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DCTC camp connects girls and tech

One of the activities at DCTC's TXT camp involves using a backhoe to put a basketball into a basket.

Next week, Dakota County Technical College will once again host its Teens eXperiencing Technical education program. The week-long program encourages girls grades 5 through 8 to think about and explore careers in technical fields through workshops and demonstrations.

In its three year history, the program has evolved from working with Best Buy's Geek Squad, to combining Geek Squad with classes at DCTC, to a completely DCTC-based program.

"We figured we had enough stuff to do we could do it the whole week," said Linda Foster, Instructional Technology Director at DCTC.

The program is at full capacity of 175 girls. In years past, they've had about 200, but with current construction projects on campus, they had to limit the numbers.

Each day of the week has a different theme, where the girls get to explore a different aspect of the technological industry. Monday is transportation day, and they will learn about semi trucks and railroad conducting, as well as heavy construction equipment.

"They are actually operating the backhoe to take a basketball and put it in the basket," Foster said.

Tuesday focuses on science-based programs, such as nanotechnology and careers focused in the medical field.

"They'll be doing blood draws on dummy arms, and doing vital signs like working in a medical or nursing field," Foster said.

As part of one of their presentations Wednesday, they will have a company from Eau Claire teach about welding. The girls will learn how to weld with computer technology, using the same kind of equipment they would use in a real welding job.

"They actually learn how to do the welds before they do it for real," Foster said.

After learning how to weld, they will get custom laser cut parts to work on that they also get to take home.

There will be workshops devoted to running circuits and connecting wires, focusing on electronics controls. The girls will attend a workshop on hardware, where they will be introduced to computer technology.

"(The girls will) take a working computer apart, put it back together and it will be working again," Foster said. "That's the goal."

On a day devoted to design, they will have the chance to engage in two photography workshops.

At the end of the week, there will also be presentations by businesses from around the area, including Ziegler Cat, robotics teams from Burnsville, Prior Lake and Eagan, Hi Tech Kids and more.

"A big variety, traditional and nontraditional career fields ... hands on," Foster said. "Instead of listening to lecture, they are actually getting to do things."

In addition, prominent figures from the area such as Representative Anna Wills and Rosemount mayor Bill Droste will be at the program as attendees, learning about the technological industry and technological education.

"I am hoping to get Dr. Cassellius (Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner) in the backhoe, but that I can't promise," Foster said.

Foster said that because of word of mouth and emails sent out by past attendees, the program is expanding, and they are getting girls from all over Minnesota, including Northfield, the Twin Cities and Duluth.

"It's growing its own legs," Foster said. "I hung up three posters this year."

Foster also said the kids have a great time.

"As a girl, you're welding and operating a backhoe and underneath a semi truck and doing all sorts of workshops," Foster said.

The program runs from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. every day next week.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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