July 5, 2018

Buena Vista University hosted a week-long Tech Trek STEM camp on June 24-30 for more than 30 seventh grade girls. 

Tech Trek is a program of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) designed to help encourage girls to investigate careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. The camp featured hands-on science and technology classes, educational field trips, opportunities to meet women role models, and a unique BVU college campus experience. 

“Through the BVU Tech Trek Iowa STEM program, we have been privileged to work with such outstanding young women scientists over the past three years, and this year was no exception,” said Dr. Melinda Coogan, camp director and professor of biology at BVU. “The faculty and staff were all incredibly impressed with the intellectual curiosity and genuine expressions of gratitude articulated by this year’s group of students. We look forward to seeing where these young scientists go following the program and how they use their many gifts to continue making our world a better place.”   

Specifically, this year’s attendees visited Allete Clean Energy Wind Farm and Buena Vista County Conservation Park, explored and utilized Storm Lake, and took part in team activities such as kayaking, soccer, and volleyball. Classes included a cyber security hacking class, an app creation class, an alternative energy workshop, and a DNA extraction workshop. The week concluded with a science fair that featured posters about what the girls had accomplished throughout the camp. 

Through the BVU Tech Trek Iowa STEM program, we have been privileged to work with such outstanding young women scientists over the past three years, and this year was no exception.

Dr. Melinda Coogan

This year also marked the first time three previous BVU Tech Trek camp attendees were invited back to take part in the program as junior counselors. They included Sammie Jackson of Coon Rapids, Addie Wood of Dows City, and Evie AlSaffar of Storm Lake. The junior counselors attended BVU’s first-ever Tech Trek camp in 2016 and will be sophomores in high school in the fall. 

“I loved attending Tech Trek as a camper a couple years back,” said Wood. “It was incredibly rewarding having the opportunity to return this year and get to know the girls as a mentor.” 

There is a strong demand for skilled STEM professionals. Tech Trek is a crucial program to prepare and empower the next generation of girls to go into these fields and increase the science and technology talent pool. 

“It was really great to see the girls eager to learn and embrace science,” said Jackson. “Young girls need more experiences like this so that they feel proud to pursue careers in science.” 

AlSaffar was notified during Tech Trek week that she was selected to go to the Global Youth Institute after submitting the top paper at her school for the World Food Prize and presenting at the Iowa Youth Institute.

Tech Trek was created in 1998 by an AAUW member in California, long before the shortage of women in STEM became part of the national dialogue. This successful program, which has served more than 11,000 girls in California alone, scaled up to a national AAUW effort in 2013. It continues to grow and spread to other communities across the country, including Storm Lake. Since 2013, only one camp per state is selected as the Tech Trek STEM site, following an extensive application process. 

This summer, AAUW held over 20 Tech Trek camps across the country. Attendees pay only a nominal $50 fee due to generous donations from AAUW’s supporters and the community, as well as sponsorships from corporations and industry stakeholders in developing practical, career-focused curricula.  This year, Tech Trek Iowa was sponsored by donations from Symantec, AT&T, Dupont Pioneer, Monticello College Foundation, Stine Foundation, Bruns STEM Endowment Fund, REC Eastern Iowa, nine BVU family donations, and eight AAUW Iowa branches.  

The students, who will be entering eighth grade in the fall, must be nominated by their science or math teachers, and complete an application process. For more information about the camp, visit www.bvu.edu/techtrek.