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Changing the World for Good: Tech Trek Alabama Changes 8th Grade Girls’ Attitudes Towards STEM

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division: Pre-college Student Experiences

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.344.1 - 26.344.12



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Paper Authors


Rhonda Kay Gaede University of Alabama, Huntsville

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Rhonda Kay Gaede is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Her research interests include computer architecture, VLSI design, and reconfigurable computing. She has a PhD degree in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a member of IEEE (computer society), ASEE and ACM. Contact her at

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Changing the World for Good: Tech Trek Alabama Changes 8th Grade Girls’ Attitudes Towards STEM The American Association of University Women (AAUW) research report ”Why SoFew? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)” found thatwomen are vastly underrepresented in STEM majors and fields compared with their male peers.But “Why So Few?” also showed that those numbers can change when girls realize theirpotential in STEM at an early age. In 2012, AAUW decided to provide girls across the countrythe opportunity to immerse themselves in hands-on exploration of STEM topics in order toencourage them to take more advanced STEM classes in high school and go on to major inSTEM fields in college. Using the model developed in California, AAUW brought Tech Trek, aweeklong summer camp for rising eighth-grade girls that is designed to develop interest,excitement, and self-confidence in STEM through classes, workshops, hands-on activities, andfield trips to four national sites in 2013.The inaugural Alabama Tech Trek camp, a partnership between the local AAUW branch andInstitution was held July 20-25, 2014. The girls spent 17.5 hours in core classes, choosing fromrobotics, app development, and life science. They also gained exposure to additional areas ofSTEM through workshops, a field trip, and evening activities. Technical workshops includedinstant challenges conducted by trained evaluators from Destination Imagination, rocket buildingand the engineering design process led by NASA Education, and DNA extraction at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. Non-technical presentations included communicating your bigidea, STEAM, and stress release. The campers also toured a prototyping facility at Dynetics, Inc.and took the Ultimate Math Field Trip challenge at the US Space and Rocket Center. Thehighlight of the week was the Professional Women’s Night, an event that involved professionalsrotating among groups of girls, speed dating style.Significant Findings: The number of girls strongly agreeing with the statement “I plan to takeadvanced science and math courses in high school” went from 34 in the pre-camp survey to 39 inthe post-camp survey, an increase of 14.7 %. The number of girls strongly agreeing with thestatement “I’m thinking of having a career in science or technology” went from 24 in the pre-camp survey to 38 in the post-camp survey, an increase of 58.3 %.

Gaede, R. K. (2015, June), Changing the World for Good: Tech Trek Alabama Changes 8th Grade Girls’ Attitudes Towards STEM Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23683

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