Engaging girls in STEM
Once girls reach high school, they tend to start dropping out of math and science classes.
But Tech Trek is trying to buck that trend.
"The goal is to encourage girls before they're in high school to get excited about STEM and around other girls who share the same interests so we can keep them engaged in these classes in high school," said Becky Munn, the Tech Trek planning advisor. "It's also a perfect age to get students on campus so they can start thinking about college."
Tech Trek is a week-long Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics residential camp designed to create interest, excitement and self-confidence in young women entering the eighth grade.
As many as four current seventh-grade girls in Crook County will experience Tech Trek Central Oregon next summer.
"There's actually a specific group that we're looking for," Munn said. "We want girls who are good students, have an inclination towards STEM subjects, are interested in a STEM career, and haven't had opportunities to go to summer camps or other similar experiences that are so important at this age."
Middle school teachers will nominate students who fit those characteristics, but Munn encourages interested seventh-grade girls to talk to their math and science teachers about Tech Trek.
The purposes of the camp include supporting girls who enjoy science and math, introducing them to potential STEM careers they may not have thought of, allowing like-minded girls to interact with each other and with STEM professional women role models, and for the girls to start "seeing" themselves on college campuses and making a living wage in their futures.
Tech Trek Central Oregon camp will be held June 23-28, 2019, at the Bend Central Oregon Community College campus. Campers will stay in the dorms while experiencing campus life.
The applications will be in public schools across Central Oregon in December and January. Application deadline is Feb. 9, 2019. Interviews will start in February in each community. Forty-eight campers will be selected to participate in Tech Trek Central Oregon. Four of those will be from Crook County.
The fee is $50 per student. Grants and sponsorships cover the additional costs.
Tech Trek Central Oregon is moving into its third year with a STEM camp for current seventh-grade girls, using its experience from the last two years of camps to enhance the experience for the girls.
Among the changes to the 2019 Tech Trek Central Oregon camp are a change of venue from OSU Cascades in Bend to COCC, a new leadership team leader, a new camp director, and a reduction in the number of girls served, for a more personalized experience and an enhanced learning environment.
Sponsored by the American Association of University Women, Bend Branch, and partners and donors from the various communities, the camp serves girls entering eighth grade from all around Central Oregon, from Warm Springs to La Pine, and Sisters to Prineville.
During the winter, the planning committee, comprised of AAUW members and community partners, will finish designing the curriculum, which will include class time, hands-on workshops, field experiences, and quiet/journaling time.
Many activities are already scheduled, like the CORE classes of Cyber Security, Aeronautical Engineering, and App Creation. All the girls will be able to attend workshops based on the CORE material as well as a diverse array of workshops to become acquainted with each specialty.
Though not finalized, the committee expects to offer workshops in plant propagation, medical specialties, more computer-based experiences, personal finance, journaling, writing "thank-you" notes, and many other areas. Also on the plan are field experiences in geology, forestry, water study, and a Science Night.
"We have a professional women's night. Women come in, and the girls are able to ask questions about women in STEM fields," Munn said. "We want them to see that women are in these fields and they can do it also."
Munn, who is the OSU Open Campus Education Coordinator, helped bring Tech Trek to Central Oregon two years ago and served as co-director up until recently.
Her coworker from open campus in Tillamook had directed the camp, and Munn heard about it and wanted to get the camp started in this region. She connected with the American Association of University Women, Bend Branch and eventually got approval to start Tech Trek in Central Oregon.
In the summer of 2017, 36 girls attended the camp, including two from Crook County. This last summer, it grew to 60, including four from Crook County. For 2019, there will be 48 campers, with as many as four from Crook County.
"Everything is through grants and fundraising. AAUW doesn't provide any of the funding. We have to come up with it all on our own," Munn said, noting that they are accepting sponsorships. "Here, Kiwanis, Rotary and Soroptimists have all supported our girls in the past."
Tech Trek is also seeking STEM professional women who may want to offer camp workshops.
Munn calls Tech Trek an amazing program.
"It's part of my job with Open Campus, but it's also a passion of mine to stay connected and keep working with the girls and to encourage and increase the number of girls that can have these kind of experiences," she said.
For more information about Tech Trek, to sponsor a student, or offer a workshop, contact Becky Munn, Tech Trek planning advisor and OSU Open Campus Education Coordinator, 541-416-4960.