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HER STEM CAMP: A 1st Edition to Inspire Young Moroccan Girls

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From March 12th to 16th, 2023, the School of Science and Engineering at Al Akhawayn University hosted a women's engagement and a science-themed camp called Her STEM Path. The camp brought together 20 teenage girls aged 15 to 18 from all around Morocco to a safe, encouraging, science-based, and girl-centered environment. The main objective of the camp was to inspire young Moroccan girls to pick science for their professional careers by providing them with a full science-based university experience.

Her STEM Path aimed to expose the candidates to science not only theoretically but also practically through planned workshops. During the five-day camp, the participants were immersed in a wide range of engaging and informative activities. They attended inspiring speeches about various STEM fields, including astronomy, coding, chemistry, and physics. In the workshops, they learned practical skills, such as basic Python programming and problem-solving. In addition, they had access to the university's labs where they conducted experiments and learned about various scientific phenomena. They were also given the opportunity to gaze into the stars using the university's telescope, sparking a passion for astronomy. The participants further expanded their knowledge and skill set by playing science-based trivia games. However, one of the most impactful experiences for the young women was the opportunity to meet and engage with female leaders in the university during a panel discussion. The leaders provided valuable insight into the opportunities available in STEM and inspired the participants to pursue their passions. These activities and experiences created an empowering and memorable week for all who participated in STEM Path.

One of the participants, Rim Chokhmane, shared her experience of the camp, saying, "Attending Her STEM camp was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. Not only did I get to learn about various fields of science and technology, but I also got to meet some inspiring women who have excelled in their respective STEM careers. The hands-on workshops and interactive sessions were really informative and engaging. I particularly enjoyed the programming workshop, where we got to learn how to program using Python. It was challenging, but with the guidance of our mentors, we were able to accomplish it and it helped us to think creatively. I also appreciated the interactive nature of the camp, where we got to work in teams and collaborate with other participants. The atmosphere was really unique and pleasant. It was a great way to meet new people and make new friends who share the same interests. Overall, the camp was a great opportunity to learn, grow and connect with like-minded individuals. It has definitely motivated me to pursue a career in STEM, and I am grateful for the amazing experience. The camp did not only teach me about the world of STEM but also showed me that learning can be fun and exciting. Thank you, Her STEM camp for making it possible. I will never forget this amazing adventure, and it will always remain ingrained in my mind in the best possible way!"

The project supervisor, Prof. Safae Bourhnane, also expressed her support for the camp. " I had the pleasure to be part of the Her STEM Path camp. It is a great project which I was privileged to supervise. It was truly an inspiring experience. Watching young women engage with sciences in a supportive and inclusive environment was incredibly rewarding. I am proud of the progress we made in encouraging female students to pursue careers in these fields, and I am confident that our efforts will have a lasting impact on their lives. I am grateful for the support we got from the school of science and engineering at AUI and which allowed us to have the desired impact on the participants. Throughout the camp, I saw participants develop new skills and deepen their understanding of STEM subjects. They asked thoughtful questions and approached challenges with enthusiasm, creativity, and determination. I was particularly impressed by their ability to work collaboratively and support one another, creating a positive and welcoming community within the camp. The participants also made life-long friendships that they will never forget. I am grateful for the opportunity to have played a role in shaping the experiences of these young women. Thank you to everyone involved in making Her STEM Path a success."

Plans are already in motion to expand Her STEM Path in future years to include more girls and to add more science fields to the program. The organizing team is also working to bring in more female role models from academia, industry, and research to provide the girls with diverse perspectives and insights into STEM fields. With the continued commitment to improving the camp's format and learning outcomes, Her STEM Path will continue to inspire and empower the next generation of women in science, creating a brighter future for Morocco's scientific community.