Students Participate in bonding exercise at the 2017 Social Engineering Project STEM Camp at YMCAs Loma Mar Camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Photo Courtesy of TSEP.
On Friday, October 7, more than 100 high school students participated in a weekend of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) camp at the YMCA’s Camp Loma Mar in the Santa Cruz mountains. Sponsored by The Social Engineering Project, Inc. the weekend was designed to teach students who are underrepresented in STEM about project management skills in the cloud, nuclear submarines, stabilizing drones, and testing products for water resistance.
Founder of TSEP, Kevin L. Nichols says he wanted the camp to give young people some of the opportunities in life he received growing up. With the help of volunteers from Microsoft, PG&E, Cisco Meraki, and Walmart Labs, among others, Nichols was able to provide the event for the second year in a row.
“Our goal is to motivate and inspire students to go to college and have an awareness of the many opportunities available to them in the areas of STEM. These avenues give them the power to have solid careers or even become business owners,” said Nichols.
By taking the students out of their normal setting, free of the typical technological distractions Nichols says students can gain a greater appreciation for the environment and their role in preserving it.
“The outdoors shows them the importance of balancing life and work and, coupled with team-building exercises, the students have the opportunity to learn from experts in technology,” said Nichols.
Students participated in workshops organized by representatives of the tech industry and gained valuable information about applying for college, the power of networking, branding and entrepreneurship.
“Students have the opportunity to learn about the different technologies produced by these companies and find out what it’s like working there,” said Nichols. “We want students to have a desire to go to college and understand the process of applying to college and excelling on exams.”
Having attended similar camps as a high school student, and chairing two as a college student for the National Society of Black Engineers, Nichols says he can personally attest to the power of being in a completely foreign environment with students from all over the Bay Area, learning about careers that you didn’t know existed, and being motivated to go to college
“Our volunteers on this trip are lifelong friends, mentors, and sponsors. This is an invaluable life- changing experience,” he added.
The Social Engineering Project, Inc. is an Oakland-based, Google- and Microsoft-funded social impact venture with Stanford University that is designed to address the lack of diversity in the tech industry. Nichols has worked for several law firms and continued his interest in diversity and technology while a mechanical engineering and diversity intern at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He has previously served as the executive director of the California Diversity Council and the African American Wellness Project.