerly said.
For more information about AAUW or to support the Tech Trek cause contact AAUW President Patricia Garon at email@example.com.