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Encouraging Young Women to Reach for the Stars AAUW New Mexico Tech Trek

Presentation #316.07 in the session Astronomy and Astronomy Education in New Mexico.

Published onJul 01, 2023
Encouraging Young Women to Reach for the Stars AAUW New Mexico Tech Trek

Tech Trek New Mexico is a week-long camp organized by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) that is designed to introduce rising 8th grade girls to possible career paths in STEM. Throughout the week girls are immersed in a program that empowers and encourages them to imagine themselves as future scientists, engineers, mathematicians, or computer scientists. Tech Trek has been shown to dramatically increase female self-confidence and interest about STEM fields at a critical age. The program was developed as a response to AAUW’s “Why So Few” report was an NS- funded study of women’s underrepresentation in STEM fields.

I joined the program as a graduate student in 2016 when New Mexico Tech began hosting the camp. I have taught a Core-Class every year since then (excluding 2020 and 2021 due to Covid restrictions). The class I teach is titled “A Journey Through the Life Cycle of the Stars”. Class sizes typically include 12 girls, and the class runs about 3 hours every day. In that time the girls go through the entire stellar evolution process including star formation and YSOs, main sequence stars, evolved stars, stellar death and remnants left behind. By taking them through the stellar evolution process I can organically introduce topics such as quantum mechanics,spectroscopy, nucleosynthesis, hydrostatic equilibrium, degeneracy pressure, general relativity and instrumentation. This class provides the girls with the opportunity to fall in love with astrophysics, and encourages them to reach for the stars.

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