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Sarasota Wednesday, Jul. 14, 2021 4 months ago

Camp encourages young girls to pursue STEM careers

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Tech Trek accepts about 100 young, female students from around Florida. This year, six Sarasota County Schools students were chosen.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

Six female students throughout Sarasota County will get the chance to join other girls throughout Florida at a summer camp designed to foster interest in a career in STEM.

The 2020 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau estimated there is a total civilian population of 10.8 million ages 16 and older employed in science, technology, engineering and math occupations. Of those, 26.7% are women.

Various studies conducted by the American Association of University Women found that young girls typically gain interest in STEM subjects at age 11, though many lose it again by age 15.

Tech Trek camp, hosted by the AAUW, hopes to change that narrative by encouraging middle school girls throughout Florida to pursue careers in the STEM field.

The camp is held annually at a Florida university and offers middle school girls the chance to take STEM classes and meet with women in the STEM field.

Seventh grade students are eligible only after receiving a nomination from their math or science teacher. Finalists are then interviewed and selected by committees of local AAUW members, and about 100 students throughout the state are chosen.

This year, six Sarasota County School students were accepted to the program: Kila Sons and Sriva Boggavarapu from the Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences, Emma Reynolds from Pine View, Anju Telang and Alexa Scharf from Sarasota Middle School, and Melora Saing from McIntosh Middle School.

“I was so excited to be chosen,” Sons said. “I’m very interested in math and science, and I’m still considering my career options, but this was a chance for me to hone in on this option as a career.”

Alessa Laczkoski, a math teacher a SSAS, nominated Sons. She said the program is beneficial for young girls because they learn that a career in STEM is viable.

“In middle school, a lot of girls will start to drop off in these areas because of peer pressure or looking at who’s actually doing this because a lot of times all you see is males in higher roles in sciences and mathematics,” Laczkoski said. “So really getting around a female who is strong in the field is amazing.”

Students will participate next week in a variety of classes, including structural engineering, neuroscience and engineering. One new class, Thinkabit Lab’s Wearable Tech, challenges students to learn circuitry, engineering and programming by designing an automated hat that represents their strengths, interests and values.

Scharf, who wants to be a pediatric surgeon, said she is excited to take classes related to anatomy and medical sciences, even if they are held in the summer.

“I’m looking forward to everything,” Scharf said. “I’ve always been really academic and set in what I want to do. I feel like participating in this camp will benefit me in the future because while everyone else is out doing something, I’m still learning.”

Typically, the camp is only open to students heading into eighth grade. However, because of COVID-19, the camp did not run in 2020, so the students who were accepted to last year’s camp also will participate this year.

One such student is Boggavarapu, who said she was thankful to still get the opportunity.

“I was extremely honored to have been chosen,” Boggavarapu said. “I keep thinking about all the fun opportunities, and I’m excited to meet new people who have the same interests.”

Typically, the camp is held at a university campus where the students would stay in dorms and take classes in a university classroom. However, because of COVID-19, this year’s camp will be held entirely online.

Aside from an application fee, the camp is completely paid for. The cost per student is estimated at around $1,000.

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