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Volume 46 | Issue 3 | April 2004

People & Places

photo: Tech Trek 2004 participants.
Western Aeronautical Test Range (WATR) Business Manager Jan Minniear, standing, gives visiting middle-school students an introduction to Dryden’s mission control center as part of the annual Tech Trek program. Each year, Dryden plays host to a group of girls for a day devoted to inspiring interest in math- and science-related career fields. The event is sponsored by the Antelope Valley chapter of the American Association of University Women.
NASA Photo / Tom Tschida

'Tech Trek' to the future

Sarah Merlin
X-Press Assistant Editor

Sixteen seventh-grade girls from area middle schools took a "Tech Trek" around Dryden in March as part of an annual program sponsored by the Antelope Valley chapter of the American Association of University Women.

Designed to stimulate interest in math- and science-related career fields, Tech Trek offers the students a chance to chat with women engineers at Dryden, tour the Center and preview the kinds of jobs that could await them after college.

photo: Tech Trek 2004 participants.
During a spring Tech Trek around the Center, Edwards Middle School seventh grader Ashley Woodford – a next-generation test pilot? – gets a chance to see what it might feel like to take the controls of the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.
NASA Photo / Tom Tschida

"It's good for them to see what's out there for women," said Kerin Coffey, seventh-grade science teacher at Tropico Middle School in Rosamond. "Things like this really help them realize there are more - and different - career opportunities for girls than they might be aware of."

Students are selected by their teachers to participate in the program. During their daylong visit, this year's group took seats in mission control and had an opportunity to listen to each other on headsets, giving them a feel for communications that transpire among NASA officials during missions. They sat at the controls of the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and, with a little help from a Dryden engineer, flew the F-18 simulator for a taste of the test pilot's life. Over a pizza lunch, they got tips from some of Dryden's female workforce about tackling college prep, finding their place in career fields populated heavily by men, and what an average workday is like for a NASA research scientist.

Schools represented in this year's Tech Trek included Almondale, Boron, Buena Vista, Del Sur, Edwards, Joe Walker and Tropico middle schools.