“The aims of the camp are to inspire young women to pursue higher education and careers in STEM, to promote self-efficacy and to show them female role models that are not often seen in our science books or on TV,” says organizer and Laboratory scientist Anna Llobet.
Reaching new students
“The uncertainty over COVID meant that we had to host the camp virtually again this year. But the upside was that we could expand our reach to allow more students to take part from a wider area.”
With support from Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, the New Mexico Consortium, and partners including the LANL Foundation, Los Alamos and Pojoaque Public schools, and Hawaii Science and Technology Museum, the fifth year of the free camp saw students attending from northern and central New Mexico and Hawaii.
Much of the camp was dedicated to hands-on activities. The organizers sent each student a package of materials for demos and experiments, and made sure the participants had a computer and internet access. The students worked on projects including coding, robotics, and manipulating electrical circuits.
Over the two weeks, around 80 volunteers took part (more than three quarters of them women), guiding the activities or giving the students insight into their scientific work. Topics covered included COVID research, the history of women in science, and an update from Los Alamos’ Mars rover team.
The camp also included virtual tours of Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.
Sharing their career experiences
Some of the sessions covered professional development topics such as resumé writing, interview techniques, internship opportunities at the Laboratory, and information on college and scholarship opportunities. Women scientists and researchers also shared their experiences of making their careers in STEM.
“Exposing the students to role models allows them to see that we – physicists, chemists, computer scientists – have not had the idealized path the students probably associate with us. We help them to see themselves in us,” says Llobet.
Llobet and the other camp organizers are working on expanding the impact of the camp further by setting up a pipeline to follow up with the students and offering support for them as they pursue internships and other education.
“One of the key parameters was ‘I see you, you matter, we care’. Something we see very often is young women told that they will never get there. We are trying to show them there’s a world out there, and if they dream it they can do it - they just need hard work,” she says.