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STEM girls build and test their own underwater robots.

Girls from underserved backgrounds build and test their own underwater robots with National Geographic Explorer

February 12, 2018 - Partners in Education

This weekend, National Geographic Explorer Erika Bergman led 30 girls from Hillsborough County on an innovative educational undertaking in a three-day Girls Underwater Robot Camp to design, build and deploy their own remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs). The participating girls come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds but possess strong skills in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math).

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 was the host of the Girls Underwater Robot Camp through a partnership between National Geographic Learning and her organization, GEECs – Global Engineering & Exploration Counselors.

Students spent Friday and Saturday learning basic electronics, soldering, and acrylic construction as they built their own ROVs. After assembling them, participants spent the night at The Florida Aquarium and woke up on Sunday to plan a “micro expedition” and test their robots in an exhibit. They then deployed and piloted them through the waters of Tampa Bay from the deck of the Aquarium’s catamaran, Bay Spirit II.  

The girls range in age from 10 to 17, and they all come from challenging circumstances. Mission: Tampa Bay aims to break the cycle of poverty by reaching out to bright students from underserved backgrounds and making the most of their desire to learn about S.T.E.M. fields. These girls were selected from Hillsborough County Public Schools based on the skills they have shown in the classroom. 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.

An exciting element this year is that 10 girls who participated in a similar program in 2016 or 2017 are returning to mentor the new participants, furthering the STEM journeys of past Mission: Tampa Bay participants.

Click here to read more on Mission: Tampa Bay. 

Photos courtesy of Scottie Basham, Cheryl Pahl, Mrs. Long,  Stewart Middle Magnet SchoolMOSI, Florida Aquarium and Tampa Bay STEM.



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