Programming to create robo-crafts. Learning the complexities of light. And, learning the building blocks of computer vision. No, these aren’t college-level courses — they are some of the lessons at QCamp, a camp hosted by San Diego-based Qualcomm geared toward young, female students.
QCamp began in September 2013 with the goal of building a pipeline of girls and women in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The program launched with 30 pre-sixth grade girls from the San Diego Unified School District, who have now all participated in the program for three consecutive years.
Saura Naderi, a staff government affairs analyst and engineering instructor for Qualcomm, said QCamp stands apart from other STEM-focused programs because of its different components. The company has worked with more than 8,000 children.
“We offer hands-on exposure so anyone who goes through this experience knows what it’s like to be an engineer,” Naderi said. “But the kids also learn about the ecosystem of Qualcomm, and all the different jobs in the company that help Qualcomm succeed.”
But the best part, at least for Naderi, is seeing how confident the girls are when working in the STEM fields. It’s a welcome development considering women remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women only represent 29 percent of the workforce in the U.S.
“Their confidence in STEM is just through the roof,” Naderi said. “They don’t think it’s a daunting career path. They think any career path is available to them. One girl said she doesn’t feel any barriers after going through this experience. That’s the point (of QCamp) to empower anyone to pursue the career they choose.”
The success of QCamp in the U.S. is prompting the company to offer it overseas. Qualcomm recently held its first camp in China in collaboration with the Children and Youth Science Center.
The camp worked with 40 girls between the ages of 12 and 15 from five different provinces in China.
“The goal is to provide this opportunity to underrepresented kids who may not have access to higher education,” Naderi said.
For more information about QCamp, go to Qualcomm.com.
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