I believe girls and women can do anything. This was apparent at Qualcomm’s first-ever Qcamp, an inspiring 2-week program for 30 pre-6th grade girls from all over San Diego to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects through a fun-filled curriculum.
Held this summer inside the new Thinkabit Lab at Qualcomm’s corporate headquarters, Qcamp gave the girls hands-on experience in building circuits, computer coding, app design and how to make robotic hats and LED jewelry boxes. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer even stopped in to see what the girls were working on.
I was on the research and planning team and am very excited by the girls’ reaction to participating in Qcamp. One girl, Oishi, said that as a result of her Qcamp experience, “I want to be an engineer more now.”
Another girl named Avalon said, “Qcamp has changed my life forever, basically because instead of learning this later in life, I’m learning it right now when I could probably use it most.”
The girls’ comments underscore why Qualcomm hosted Qcamp. Roughly 74 percent of girls in middle school express an interest in engineering, science and math, according to the American Association of University Women report, “Why So Few?” By the time these girls get to college, just 0.3 percent choose computer science as a major. Why is this? Are parents and educators not supporting girls’ interest in these subjects? Are we telling girls they can’t do these things or that STEM subjects are for boys?
Women in STEM jobs earn about a third more than their counterparts in non-STEM jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. And, they have exciting opportunities to work on inventions that change the world. Yet, while STEM jobs continue to grow, women make up less than a quarter of the STEM workforce.
I think it’s essential to have more initiatives like Qcamp in order to expose girls early and continuously to STEM subjects and teach them about the important contributions that engineers can make to humankind. We must close that gender gap and bring everyone’s ideas to the table.
Qualcomm hosted Qcamp as part of our commitment to the Women Enhancing Technology (WeTech) program, a public/private collaboration that aims to build a healthy pipeline of girls and women in STEM education and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) careers.
Our inaugural Qcamp was a great success because of everyone who came together—the University of California at San Diego’s CREATE Team which helped design the curriculum; the University of California at Berkeley which is conducting research for Qcamp; the San Diego Unified School District from which both educators and the girls who participated came from; and the Qualcomm women and men who demonstrated their commitment to bringing more females into engineering by volunteering their time and expertise to assist with activities, talk with the girls and show them how cool a career in STEM can be.
The future for women in STEM looks promising. I hope Qcamp for Girls in STEM will grow and inspire many more girls to pursue their love of science and math and help them understand that they can do it, and, ultimately, change the world in the process.
To see the Qcamp Girls in action, watch this segment from FOX 5 San Diego!