How Tech Trek Is Fixing the STEM Education Crisis

Girls at a Tech Trek camp work on computers.

Girls at a Tech Trek camp work on computers. Photo by AAUW of California.

June 14, 2013

STEM education has been causing a lot of debate lately. Heated discussions arise about how to prepare U.S. students for the future with strong science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills, and how to give them the chance to succeed in a demanding workforce. Currently, the United States ranks 25th in math and 17th in science among developed nations. Politicians, organizations, and schools struggle to find a way to enhance the STEM education curriculum. Many students who are interested in STEM early on feel discouraged, intimidated by intense work, or “uncool” when they pursue these fields of study. There is no simple solution to fix the STEM crisis, but pursuing solutions grows more imperative every day.

One of the main issues with the STEM education crisis is that it reduces the pool of future employees qualified to fill the STEM jobs that are growing rapidly in number every year. The STEM workforce also suffers because women are greatly underrepresented in these fields. Women get discouraged because of gender stereotypes. By their teenage years, many girls have already formed opinions about which occupations are appropriate for their sex and then later decide to avoid male-dominated fields because of it. Strong STEM education programs can help end this gender imbalance. The curricula of these STEM programs should integrate hands-on projects and focus on problem-solving, discovery, exploratory learning, and active engagement in order to find solutions. June is Women in Science and Technology Month, and it’s the perfect time to talk about STEM programs that inspire and motivate girls at an age when their confidence in STEM skills statistically drops.

Tech Trek, an educational program from AAUW, does just that. Tech Trek is a weeklong math and science summer camp designed to develop interest, excitement, and self-confidence in STEM among rising eighth-grade girls. Tech Trek assures girls that they are just as capable as their male counterparts of succeeding in STEM fields and exposes them to daily labs, workshops, and field trips to increase their active engagement and exploratory learning. The girls are also surrounded by successful women role models to help boost their motivation to continue in STEM. Held on college campuses, the camps give attendees a peek into college life and help them see themselves going on to pursue higher education. Tech Trek alumnae not only complete a higher number of science and math courses in high school than the national average, but they also attend college at a higher rate. Since it began in California in 1998, Tech Trek has spread to 10 camps on eight college campuses; with the help of AAUW of California and a team of committed volunteers, AAUW is expanding the program this July to five new sites across the country.

Tech Trek is just one initiative that is helping turn around STEM education. Girls who attend such programs are given the opportunity to prepare for college and the workforce, the encouragement to pursue their STEM interests in an environment free from stereotypes, and the chance to believe in themselves.

This post was written by AAUW STEM Programs Intern Latosha Adams.

By:   |   June 14, 2013