A Tech Conference in the Wilderness

Kevin L. Nichols
5 min readNov 21, 2018


TSEP Overnight Camping Conference 2018

November 21, 2018 [OAKLAND, CA] When you think of tech or STEM, your mind is automatically drawn towards computers, software, coding, gaming, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, etc. We often forget about traditional engineering, math, science, chemistry, or physics as tech. Moreover, we are limited by the confines of how these subject matters are taught and where they are taught. Thus, The Social Engineering Project, Inc. takes 100+ students each year camping to learn about STEM careers in a low tech environment without wifi or using computers to teach them.

The Social Engineering Project, Inc. is a social impact venture with Stanford University designed to address the lack of diversity in the tech industry through pipeline programs. This year, we took underrepresented students of color from San Jose, Oakland, and Sacramento to Camp Cazadero in Guerneville and invited tech companies to teach them about the technology they use at work to motivate and inspire them to go to college and pursue a STEM major. Here’s a recap of the weekend:

Friday, October 5, 2018

Group Activities

The students took the day off from school and arrived at the camp shortly after lunch. Once they arrived, we reviewed the camp rules, then they participated in ice breakers, were assigned their cabins, and took a hike around the camp grounds. We ended the day with group activities involving work life balance, the importance of protecting the environment, respecting nature, and s’more’s.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Walmart Labs Error Codes Workshop

WalmartLabs — lead a workshop on Service Level Agreements (SLA) and Operations Management. Instructors used “error codes” on card stock and randomly generated errors by shuffling the card deck and drawing a card. Students were broken into smaller teams, had to find the corresponding code on a sheet with a list of codes, and solve either a math or engineering problem connected to the code within the SLA to achieve success.

Zynga Gaming Workshop

Zynga — lead a workshop explaining the game developing process and the various roles involved in it. Students were taught how engineers implement game features and paper prototyping, then were broken up into groups to create their own game features. Finally, they presented their game features to the entire group.

Trinet’s Customer Success Workshop

Trinet — lead a workshop on how many roles within the tech sphere are becoming more client-focused and experience centered. They discussed how the industry has evolved from developing a single solution to the cloud/SaaS model of providing ongoing platform enhancements and service. The goal of this workshop was to shed light on “Client Success” and non-traditional careers that continue to grow within the tech industry.

Saturday ended with skits created by each cabin depicting what they learned from the workshops and a talent show.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

College Panel Featuring Counselors

On Sunday, the students had a presentation from students from U.C. Davis’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers on the application process and college life. Then, we had a panel featuring our counselors regarding their educational journey and their professional careers. Their careers varied from petroleum and aeronautical engineers, to Ph. D’s, biotech leaders, and app developers. We took a group photo and students boarded the buses back home.

TSEP Camp Staff

In conclusion, we learned a lot from our last two years of running these outdoor camping conferences. We are planning to fine tune our student application process to attract the best and brightest participants and to raise enough funds for students who should be there but cannot afford to be. Further, we will need to select a campsite that is geographically closer to cut down on travel time for the students and our workshop presenters.

TSEP still plans to host Family Science Nights (“FSN”) throughout the year to reinforce the spark that we create with our programs. FSNs will bring our students together for a themed STEM interactive workshop with their siblings and their parents will attend a separate workshop to learn how to be more supportive to their children’s STEM aspirations. Further, we are hoping to have an awards event to allow the public and our sponsors to meet our staff and some of our top students. Lastly, we need your help to make sure next year’s Science in the City Summer Camp is successful, that we improve our Global Hackathon with the Unite Nations at Google, pilot an after school program, and that we are able to expand our programs to Los Angeles and the DC, Maryland, and Virginia Area next year. Therefore, please remember The Social Engineering Project, Inc. on Tuesday, November 27, 2018 during #GivingTuesday. Please click here to support our organization!



Kevin L. Nichols

The Social Engineer ™ — Litigation, Diversity, Tech, and Professional/Business Development/Social Media Consultant. Entrepreneur and nonprofit advisor.