Why do we want our girls at camp? Why do we want to make it easy for our girls to get to camp?
I recently had the pleasure of helping a pair of Girl Scout Cadettes send a weather balloon to near space. Launching a weather balloon (and then retrieving it) is no simple task. It requires several hundred dollars of electronics for the tracking hardware, more money to buy the balloon, and even more money to buy the helium. It requires HAM radio licenses. It requires coordinating with the FAA. And then… after all that… you let it go, the wind takes it, and you may never see it again. The telemetry board might fail. It might land in a lake and sink. A lot can go wrong.
When we first asked the Cadettes if they were interested in launching a balloon, they had this look on their face that said “why on earth would we do that?”. For science. Not interested. For space photos. Not interested. It might end up stuck in a tree on top of a mountain five miles from the nearest road. Oh?
Suddenly they were excited. Where would the balloon take them? How would they get it out of the tree? How would they find the balloon when it was on the ground? The GPS would only get them so close…
In our push for getting our girls into STEM we often forget that STEM is not just programming computers, doing math, and building things. STEM is about exploration. At its core, STEM is about adventure. It is about challenging the world around us and making impossible things possible. It is about solving problems.
These girls weren’t interested in doing things simply because they can. “For science” didn’t do it. But the adventure! The chase! Setting off an adventure and not knowing where it would take them…
Not knowing if you will succeed but trying anyway… that is is the heart of what it means to be Courageous and Strong. Life is never certain. Life will challenge us and life will make us uncomfortable. In order to grow, we have to embrace our self doubts. We have to accept the challenge. The chase. The adventure. The uncertainty.
Try something new. Fail. A lot. These are at the heart of what it means to be an engineer or scientist. But we try anyway. Because there is a chance that we will change the world.
Camp teaches all that and more.