National Geographic Explorer Erika Bergman led 20 girls from Hillsborough County who have challenging backgrounds but strong skills in S.T.E.M. fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) on a first-in-the-nation mission.
Tampa, Florida –A group of teenage girls from Tampa pushed the boundaries of exploration this weekend, controlling undersea robots they built themselves as part of a new way of learning being pioneered in the Tampa Bay area.
In a jam-packed weekend at Girls Underwater Robot Camp, twenty girls successfully constructed submarine drones at MOSI on Friday, spent the night at The Florida Aquarium on Saturday, and woke up on Sunday to test their robots inside the schooling fish exhibit and then pilot them through the waters of Tampa Bay from the deck of a catamaran.
The program is part of a worldwide drive to inspire more women to take on science and engineering careers. “There’s girls all over the world – in Nigeria and the Arctic – doing that, and just being connected through a project like this is so mind-blowingly amazing to me,” said Comfort Anyanwu, a Jefferson High School freshman who spent the weekend wiring electronic circuit boards and exploring the sea.
The girls ranged in age from 10 to 15, and they all came from challenging circumstances. Mission: Tampa Bay aims to break the cycle of poverty by reaching out to bright students from underprivileged backgrounds and making the most of their desire to learn about S.T.E.M. fields – science, technology, engineering, and math. These girls were selected based on the skills they have shown in the classroom.
“Getting hands-on with technology and engineering is what MOSI is all about, so we’re the perfect place to build a robot and push the limits,” said MOSI President and CEO Molly Demeulenaere. “As a community, we have to do all we can to spark that interest in young women – to get them seeing themselves as future scientists and engineers – and then encourage them every step of the way.”
“The Florida Aquarium is dedicated to serving our community through educational opportunities, especially in the marine sciences” said Debbi Stone, Vice President of Education at The Florida Aquarium. “Having the opportunity to watch these young women successfully design, build and operate these robots was absolutely remarkable but it was the growth in their knowledge, confidence and abilities that speaks to the true success of this program.”
Erika Bergman, a National Geographic Explorer and manned submersible pilot, guided the girls through their experience. Bergman is a worldwide advocate for female explorers, scientists, and engineers; she hosted the Girls Underwater Robot Camp through a partnership between National Geographic Learning and her organization, GEECs – Global Engineering & Exploration Counselors.
“It’s impressive to see… all of the bigger-picture things that these girls are going to accomplish in five and ten years, when they’re my colleagues, when we are peers together out on a research ship, studying climate change, studying ocean acidification… I’m really excited to have a bunch of female colleagues, because right now, I just don’t have them,” Bergman said.
MOSI contact: Grayson Kamm, Museum of Science & Industry – 727-430-2247 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Florida Aquarium contact: Katherine Claytor, The Florida Aquarium – 813-486-1645 or KClaytor@flaquarium.org
About Mission: Tampa Bay:
Mission: Tampa Bay is a collaboration between National Geographic and five members of the Tampa Bay STEM Network: Hillsborough County Public Schools, The Florida Aquarium, the Museum of Science & Industry, Million Women Mentors, and Tampa Bay TechStart.
About the Museum of Science & Industry:
MOSI, the Museum of Science & Industry, is Tampa Bay’s community-supported science center. At MOSI, people of all ages (this means you!) can see and do amazing things every day. MOSI (we pronounce it MOH’-zee) is the largest science center in the Southeast, and a not-for-profit magnet for S.T.E.A.M. innovation and cutting-edge education where we make a difference in people’s lives by making science real for people of all ages and backgrounds. For more information about MOSI, visit mosi.org.
About The Florida Aquarium:
The Florida Aquarium is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit institution whose mission is to entertain, educate and inspire stewardship about our natural environment. The Florida Aquarium is home to more than 20,000 aquatic plants and animals representing species from Florida and around the world. For more information about The Florida Aquarium, visit flaquarium.org.