Tech Trek: Exploring Design and Engineering

Tech Trek New Mexico 2015

Tech Trek, a program of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), was held at New Mexico Highlands University this year. The week-long camp empowers and encourages 8th grade girls to consider careers in STEM fields. Tech Trek, which started 15 years ago, invites professionals to facilitate hands-on workshops that engage campers in the exploration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

D/P/S architect and principal Julie Walleisa and structural engineer Jennifer Greenleaf headed to Tech Trek to work with campers in a class called Design with Engineering in Mind.

Small teams developed simple floorplans based on specific programs and built scaled models. Each group of girls developed unique solutions and built various structural systems to support their designs. Once complete, the models were put to the test! A shake table and large fan, meant to mimic earthquakes and high winds, were applied to each model to see if the designs could withstand the forces.

Model on shake table with fan to simulate external forces and test the model's structural system.

The exercise reinforced spatial skills and problem solving for real-world applications.

So why is Tech Trek so important? Fewer women than men pursue higher education degrees in STEM disciplines, with women earning only 20 percent of bachelor's degrees in fields like physics, engineering, and computer science. AAUW's research indicates that the gender gap in STEM fields is due to social barriers and cultural beliefs about gender and intelligence. Tech Trek, and similar programs, aim to inspire girls by showing them that they can achieve an equal level of success as their male peers in STEM disciplines.

To learn more about Tech Trek and empowering girls to pursue careers as scientists and engineers, visit