Getting lost in an aquarium and visiting interactive museums were among the highlights for Paraparaumu College student Emily Oldham who has returned from a trip to Silicon Valley, California with the Innovative Young Minds (IYM) programme.

The trip is an initiative to get young women involved in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and other high-tech manufacturing fields (STEMM).

Returning from the trip Emily, who loves everything to do with science, said the trip has opened her mind to many more ideas, opportunities and pathways.

"The trip was so great.

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"We visited interactive museums with hands-on exhibitions and met lots of women entrepreneurs from around the world, a number of which were actually from New Zealand.

Emily Oldham at the Golden Gate Bridge in California.
Emily Oldham at the Golden Gate Bridge in California.

"I thought going into it, I would come back with a more definitive idea of what I wanted to do but now that I'm back I'm not sure. It opened up more ideas.

"Going to Twitch was really cool because I'm into video games so I thought that might be a direction for me but I'm not sure."

The trip which included 12 girls from the wider Wellington region also hosted many Q+As with inspiring scientific minds such as Surbhi Sarna, the founder of nVision.

"It was quite relaxed, all being girls, even with a full programme."

The trip had something for everyone.

"One of the speakers, Dr Max Holmes, talked about water testing around the globe and everyone else was getting a bit bored, but I really enjoyed his talk, and was thinking 'wow this is really cool'.

"I've got so many thing written down that I want to share with people."

Meanwhile Emily is passing on the mantle, with year 12 student Zoe Gibbs being selected by Paraparaumu Rotary to attend the IYM programme in the Hutt Valley later this year.

This is the precursor to being selected to attend the Silicon Valley programme next year.

"It sounds really amazing, just visiting all those places and hearing people talk about what they do and why they did it. It just sounds incredible," Zoe said.

"I've always enjoyed science but I've never settled on something or even a topic that I actually enjoyed.

"So I thought this would be a really good opportunity to set me on a straighter path and help me figure out what I want do with my life.

Science came naturally to her, she said.

"I've always been pretty good at it which definitely helps.

"With chemistry, figuring out how things work and having a straight answer that just explains the world, I like that.

"I don't like subjects like English because it's too creative — no straight answer."

Taking chemistry, biology, calculus, classics, French and English, Zoe is setting herself up a future in science.

"This just seems like an amazing opportunity. I'll go to the Hutt Valley programme and see what happens from there."