The devastating reality is that currently women account for only 13% of engineers worldwide. National Geographic Explorer, submarine pilot, and founder of Girls Underwater Robot Camps, Erika Bergman, is trying to change that number. By inviting young girls and teenagers to this multi-day camp, she is exposing them to the world of engineering and giving them the opportunity to see what it feels like to identify and solve real-world problems. Through the process, the girls learn to build and pilot their own underwater robots, gaining confidence along the way. "Being able to work exclusively with other girls provides a safe atmosphere to ask questions, troubleshoot, not be afraid that they're gonna get made fun of, not be afraid that they won't be able to fix their own problems," Bergman says.
Erika knows just how lonely it can be as a woman in a STEM field. She says part of her mission in the camp is to encourage girls to pursue science professions, so that maybe in ten or twenty years she'll have a female co-pilot! She hopes that the collaboration with other girls will act as a positive feedback loop, gaining more and more momentum as more girls get involved. At the end of the camp the girls get to take the robots that they've made into the open ocean to see their results in action. This opportunity to complete the development process from start to finish gives the young adults the boost of confidence and passion that will hopefully keep them coming back for more science.