Earlier this summer, middle-school girls had the opportunity to attend Excite Camp, a Women in Technology (WIT) program sponsored by the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB). The main goal of Excite Camp is to educate participants in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. In addition to the learning experience, WIT believes it is important for the girls to see the connection between our cultural heritage and scientific technology. For example, girls take part in events that include geospatial technologies as well as tours of historical sites that integrate Hawaiian traditions into hands-on STEM learning activities.
“The last 15 years, Excite Camp has been held on Maui and open to all Maui County middle-school girls,” said Mapu Quitazol, WIT Program Manager. “This year we are able to expand and take our Excite Camp to Kona, Oahu and Molokai. Each island has the same agenda but very different activities and cultural site visits.”
The camp attendance of between 24 and 30 girls creates a small, intimate group. Each participant joins a group of four and is led by a female mentor. The mentor, who acts as a role model, explains the activities and works in close proximity with each student which helps them feel comfortable in their surroundings. “At the end of the four-day program the girls are no longer strangers, but colleagues and friends,” Quitazol noted. “In addition to getting excited about STEM, they learn the value of teamwork, communication and honoring their island heritage.”
“During Excite Camp the role of engineers was made clearer. It also made me more excited about college and my future career,” said Ruby, an Excite Camp participant. “It was wonderful having people encourage us during Excite Camp,” said Ruthie, another Excite Camp participant. “The mentors made us feel that we are smart and can do anything we put our mind to.”