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Middle School Girls Take a "Tech Trek" at NASA Dryden
About 25 seventh-grade girls from several area middle schools got up close and personal with some unique aircraft and high technology recently when they participated in a "Tech Trek" tour of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
The tour was part of the Tech Trek program sponsored by the California branch of the American Association of University Women, or AAUW. The program is designed to develop interest and excitement about math and science and self-confidence among middle-school girls.
The girls and their adult chaperones were treated to a variety of activities during their trip to the NASA field center, including tours of Dryden's main aircraft hangar and several specialized research and support aircraft, including the modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and the Global Hawk and Ikhana unmanned science aircraft.
The girls also learned how a high-altitude pressure suit works and had the chance to test their piloting skills in one of Dryden's flight simulators.
The highlight of the day for Summer Ly, a student at Del Sur School in Lancaster, Calif., was piloting one of Dryden's flight simulators that was programmed to "fly" like an F/A-18 high-performance jet.
"I crashed on my first landing," Ly related, "but landed OK on my second attempt."
In addition to the aircraft and facilities tours, the students interacted with several NASA Dryden women engineers and co-operative education college students who are interning at Dryden, who encouraged them to pursue their science and mathematics interests through high school and college.
The AAUW's Tech Trek program is centered on weeklong summer math and science camps on university campuses in California for incoming eighth-grade girls. The camps feature hands-on activities in math, science and related fields, along with off-campus field trips to institutions and businesses that develop and utilize high technology in day-to-day activities. Evening programs focusing on areas such as astronomy, engineering, marine biology and environmental studies enhance the learning experience and introduce the girls to a variety of potential career fields.
The tour of NASA Dryden was sponsored by the Antelope Valley AAUW chapter, which will provide scholarships for 16 girls to attend Tech Trek camps this summer at Whittier College, the University of California at Santa Barbara and California State University at Fresno. The scholarships are funded by the AAUW chapter and several area aerospace firms.