By Julia Smart
Through the Department of State’s Office of Global Partnerships and Girl Up, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation, Embassy Tallinn collaborated with Embassies Warsaw, Riga, and Tbilisi to host a two-week summer camp for 100 teenage girls last year. The Tallinn city government, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the NGO Spirit of America, and the Swedish telecommunications company, Telia, all supported this first iteration of the Women in Science (WiSci) STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Mathematics) Camp for Girls in the European Union.
The campers attended daily lectures offered by field experts, which included representatives from Google, Intel, NASA, the American Society for Microbiology, as well as U.S. Marine Corps soldiers. The experts provided sessions in subjects ranging from robotics to coding to artificial intelligence and discussed a variety of career options that are available after pursuing STEAM degrees. Outside of typical camp activities, the girls also attended personal mentorship sessions, went on an excursion to an observatory, toured a science museum, hosted culture nights, and explored the city’s capital. They also received special visitors, like then Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Andrea Thompson, who encouraged the girls to pursue their STEAM dreams despite any obstacles they may face.
“The studies [the campers] are interested in—science, technology, engineering, mathematics—it’s such an important part for our future,” said Thompson in a media interview during her visit. “They can be leaders in this field. Whatever they want to do, they will be able to do.”
In addition to expanding the participants’ talents, and opening their career horizons, the project aimed to break down barriers between linguistic and ethnic groups, instill critical thinking skills, and motivate the girls to be the generation that closes the gender gap at last.
At the end of the two weeks, the 16- to 18-year-old campers—who came from Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Georgia, and the United States—left not just knowing how to build and operate drones, or how to use mapping technology to make environmental policy decisions. Still, they returned home with a network of friends and role models from around the world. Building off of this successful camp model in Estonia and other host countries over the past five years—including Kosovo, Namibia, Georgia, Malawi, Peru, Rwanda, and the United States—WiSci programs are being planned to be hosted in Indonesia and Morocco in 2020.
Julia Smart is the assistant public affairs officer at Embassy Tallinn.