Rooted in STEM
Eunice student attends state-wide education camp at NM Tech
EUNICE — Jacqueline Boyd has a new outlook on the future after attending a camp at New Mexico Tech.
Before attending the annual Tech Trek New Mexico camp last month in Socorro, the incoming eighth-grader at Caton Middle School in Eunice wanted to be a lawyer, her mother, Christy Boyd told the News-Sun. But experiencing the week-long, immersive introduction to the principals of Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering that’s at the heart of Tech Trek changed her mind.
“Now I’m thinking about engineering in the future,” Jacqueline, 13, said. “Mechanical engineering. I like building stuff.”
Tech Trek is hosted by the American Association of University Women, a national organization promoting education equality and equity for women and girls since 1881. AAUW recruits a host of sponsors, from Sandia National Laboratories to the Air Force Research Lab and ExxonMobil to Honeywell International to support the program and excite girls about STEM education.
The annual program starts with educators in local school districts nominating seventh-grade students. The girls then apply, which includes an essay about why they want to attend.
Jacqueline met with Tech Trek interviewers in Carlsbad, securing herself a spot in this year’s camp, Christy said.
Jacqueline “loves school and she loves to learn,” Christy said. “This was right up her alley.”
Jacqueline said she really wanted to learn more about STEM in general, focused on writing computer code and on algebra, when she applied to the camp. The camp only accepts 60 girls from across New Mexico each year, she said.
A typical day at Tech Trek camp includes core discipline classes in the mornings, followed by breakout sessions in the afternoon, including workshops and field trips. One highlight of the week was the opportunity to meet and talk with women working in STEM careers from around the state, Jacqueline said.
The core discipline this year was writing computer code and digital game design, she said.
The afternoon sessions included learning about the causes and consequences of wild fires, introduction to chemistry and additional coding for computer-aided design applications, Jacqueline said.
“And we (simulated) getting a job and putting together a monthly budget,” she said. “We had to use it to buy a car, rent a house, learning financial planning. That was fun.”
Most of the girls in this year’s camp were from Albuquerque or Santa Fe, with smaller communities including Farmington and Roswell represented as well, Christy said. She’s confident Jacqueline was the only attendee this year from Lea County.
The camp “gave her direction on how she could continue in the path of science,” Christy said. “She loves thinking games. She’s just one of those children who likes science and math and loves to be challenged.
“I’m an English teacher and I don’t have that mindset. This was really her first exposure to those types … of ideas.”
That was just one of many firsts for Jacqueline this summer, she and her mom said. It was also her first time spending an extended period away from home without parents and siblings. And it was even longer, they said, because Jacqueline had attended a church camp the week prior to the Tech Trek camp, Christy said.
And to ensure campers are immersed in the STEM and other principals they’re learning, camp organizers secured the student’s cell phones and other devices, limiting use to just 30 minutes. That meant Christy and the rest of the family could only contact Jacqueline briefly at preset times of the day.
“They wanted them totally disconnected from their world,” Christy said.
Jacqueline said she did find the isolation from her family difficult, but the experience she gained at Tech Trek camp more than made up for it.
“It was all about the learning, being exposed to learning,” Jacqueline said. I liked the coding classes and, after coding, I loved the algebra lessons. I liked everything about it.”
Jacqueline keeps busy with activities when she’s not in the classroom. In addition to being a cheerleader, she is active in FFA, student council and National Junior Honor Society. She competes for the Cardinals on middle school track, volleyball and basketball teams.
Christy said she’s glad Jacqueline was able to take advantage of the experience. To many times, even in this day and age, girls aren’t encouraged to pursue what were once thought of as exclusively “male pursuits,” despite the evidence of years of women’s contributing to and excelling in mathematics, the sciences and more. And the camp introduced Jacqueline to the broader world and all the possibilities it holds, she said.
“I really think it gave her exposure to life beyond high school in Eunice,” Christy said. “She came back a more confident individual, excited about some of her future goals. It’s going to be interesting to see what she does in these next few years.