The Last SciCommCamp
If you have been a frequent reader of my (infrequent) blog, you will know that I am more engineering-focused in my content than the other STEAM subjects. I think that all of the STEAM subjects go hand-in-hand, but I am more integrated into the T (Technology) and E (Engineering) communities in STEAM, especially through my robotics pursuits. I used to be far more integrated into the arts, having done gallery showings, but have found that it is far more fun to use those artistic skills to make children's books and to evolve my CAD (Computer-Aided Design) skills.
What a lot of you don't know is, I plan on minoring in Physics (alongside a double major in Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering) and have been passionate about it for many years. I am also very interested in Biomedical Engineering in relation to prosthetics, Environmental Science regarding plastic manufacturing and sustainable 3D printing, and in the chemistry behind developing semiconductors. I teach recycling education in nearly all of my classes and work very hard to promote a sustainable future for my students. Up until the middle of my sophomore year of high school, I was homeschooled by my parents for religious reasons. These religious implications left topics like evolution, biology, chemistry, and astronomy out of the picture entirely. I am constantly trying to repair my knowledge gap to become a better student in STEAM and a better educator.
So, the SciCommCamp was the perfect thing for me to expand my horizons to become even more integrated into the science community and to learn more about science in general. This camp was brought to my attention by Eric Beatty, a leader in the SOLIDWORKS User Group Network. He encouraged me to attend to expand my horizons within the STEAM community and to apply for the camp scholarship to be able to do just that. Eric isn't a science communicator but found that the camp was a great experience and that it helped him become a better CAD teacher and leader.
I ended up receiving the scholarship, alongside three others. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity and to have gotten the scholarship! I pour all of my funds into my nonprofit and am not necessarily "rolling in the dough" as one would say, so scholarships and funding from companies is always a crucial part of my participation in an event or conference.
According to their website "SciCommCamp is a camp-style retreat that brings science communicators and scientists of all career stages together for a weekend of networking and training. By spending time together outside of a typical academic or conference-style setting, participants are inspired to think about science communication in fresh and exciting ways."
I really love the premise of the camp as conferences with rigid schedules and PowerPoint presentations can get overwhelming and stuffy. Wandering around to film lizards and petting crested geckos is my idea of a good time.
At every single conference/event I have attended in the past two years, I have played a role in it in one way or another. Usually, I am lecturing at the event or holding a workshop. November is probably my busiest month in general, so I was very thankful to use this camp as a break from my usual grind (even though it is kind-of grinding still, but in a different way).
Day 1: Thursday (AKA Travel Day)
I live near Detroit, which is quite far from Los Angeles, California. The flight was almost four hours and thirty minutes. I skipped math class to finish packing (I procrastinated that way too long) and left to DTW. I would go on about fun traveling adventures, but my writing skills are not nearly at a level where I could create an enjoyable narrative. I thrive on technical writing and bullet points, and my AP (Advanced Placement) English teachers in high school disliked it greatly. I got that 5 on the AP test, though! (Goodness knows how, but I am down for the not-so-humble brag.) I really want to write a memoir but I don't think I could until I got an editor to babysit me.
Shockingly, I got batteries, a screwdriver, and Every Kid Gets a Robot through the TSA. I was impressed because my screwdriver was over the 7 inches and seems stabby. Of course, I would never use a screwdriver as a weapon... I would use a hammer (jokes). I think people forget that you can light fires with 9V batteries (my students, of course, remember this the best) but I don't know the regulations regarding batteries that aren't lithium and if they can fly or not. I also travel with a tribal ID instead of a driver's license or passport (which is supposed to be federally recognized but rarely is), so the security experience was unique (but could have been far more stressful).
What am I reading?
This was a long trip, so I continued reading Chanel Miller's Know My Name: A Memoir. Chanel is an artist and writer who is a brave face of the #MeToo movement. For those of you don't know, Chanel is Emily Doe from the Brock Turner case that began in 2015 and went viral in 2016. Brock got an embarrassingly low sentence and is the epitome of white male privilege.
Her book is an inspirational look into her life, the events surrounding the case, and in being a person of color with a caucasian assailant.
The case angered me for many different reasons, especially the lack of remorse from the Turner family. Dan Turner, Brock's father, wrote a letter excusing his sons' behavior. In it, he said that "he paid a steep price for 20 minutes of action." The rape culture in the United States and the overt issue we have with blaming the victim is especially prevalent in this case. Chanel is quoted saying that "[rape] is not a punishment for getting drunk." She continues "We have this really sick mindset in our culture, as if you deserve rape if you drink to excess. You deserve a hangover, a really bad hangover, but you don't deserve to have somebody insert their body parts inside of you." I could not agree more.
I preordered the book on Amazon as soon as it was announced and highly suggest that everyone take the time to read it.
Day 2: Friday (AKA Camp Day 1)
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I stayed the night in a hotel near LAX and traveled to camp later that day. Unbeknownst to my parents, I did not attend the optional workshops (because I forgot to sign up). I went to Coffee for Sasquatch, a cafe near downtown Hollywood, and then wandered around stores before driving nearly an hour to get to American Jewish University - Brandeis Bardin Campus. During the long drive, even the Uber driver loved seeing my robots and talking about technology.
(I switch tense at this point in the blog because I finished it a month later, my goodness.) The keynote by Allie Ward was truly remarkable. I have never felt a bigger passion for bugs and uh, bug sex? Forgive my lack of professional photography, I didn't want to take my camera on a trip by myself. I regretted that, though, and on later trips have brought my camera everywhere.
Day 3: Saturday (AKA Camp Day 2) I rarely attend a conference or event where I am not taking part in it in some way, so to enjoy excellent sessions from Physics Girl and Justin Shaifer, was a huge treat. I am a huge fan of their work. I was elated to see that they had a diversity round table discussion. I haven't seen many eager discussions in the STEM/STEAM world about things like white privilege, but I think it is absolutely vital for progress in our industries and world.
I loved taking part in the Science Carnival in the evening and playing with crested geckos and snakes. I don't talk about it a lot, but I am a gecko fanatic. It is all I post about on my private Instagram, much to my friend's chagrin.
Day 4: Sunday (AKA Camp Ends, I go Home)
As a Michigander, leaving was harder than I expected it to be. Mostly because November is way too cold. This was my first major trip by myself and I did not want to leave, but I was eager to go back home to celebrate my dad's birthday that I had missed during the trip.
Sadly, SciCommCamp has come to an end as of 2019. While a huge bummer, I was glad to be able to take part in the last camp. Conferences that emphasize STEM diversity and collaboration over competition is so important to thrive as STEM professionals. Again, I was so thankful for this opportunity and for all of the amazing friendships that blossomed out of this experience.