By Kathy Collins

Early last month a group of underprivileged girls from the area spent time at Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and The Florida Aquarium successfully constructing submarine drones. The girls ranged in the ages of 10 to 15 and all had strong skills in S.T.E.M. fields such as science, technology, engineering and math.

The weekend activities were made possible through a collaboration between National Geographic, Hillsborough County Schools, The Florida Aquarium, MOSI, Million Women Mentors and Tampa Bay TechStart.

In a jam-packed weekend at Girls Underwater Robot Camp, 20 girls successfully constructed submarine drones at MOSI on Friday, and then spent the night at The Florida Aquarium on Saturday. They woke up on Sunday to test their robots inside the schooling fish exhibit and then piloted 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.

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, Global Engineering & Exploration Counselors.

“It is impressive to see what these girls are going to accomplish in five and ten years when they are my colleagues. I am really excited to have a bunch of female colleagues, because right now, I just do not have them,” Bergman said.

President and CEO of MOSI Molly Demeulenaere said, “Getting hands-on with technology and engineering is what MOSI is all about, so we are the perfect place to build a robot and push the limits.”

Vice President of Education at The Florida Aquarium Debbi Stone added, “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.”

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