A few ‘gung-ho’ girls explore science in SeaPerch program

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Students Alyssa Hoogs, Kamryn Almas, Nada Mohamed, and Saumya Mehta work with mentor Brian Dohn to test their SeaPerch robot, which they worked together to build.

Students Alyssa Hoogs, Kamryn Almas, Nada Mohamed, and Saumya Mehta work with mentor Brian Dohn to test their SeaPerch robot, which they worked together to build.

By REBECCA ISENHART

NISKAYUNA — About 20 students from Iroquois Middle School meet each week to build and pilot basic underwater robots through the SeaPerch program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Navy. Less than a quarter of those students are young women.

A 2012 study by the Girl Scouts of America suggests Niskayuna’s SeaPerch group is on par with women who hold positions in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields: about 25% of the total workforce.

Jennifer Rizzo, a manager at Knowles Atomic Power Laboratory in Niskayuna and the SeaPerch coordinator for the school district, said her mentors had to introduce her to the STEM fields.

“Growing up, people said, ‘Hey, why don’t you become an engineer,’” she said. “I was like, ‘I don’t even know what that is.’”

SeaPerch, she says, may smooth the process for the girls at Iroquois Middle School. “This is a way to let them see what engineering is all about and figure out whether or not this is something that interests them in the future,” Rizzo said.

It worked for Nada Mohamed, an 8th grade student and one of four girls participating in the SeaPerch program. The program is only open to middle school students, but Mohamed hopes to take technology classes at Niskayuna High School next year.

“I like the fact that I can build something,” said Mohamed.

But the students don’t worry about gender barriers. They just get to work customizing their robots, said Brian Dohn, a mechanical engineer at KAPL and the mentor for the sole team of girls.

“They haven’t made any comments to me about there not being any women in engineering or anything like that,” he said. “I don’t think any of these girls are going to let anything hold them back. They’re gung-ho.”

About the Author

Rebecca Isenhart
Rebecca Isenhart is the reporter/writer for Your Niskayuna, presented by the Daily Gazette of Schenectady.

Comments

  1. […] SeaPerch results were submitted by Tom Blechinger and Matt Leon of Niskayuna School District. Van Antwerp Middle School students recently participated in a nationwide underwater robotics challenge. The students built the robots, then modified them and practiced sending them through underwater obstacle courses using a remote control. They then competed against students at other regional schools. The following Van Antwerp students placed in the competition: Team #1: Evan Wagle, Chris Davenport and Aiden Zelakiewicz placed 4th out of 19 on the obstacle course with a time of 1 min. 37 seconds. Team #5: Northern McCullough, Justin Camelo and Quinton Cain placed 2nd out of 19 teams in the Deepwater Retrieval event. For more on SeaPerch, read this post: A few “gung-ho” girls explore science in SeaPerch program. […]