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WiSci Morocco 2021: Empowering Girls in STEAM

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In August, Girl Up hosted the 2021 WiSci Morocco Girls STEAM Camp, a virtual, two-week camp with trainings in technology, engineering, arts and design, and math (STEAM). For the 100 girls selected across Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire, and the United States, the camp served as a global opportunity to delve into the world of tech, learn from industry experts and mentors, and build cross-cultural friendships. 

The campers started their two-week long journeys with a Girl Up Orientation, featuring inspiring words from Girl Up’s Executive Director Melissa Kilby, Intel Foundation’s Deputy Director Dr. Gabriela A. Gonzalez, U.S. Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire Richard Bell, U.S. Ambassador to Morocco David Green, the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Deputy CEO Alexia Latortue, and WiSci partners from the Millennium Challenge Account – Morocco and the Millennium Challenge Account – Cote d’Ivoire.  

Following the welcome speeches, the girls were divided into seven cohorts – each named after a prominent woman in STEAM. Throughout the duration of camp, the girls worked in these teams to complete their final Intel project that they would present at the end of camp. 

Learning STEAM Skills with Intel 

In order to ramp up to the final presentations, the cohorts attended Intel® Future Skills STEM Workshops where they were given various engineering challenges and worked as teams to come up with innovative solutions. Guiding them through the process were Intel® Future Skills coaches, which included engineers, program managers, research scientists, finance experts, and other innovative minds working at Intel. As the campers worked through each challenge, the coaches gave advice, critiques, and skill trainings that taught them how to approach a technical problem and solve it. 

For Hiba, a WiSci camper from Morocco, the Intel® Future Skills STEM Workshops were a pivotal moment in helping her realize her creative potential. Using the materials they were sent prior to camp, she was able to engineer her innovative ideas right from home. 

“It helped me rediscover my passion for creating and designing since I didn’t think I was able to be creative or do creative work,” said Hiba. “I was especially inspired when I was building the Lunar Landing Project with Mr. Qawi and the rest of the Intel team. I loved working on my design and seeing everyone else’s designs, because they were all so different.” 

WiSci camper Hiba sharing her Lunar Lander project with an Intel coach. 

“I didn’t think I would do something so different from everyone else because what I did was just the default thing that I could think of. But seeing the different ideas everyone had, Mr. Qawi’s reaction to my design, and getting to fix my mistakes… I think that whole process was just very special to me,” said Hiba.

Becoming Leaders… and Making Friends Along the Way

In addition to technical expertise, soft skills are just as important for any aspiring woman in STEAM. The Girl Up Leadership Trainings focused on critical skills such as leadership, teamwork, public speaking, and more. Every workshop was followed up by a group discussion so that the girls could process what they had learned within their cohorts and get to know each other. 

“At the beginning everyone was really shy and they don’t know each other so that’s normal,” said Somaya, a WiSci counselor from Morocco. “But at the end of the camp, and as we were going forward with the trainings, they got to know each other. They were more talkative, and they started sharing their personal stories with us, moments when they felt inspired, their goals, their dreams, and it was just all of this positive energy.” 

A ’core traits’ activity that allowed campers to tap into their strengths and share with one another. 

As a camp counselor, Somaya was able to collaborate with her cohort of young, smart girls, leaving her inspired by their heated discussions on the training topics, and the meaningful bonds she was able to forge despite their cultural differences. 

Mentors, Insights, and Industry Experts 

The Intel® Future Skills Workshops and Girl Up Leadership training sessions were augmented with one-on-one mentorship sessions for the girls. At the end of the first week, Intel coaches and STEM leaders joined the individual cohort’s Zoom rooms to discuss their careers and provide advice for the girls trying to break into STEAM. Ithri, a Moroccan camp counselor, pointed out this networking event as her favorite part of camp because it was such a rare opportunity to speak with industry experts. 

“We got to meet with STEMinists, women coaches in Intel, CEOs, directors, scientists, researchers, engineers, researchers with backgrounds in NASA or Google or Intel and so on… It was just so amazing that we had the opportunity to get to hear from them. They were such role models for me and for the other girls in the camp,” said Ithri. 

Intel coaches Shahram and Wolf Witt giving advice and answering questions in a breakout room.

The campers also got the chance to ask some of their burning questions. Especially for inquisitive U.S. camper Vrianna, she was able to get some peace from the deep insights the mentors had to say about what life as a professional adult looks like. 

“Being able to ask questions to the Intel coaches was just great because I was able to ask those questions that you don’t normally hear like, ‘How do you deal with the monotony of going to a 9-to-5 job?,’ ‘Are there any like fun things you do at work?, ‘Any after-work communications with colleagues?,’ ‘How is life having a job?,’ and just hearing their answers made me feel more calm. It helped me feel less anxious about what my future is going to look like,” said Vrianna. 

Left with inspiring messages and motivation, the campers were able to round out their camp experience with these new insights from STEAM experts. 

Celebrating Across Cultures 

With camp coming to a bittersweet end, the campers were able to spend the rest of the day with a memorable Culture Night. Every camper was able to present their culture, traditions, food, clothes, histories, and geographies to the rest of camp. Through Culture Night, Somaya was even able to learn more about her own country. 

“Even though I’m from Casablanca and Rabat, I got to learn a lot about people who were from the South or from the North of my country (Morocco) so it was very rich – this mix of races and people from all over the world… It was just very rich,” said Somaya. 

While Culture Night may have highlighted their unique cultural differences, hearing about the camper’s lives from all over the world also left the girls feeling hopeful about the world, and the youth changemakers in it.  

“I knew that I was a passionate girl for social change, but knowing that there are other girls in other countries who are out there with the hunger to change the world and to help their communities is just so inspiring, so powerful. I really feel like our world is in good hands,” said U.S. camper Vrianna. 

A Big Thank You to Our WiSci Partners 

WiSci Morocco was made possible thanks to the dedication of the partners who made it happen including, Intel, Caterpillar Foundation, the Al Akhawayn University, the Millennium Challenge Account – Cote d’Ivoire, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Special thanks to the TE Foundation whose generosity enabled every camper to receive a Wi-Fi enabled tablet device to use during camp and keep after camp. The contribution of time and resources from every partner was  invaluable in ensuring that WiSci Morocco could connect with so many young changemakers and teach them how to overcome the gender stereotypes associated with STEAM. 

“We may think that STEAM is only for boys, for men, but nowadays we see women in different careers and doing things that men do. So STEAM is not only for boys. We are as smart as men. We are as clever as men. We can do all of the things that men can do. STEAM is for everyone,” said Rokia, a camper from Cote d’Ivoire. 

Additionally, despite the ongoing pandemic, every camper was able to not only participate in this educational opportunity, but also have access to the resources that would allow them to fully immerse themselves in this event. The campers were sent tablets provided by TE Connectivity, toolkits and materials provided by Intel, and Internet connectivity provided by the Millennium Challenge Accounts of Morocco and Côte d’Ivoire.

WiSci camper Vrianna unboxing her tablet from TE Connectivity. 

Vrianna wraps up our campers’ sentiments, “My heart is so full of love for everyone at WiSci – all of the girls, the staff, the mentors, and everyone who had a role in this – because it was honestly amazing. I wouldn’t have switched it out for anything else.” 

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