The 7th Annual Summer Physics Camp for Young Women a Resounding Success!
The 7th Summer Physics Camp for Young Women was successfully held in person again from June 5th to 16th at the New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe, NM. This year’s camp was dedicated to the topic of Energy Security and was made possible thanks to the strong collaboration of Los Alamos, Sandia and Hawaii teams and the logistical and financial support of Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, New Mexico Consortium, LANL Foundation, ACS, IEE, APS four corners, N3B, SAGE- Moore Foundation, Hawaii Museum of Science and Technology, New Mexico School for the Arts and Tech Source.
For the first time, the camp attracted and was able to accept in person 40 students. 32 of the students represented nine different counties in NM (Santa Fe, San Miguel, Rio Arriba, Bernalillo, Los Alamos, Sandoval, McKinley, Lea and Mora) and 8 students from Hilo Hawaii that remotely joined the camp from a Hilo Intermediate School.
The camp is free of charge to the students and included free lunch and snacks for the busy brains to have plenty of energy, also included all materials needed for the hands-on activities (drone building, soldering, coding etc) and even a stipend for students who attended for the full two weeks.
The organizers were thrilled to welcome students from 8 of the 19 New Mexico pueblos with great ambitions to be role models in their communities (Zuni Pueblo, Jemez Pueblo, Pueblo de San Ildefonso, Tesuque Pueblo, Ohkay Owingeh, Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Santa Clara and Pueblo of Pojoaque) .
The in-person camp which aims at empowering under-represented minorities in STEM in our community received more than 60 applications this year from all over NM. Our selection criteria are based on diversity, equity and inclusion, and selects students for whom the camp can be a life-changing opportunity. During COVID, the camp was held virtually and gave the opportunity to students from remote areas in NM and Hawaii to hear about the camp and attend from their homes. This year, fantastic families supported students everyday even when home was in remote areas in NM like Lea county , Sandoval county, Bernalillo or Mora county. We hope next year we can offer a residential option.
With nearly 120 volunteers who came mainly from Los Alamos National Laboratory (66%) and Sandia national laboratories (18%), and two funded educators from NM: Dr. Weldon Beauchamp and Dr. Ellee Cook and two educators from Hilo: Dr. Pascale Creek Pinner and LeAnn Ragasa , the camp was educationally sound and extremely varied. The collaboration with school educators is critical for the goal of this camp to increase higher education aspirations of students, empower them to consider careers in STEM and to learn more about the opportunities available to them in our local colleges and DOE National Laboratories.
During the camp, the students enjoyed intensive sessions covering a range of physics topics including electricity, magnetism, optics, as well as computer science, coding, cryptography, chemistry, environmental science, astrophysics, robotics, machine learning and professional development sessions, and even a tour of Los Alamos National Laboratory where they got to visit the LANSCE accelerator facility and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. During the second week, students were split in two groups and they used their learned skills to build a remotely operated robotic hand or a solar powered home with proximity sensors, lights and fans using their electricity and coding skills. Many pictures from the camp can be found here.
Led by scientists, engineers and technical staff role models 74% of whom identified as women, non-binary or trans, the breadth of the short lectures and hands-on activities helped students identify career pathways they may not have been exposed to before and find role models they can identify with.
The 32 selected students from NM came from 24 different schools and 16 different school districts while the 8 students from Hawaii came from 5 different schools with grades ranging from 7th-12th grade. Most of the students reflect under-represented minorities in STEM and the majority identified as hispanic, (47%), Native American (18%) or Asian (15%) and the remaining identified as white Caucasian, pacific islander or bi-ethnic.
With students coming from such different background and grades 7th-12 grade, it is important to adapt the curriculum to the students as the camp happened, and the organizers asked for daily feedback, and also end of the camp feedback to students, parents and educators.
Students were thrilled by the encouragement video from LANL Director Thom Mason or the virtual visits from VIP managers at Sandia National Laboratory like Associate Labs Director for Global Security at Sandia National Laboratories, Justine Johannes or Sandra Begay native American engineer and Dr. Rick Sauerman MD from Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratory Deputy Director Frances Chadwick who got to see their projects in person and have lunch with them, Mary Hockaday Division Leader in Nuclear Engineering and Nonproliferation, Ed Fenimore Fellow at LANL who lead an astrophysics activity, New Mexico Consortium Chief Operating Officer John R. Engen who welcomed the students to the camp or Capt Sophia Schwalbe from the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland AFB who shared her experience about STEM careers in the military.
Overall, the camp was greatly appreciated by students and families equally! Students rated a 4.8 over a scale of 5 that the camp was worth their time and 100% of the students said to a great or large extend they would recommend the camp to a friend.
Moreover, at the end of the camp 78% of the students stated finding STEM fields very interesting and only 22% somewhat interesting.
Students received a certificate of completion after the camp signed by Frances Chadwick (LANL) and Amy Tapia (SNL), Dr. Pascale Pinner (Hawaii) and Anna Llobet (LANL) and with the leadership and support of NMC, students who chose to will be receiving a stipend.
Families and students expressed their gratitude in a variety of ways. Some quotes can be found below.
But the efforts to inspire our future leaders in STEM doesn’t end at the camp. The camp also offers campers to connect with mentors when the camp is over and encourages students to reach out to the volunteers with questions if they have interests in the future and some students are taking advantage of it. In addition, the campers are now part of SAGE team of which LANL is part of and will be offered monthly events to connect with students from other areas in the US that have similar ambitions.
Throughout these 7 years the camp has proven to inspire and be a pipeline for future leaders in STEM and 24 past alumni from past editions of this camp including a student originally from Hawaii who attended the camp last year and is now pursuing her Physics degree at NM Tech, secured Summer internships at Los Alamos National Laboratory this summer.
As one parent put it: “It’s pretty amazing to have the caliber of professional, mostly women engineers and scientists volunteering their time and spirit to this camp. I appreciate that this effort is being made for the girls in our community to let them see the possibilities that they can achieve. If you don’t know what the possibilities are, you are already limited to a small world view of who you are, what you can learn and how you can contribute”.
Dr. Ellee Cook also expressed how attending this camp is impacting her as a teacher: “I also got exposed to tons of new things through the camp! I got inspired about my own teaching by new ideas and approaches, and shared ideas with colleagues at my school about things they could try. I met people I am interested in collaborating with, such as scientists who might be interested to come in as guests in a high school classroom or folks who work on New Mexico science fair. It was also valuable to work with students from across the state. Learning to work with a new and varied population makes me a better teacher as I try new things.”….and this exactly why Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, New Mexico Consortium and other funding agencies are committed in their support towards this effort for our communities in New Mexico, and Hawaii Museum of Science and Technology has been a great advocate for the inclusion of their regional students and teachers.
Feedback from students and Families include:
– “Thank you for creating the space to explore, encouraging contributions from people who want to want to talk with young people, and incentivizing the students with a stipend- it made a huge difference to my daughter to be on time and be certain to attend/participate.”
-“Thank you so much for committing to improve the lives of young women. In the sciences, many young women must know how to compete in a masculine world. This camp is a wonderful place to introduce to young women the wonders of science without fear they are not good enough. Mahalo nui loa to all the volunteers committed to change the world.”
-“The experience of Young Women of color together learning hard science is empowering. It is fantastic that the program has a priority to enroll young women who are native and/or brown skin. It is very important for them to be in a room of other girls who look like them.”
-“I think this is a wonderful opportunity provided to young women at a very important time in their life. Demonstrating capabilities, especially with women scientists, is critical in letting young women know that with enough skills, knowledge, and perseverance they are not limited to traditional careers but can opt to pursue almost anything they choose. I think this is an important contribution by the sponsors. Allowing staff time to organize and prepare for giving classes and demonstrations is very valuable and I encourage these organizations to continue providing them.”
-“Thank you so much for all of your hard work and contributions to this camp! Without you none of this would be possible. All of these young women get to see that it is possible to find something you love and it’s a very rewarding program for them. Personally we would see my daughters eyes sparkle every time she talked about this camp. Whether it’s about the activities she did or the people she met along the way. We think it’s worth it to be a part of this camp and we are very happy our daughter got the chance to experience this amazing opportunity. We hope you continue helping to continue this camp on for many years. You should be very proud of yourselves for contributing to this important camp. What you guys have done for these young women is incredible. Thank you!”
At the end of the camp students wrote that the main lesson they got from the camp was
-“That women can do anything! I learned how to uplift my peers and how to self advocate as well as the amazing science taught in the camp”
-“If I’m honest participating in this camp was a very incredibly important experience and I don’t think there is one lesson there’s more, but if i had to choose one it would be that no matter race, gender, sexuality you can be a scientist or you can work in the field you like.”
-“I learned that even though things get hard you need to persevere and the connections you make can really impact you in the long run.”
-” Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and do science even if your the first girl in the crew”” It’s important to remember everyone has their own pace and there are so many people willing to help you move forward in life. Additionally, there will be struggles throughout adulthood but as long as you have a good team behind you, you can get through anything!!.”
– “To keep on working even when you make mistakes. Like, a LOT of mistakes. Overcoming these was a process that wan fun and challenging”
Students were also asked about what they thought the impact of attending the camp was to them and they answered:
-“During this camp I was surrounded by so many successful and intelligent students. All who inspired me to do the unthinkable and go outside of my comfort zone. I didn’t have many beacons of support to look towards when I was struggling. Now I have so many peers who are interested in STEM like me and relate in so many other ways that drive me to be a better person. This also applies academically! They have all driven me to try harder.”
-” Honestly I think it made me more interested than I already was in the field, being able to see the many different ways and the different branches opened up so many possibilities to me.”
-“Going into this camp, I was intimidated by the idea of entering a STEM field seeing as it was primarily dominated by males. I felt alone until I was introduced to so many speakers who had felt the same way when they were my age. (lost, indecisive, etc) Through this experience I was taught that although women do have to put in more effort than men in some areas, nothing is impossible. With a secure space and a supportive team, those harder tasks seem more doable.”
-“I thought STEM jobs were all about numbers but attending this camp has helped me see that it’s not just about that. It’s also about having fun, being creative, and having critical thinking skills.”
-“I came into this camp so unsure of myself and my capabilities. So fearful that I was not good enough to enter STEM. This camp had taught me that I’m capable of so much more than I give myself credit for!! It definitely changed my perspective on myself and STEM in general.”
-“I think it’s amazing that it’s women specific because as you guys have told us, There are not many women who think being in STEM is “possible” and I have seen that because in past STEM camps it had been mostly boys/men who were the vast majority of the camps. And before it had been lonely to attend them because I felt like I did not belong. And being in this camp I was very excited because I felt like I finally found a place where I belong and I had found other women who were also interested in STEM and I found friends who did not feel that STEM was boring. I felt represented by the volunteers who came and talked to us and I really enjoyed this camp overall.”
Families were also very appreciative of the opportunity:
-“I think it’s very important to feel represented by women in STEM and getting to know people that worked in those fields and getting to talk to them is a very important opportunity. This camp has made my daughter feel like she can do it and working hard to achieve her dreams is very important.They get to learn a lot about different STEM fields and it sparks their interest in wanting to learn more . You have helped all of these young women to see the possibilities.”
-” Before the camp, my daughter was somewhat uncertain of her passion for engineering/physics since she had little experience. This camp convinced her that she does indeed enjoy tinkering and can reasonably anticipate a career in the physical sciences.”
-“My daughter has learned to be self confident in her academics. She loves learning about how the world works and was impressed with all the women instructors who are truly awesome role models for her.”
PICTURES: You can find many pictures and videos of the camp here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Pos8nWTSkWVE9rES9
Top photo: Isabella Lopez from Pojoaque Valley High School and Luzia Dominquez from McCurdy Charter School working on building their drone
This program is supported by the New Mexico Consortium,