A look back on Tech Trek

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Jennifer Fox and Anna Findley reflect on their experience teaching engineering at Tech Trek at TU.

As undergraduate students in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at The University of Tulsa, we have seen, first hand, the lack of women STEM majors, particularly where there are fewer female instructors. We have both been in classes of at least thirty people where we were the only girl. For our summer research, our goal was to identify reasons for this lack of women in STEM, specifically in fields such as Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Through our research, we found that young girls often lose interest in STEM around the age of 15 due to stereotypical views of female engineers, a lack of role models, resources, and peer pressure. Our goal was to develop a hands-on Electrical Engineering based course targeted at Junior High girls that could help to combat these issues.

Through Tech Trek, we were able to introduce Electrical Engineering concepts to girls going into 8th grade. The class we designed was intended to be very interactive and hands-on. Each day we started with an icebreaker to get the girls out of their shell and talking. After we finished, we would describe the equipment for the day and basic concepts the girls would need to know. We worked with them on a few different examples. Once the girls had a basic understanding, we let them explore different things on their own. They learned about different circuit components, writing computer programs, and even some physics.

The girls at Tech Trek came from a number of different backgrounds and each had different experiences with STEM; some had never been involved in a science class before. At the beginning of the week, most of the girls were very reserved but as they got involved in the activities that we gave them, they became more outgoing and excited to participate.  At the end of the first day, the girls were enjoying the material so much that they asked for a challenge circuit design problem to solve. Throughout the rest of the week, the girls continued to go beyond what they were taught by making their own improvements to the robotics projects we planned. It was very rewarding seeing some of the quietest girls volunteer to help lead the class through a challenge that we gave them or show off a program that they made on their own. Overall, class was fun, encouraging, and exciting with never a dull moment.