Tech Trek

Trech Trek campers study geology at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge.

“I liked being able to see New Mexico in a way that I haven’t before.”

That’s the way one young aspiring scientist said about attending Tech Trek, a week-long camp at New Mexico Tech campus for girls who are passionate about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The American Association of University Women of New Mexico sponsored Tech Trek for the fifth year in a row

in Socorro. A total of 60 girls from all over New Mexico attended, including four from Socorro County – Madilyn Bennett and Karen Navrotsky from Cottonwood Valley Charter School, Angelica Jaquez-Quinonez from Sarracino Middle School, and Katelyn Stockham from Alamo Navajo Middle School.

“They come from schools all over the state,” AAUW board member Cheri Burch said. “That’s our goal, to reach out to girls from all over the state, so we try to get girls from all the rural areas. They learn so many new things, that is what’s so impressive.”

Burch said the girls were immersed in a world that empowers and encourages them to think about themselves as future scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and computer specialists.

“This one-week STEM camp for rising eighth grade girls included activities like building and programming robots, extracting their own DNA, learning how computer simulations are used to predict weather patterns, and much more,” she said. “Girls interact daily with women STEM role models.”

Activities included a star party at Etscorn Observatory, demonstration at EMRTC, a geology field trip to Quebradas, a visit to Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge.

On the Tech campus, girls took core classes and workshops from all academic disciplines including robotics, forensics, Gear Girls (making mechanical toys), biology, cybersecurity, and star life cycles, among others.

“We had women demonstrating science that they could do, and might be intimidated about because they think only men do that,” Burch said. “Hopefully when they see people here, so many women doing science that they may say, ‘hey, I want to do that.’”

The New Mexico Bureau of Geology donated curriculum and geology expertise for workshops and Halliburton donated approximately $24,000.

Cynthia Connolly, the Bureau of Geology’s education outreach manager, was the geologist wrangler who secured the funding.

“Halliburton is a big supporter of these STEM events,” Connolly said. “Thanks to them we were able to take the girls into the field to learn about geology – two half days, with 30 girls each – followed by a half-day workshop for eight girls to learn about geologic tools in the lab.”T here were several people not only from the Bureau of Geology, but also the Earth and Environmental Science and Petroleum Recovery, and Research Center involved.

“The tour guides gave a lot of their knowledge so we could better understand and appreciate geology,” one student camper said

According to the AAUW, Tech Trek has been shown to significantly increase girls’ self-confidence and their interest in and excitement about the STEM fields.

“I had always been worried about going into a male-dominated field,” one Tech Trek camper commented. “Tech Trek has made me feel more confident about my abilities in STEM and has made me want to follow my dreams of becoming a medical engineer.”

In order to attend, girls were nominated first by a science teacher or math teacher, and then a written essay had to be submitted. Out of 220 nominated, only 60 were selected.

Burch said the main missions of AAUW is to empower women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.