SOCORRO, N.M. (KRQE) – A camp is giving New Mexico girls hands-on experience in the world of science and technology. Girls from all over the state are chosen every year for this special Tech Trek camp, held at New Mexico Tech in Socorro. It’s designed to show them opportunities in a field they may not have known exists.
“Computer science was an all-female field when it was invented,” said Helena Whyte, non-profit board president for the American Association of University Women’s Tech Trek New Mexico. “Now, only 12 percent of computer science graduates are women.”
It’s a realization leading women to introduce science, technology, engineering, arts and math to girls early on. Additionally, it shows what options are out there for future wages, job fields and more.
“The average is 80 cents on the dollar that a man makes,” said Whyte. “But we’re much more equal, it’s more like 95 cents on the dollar if you’re in STEM fields.”
They’re teaching girls going into the eighth grade during the course of a week at the special summer camp. Through field trips, courses and workshops, the participants learn everything from geology and space to robots and DNA. More than 250 girls are nominated, but only 60 are chosen.
“Part of the application process is to write an essay on how they can change the world with science and technology,” said Whyte.
Students attending this year’s camp include in-coming eighth graders and even past participants who can go on to be camp counselors. Many say it’s encouraging to be around others with the same goals and aspirations.
“We all share the same interests and we’re all into the same stuff mainly. You meet a lot of girls who are just passionate about that and you can all connect on that,” said Salena Riley, who will be a junior at Laguna-Acoma Jr Sr High School in Casa Blanca. “It opens my eyes to different stuff because it also brings in information.”
Other students see the camp as a source of empowerment, providing them with the tools they need to succeed in the future.
“I get to go to this camp with women and girls that love science just as much as I do and are not afraid to get their hands dirty, not afraid to learn new things and go straight into it,” said Mikayla Sierra, who will be an eighth-grader at Menaul School in Albuquerque. “With girls, we have to work twice as hard even for less than them. This gives women empowerment, like, ‘Hey, these women grew up to be amazing scientists.’ Yeah, it was a rough life, but they got through it and they’ve succeeded — to let little girls know that it is possible to succeed in your dreams.”
Organizers hope these New Mexico girls take these lessons and further their science and technology experiences in high school and beyond. Whyte says from Advanced Placement courses in high school to various college courses, there are a number of opportunities available.
“We want to encourage them to take all the math and science that they can and to take the advanced classes in high school so they’re open to any opportunity that will come,” said Whyte.
The week-long camp only costs $50 for families. Local sponsors like PNM, Raytheon, Sandia National Laboratories, Xcel Energy, among many others, help cover the remaining costs, which are in the thousands.