BVU welcomes AAUW summer program, Tech Trek, July 17-23


Megan Snyder, Staff Writer

Buena Vista University (BVU) will be hosting its first annual Tech Trek this July 17-23.

Tech Trek is a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) camp for middle school aged girls who are interested in and show a proficiency in STEM areas. Associate Professor of Biology at BVU, Dr. Melinda Coogan, will be helping coordinate and plan the camp. Currently, there are 20-30 girls signed up to attend the camp.

The Tech Trek camp is marketed towards middle school girls, specifically 7th grade students, in order to inform girls of potential STEM careers that they could pursue and to also provide them with access to professional, female women in STEM fields.

“We felt, and other studies have shown, that 7th graders are a good target audience because at that point if you’re excited about science you’re starting to become more aware of your social surroundings and mentors and people out there that you’re starting to look at and starting to formulate ‘What do I want to do with my life?’” Coogan said in a recent interview with the radio show, “Did You Know News”.

Girls who are interested in attending the Tech Trek camp must be nominated by their teachers. After BVU receives the nominations, girls are interviewed and then accepted into the camp. The cost of the camp is only $50 for accepted students.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) in California started tech Trek in the late 1980s. This will be the second year the state of Iowa hosts a Tech Trek campsite.

In order to bring Tech Trek to BVU, Dr. Coogan had to apply for several grants. The first grant, given by AAUW, provides $10,000 to fund the classes and workshops during the Tech Trek camp. A $5,000 grant from Verizon, a partner of Tech Trek, will be used to fund an MIT app creation class. A $3,700 grant provided by Symantec, another Tech Trek partner, will be used to fund a cyber security hacking class.

During the week campers are taught at least 2 core classes each morning and in the afternoon they attend workshops. One workshop being offered is an alternative energy and energy conservation, where campers will not only learn about alternative energy they will also construct wind turbines and solar panels. Coogan hopes to work with a BVU graduate to bring girls to visit a real wind turbine.

Campers will also participate in a workshop in which they travel with the Buena Vista County park systems to learn about prairie restoration. Campers will pick prairie plants to press and dry to create plant samples for a herbarium, which was provided by the Kaiser family.

Campers will also have the opportunity to meet and interact with professional women in the Storm Lake area. An evening event will be held where campers learn how to talk to professional women and learn what types of questions to ask professional women. This event is aimed to help connect campers with women mentors in STEM fields.

“[Here’s] an opportunity for the girls to see that you can go into science, it’s fun, it’s exciting, and it gives you that intellectual creative outlet that a lot of young women want and need and we can hopefully get more women, if they choose to do so, to go into these types of fields,” Coogan said.

Photo by Stephanie Steiner