Submarine pilot runs underwater robot camp to encourage girls in STEM fields

Image 1 of 3

When submarine pilot Erica Bergman became submersed in her field, she noticed there was something missing.

“I wanted more women colleagues, I wanted more collaborators, and they just weren’t around, so I realized we needed to grow them, we needed to raise this generation of submarine pilots,” she said.

So Bergman turned her problem into purpose: to help the tiny hands of young girls build big dreams.

“I started Girls Underwater Camp six years ago, and we’ve been running programs all over the world, but our biggest program is Mission Tampa Bay,” Bergman said.

The camp allows girls from Hillsborough County to design, build and deploy their own remotely-operated vehicles.

Larry Plank, the director for STEM education in Hillsborough County Schools says the three-day camp provides young girls a space to work together.

“Females are severely underrepresented in STEM fields,” said Plank. “To envision their face in the space, and hopefully go on to do additional things in STEM education, and perhaps even choose a STEM career.”

Sixth grader Cam’ryn Williamson was hard at work building her rover at MOSI. She says she’s lucky to have mentors like Bergman leading the way. 

"You see in the world a lot of these jobs and roles are ones that men would be having,” Williamson said. “So it's amazing she's done this, and that is what she's chosen to do, is to show it's not just male dominated [field].”

Williamson hopes to be a cardio thoracic surgeon or a neurosurgeon when she grows up.

Come Monday, the students will plan a “micro expedition” and deploy and pilot their robots through the waters of Tampa Bay.