We sit down with Janavi, a former Design Connect Create camper and TA and junior at Townview Magnet school, to chat about her experience at the camp.
HTHH: How did you find out about Design Connect Create?
Jana: When I was 7 and most years after that, I used to come to the camp for ice cream days and hoverboard rides. I was tagging along with my sister, who was 14 at the time, when she was working at the Irma Rangel physics camp with Mr. Brown and Dr. Jensen. I remember sitting with Dr. Jensen’s kids – she who wrote the first grant for the physics camps.
HTHH: What is your sister doing now?
Jana: She is doing her masters at biomedical at UTD, she also did her bachelor’s there. She originally found out about the camps from Dr. Jensen who recommended she attend.
HTHH: Sounds like you have a family of engineers! What do your parents think about that?
Jana: My dad works for American Airlines in IT, and my mom is an AP physics teacher. I go to a magnet school – Science and Engineering Magnet School in Townview. It’s not close to home so my dad drops me off and I take the bus back, it takes 20-30 minutes. It’s worth it though, it’s a great school and the teachers are amazing! *find out if they went thru equity training*
HTHH: Tell me about your first time attending the camp as a real student.
Jana: I was really excited to come to the camp after visiting for so many years. It was really exciting to see physics happening – doing experiments, not just talking about it. Helped me learn visually. We did one of the experiments on the physics camp that was a problem on the AP exam. As a student my favorite part was the experiments. We hit a bowling ball with a broom to understand tangent forces. And we had guest speakers to come talk to us about being a woman in engineering.
HTHH: What kinds of topics did they talk about?
Jana: Mostly about overcoming difficulties in being a woman in engineering. One woman worked as a factory manager and faced a lot of backlash – people were not following protocols and then criticizing her because she was a woman. She left and got a better job. She said that people will tell you that you can’t do this or that because you’re a woman, but you can recognize that they need you more than you need them and move on to something better.
We had the speakers over and got to talk casually with us at lunch and talk 1:1, and gave out at their business cards. A couple girls specifically asked what you should do if someone is putting you down or harassing you. Some wanted to ask about internships and shadowing.
HTHH: How was being a counselor this summer, one year after being a student? What kind of things were you doing?
Jana: I took the AP physics exam last year and it was really helpful because I could talk about experiments that showed up on the physics exam. I also got other girls really excited about the camp. It was also just fun being able to relate to everyone, because we’re about the same age. And since I already use social media, I was helping out with the social media and one the TA. Different jobs but both of them were really fun.
As a counselor my favorite experiment was the dart gun lab. They try to understand how to get a projectile to go the farthest distance. Explaining how to explain the data, verifying data, graphs and charts.
HTHH: What did you see differently when you were a counselor that you didn’t notice as a camper?
Jana: At the beginning, a lot of girls didn’t know and were quick to give up – but at the end their attitude was now, I don’t know but I can go figure it out. And as the week went on, everyone relaxed more and were less shy. That was kind of my job was to help inspire everyone and hype everyone up.
HTHH: How do you think the camps helped you so far in the school year that came after?
Jana: The physics camps helped me build relationships with the teachers to get help during the school year. It gave us a lot of material that I could refer back to during the year, and resources like their contact info and khan academy.
When I first entered the camp I didn’t know if I wanted to do all physics – I was into astronomy and physics but then I got into robotics. I love physics and math, and being at the camps actually led me into computer science. The camps taught me that I can use physics in other fields – at first I wanted to be an astrophysicst. But a lady from the EPA came to talk to us about how everything we were doing with graphing will help us later because you have to show your data to everyone from engineers to people out on the street.
Also, the camp tried to recruit from all over, but for our year all students were from three schools – Irma Rangel and Hillcrest and Townview. I talk to a lot of the Irma Rangel friends on Snapchat and even ask them for help on Snapchat sometimes!
HTHH: That’s awesome! I know it’s a little early, but have you thought about college yet?
Jana: I haven’t really thought about colleges, I know UT Austin is an option in state, and Carnegie Mellon and MIT outside of that. We had a college counselor come to talk to us at the camps every year (Sarah Miller) and she talks to us about college essays. She gives us a list of scholarships – Dr. Jensen also created a paper with a college application to-do list. The camp also helps your relationship with the teachers – so now I can ask teachers I’ve worked with (after being in camp and working the camp) I can get a better letter of recommendation, since the teachers actually know me and tutored me.
HTHH: Since you’ve done both girls only camps and camps with both boys and girls, what do you think the differences are?
Jana: It’s fun to have a girls-only camp because you can ask questions you might not want to if there were boys there, like how being a woman affected your experience. With the boys camps I think the questions may be more generic, not as gender related. And having a girls-only camp helps bring in women engineers and role models, and that’s usually not the case with a girls and boys camp. It’s also a lot more focused with just girls there.
HTHH: What do you do outside of school and robotics?
Jana: I love film scores which is really funny because at the first physics camp I did, so I would turn on muisc when we were working on projects and kids would ask “is this pirates of the carribean” and we would jam out. I also started a book club at my school since I love reading. We read A Darker Shade of Magic, a history book about leonardo davinci. We try to read books of all types. It’s kind of fun because I bring cookies and the school provides milk. It helps us to de-stress with food and books.
HTHH: Thanks for chatting with us! We’ll see you and your sister at Friendraiser.