GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP _ Ariel Jarvie, 13, of Egg Harbor Township wants to study marine biology. So it was no surprise that her favorite part of Tech Trek Camp at Stockton University this week had to do with water.
“We made nets and caught plankton,” Jarvie said, as she prepared to set off one of the rockets she and the 59 other girls in the camp had made. “We also took water samples and tested them.”
Now in its second year, the weeklong residential camp, sponsored by the American Association of University Women and Stockton, brings girls going into eighth grade together for a week of science, technology, engineering and math in the hopes of encouraging them to consider careers in STEM fields.
“This is a pivotal age for them,” said AAUW volunteer Peg Fiore. “They are interested, and we don’t want them to lose that interest.”
AAUW volunteer Carolyn Bassett said all middle schools in the state are invited to nominate two girls, who must then complete an application and essay, and be interviewed by AAUW members. This year’s camp is double the size of last year’s and includes more girls from other parts of the state. Those chosen pay a $50 fee to attend, but the fee can be waived.
Campers learned about coding, how to create an app, built an electric circuit, operate a drone and a robot, and build a rocket. They visited an air traffic control tower, and met with about 30 women in STEM fields to talk about their careers.
“We want them to both pursue a STEM field, and persist in it,” said Claudine Keenan, Dean of Education at Stockton.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up almost half of the total U.S. workforce, but only about 40 percent of chemists and material sciences, 16 percent of chemical engineers and 12 percent of civil engineers.
The AAUW in New Jersey also sponsors daylong seminars called TeenTech and Tween Tech, the only state to host all three programs.
Jarvie said she asked her teacher to nominate her because a friend had attended the camp last year and said it was really fun.
Gloria Lino, 13, of Absecon wants to be a doctor, and was impressed with how far her rocket flew in the air.
“I had no idea it would go so far,” she said.
Gabriella Luque, 13, of Bloomingdale in Passaic County said her science teacher recommended her because he thought she would do well.
“I’ve loved it,” she said. “I love science. This is the perfect camp for me.”