Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston —
Recruiters with Navy Recruiting District San Antonio at Fort
Sam Houston partnered with the University of the Incarnate Word to judge a
SeaPerch underwater robotics competition at the Ann Barshop Natatorium as a
part of the mini-Girls in Engineering, Math and Sciences, or miniGEMS, program
Twenty-six middle school girls from a number of local
independent school districts participated in the competition.
The UIW Engineering Department sponsors programs targeted at
women and minorities in the summer to encourage them to major in science,
technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields, said Tomas Goldaracena,
UIW engineering student.
“MiniGEMS is aimed toward young girls in grades six through
eight to participate in various activities throughout a week which encourages
them to major in engineering and perhaps become scientists one day,” Goldaracena
said. “We have a shortage of engineers in the country and only 20 percent of
the engineering workforce is comprised of women.”
This is UIW’s second year sponsoring MiniGEMS. Last year, 28
girls participated in the program.
“You can see the difference in the girls once they complete
the program,” Goldaracena said. “First, they thought all engineers did was
boring math and are be trapped in a lab all day. Now they realize there are a
lot of hands on projects and problem solving involved in engineering.”
During the competition, the girls assembled an underwater
remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, and maneuvered it through an obstacle
Navy Recruiting District San Antonio officials contacted UIW
introducing the competition in 2015.
“After reviewing the information, UIW decided that the
program would be beneficial for the school and that it was a good idea to be
exposed to a different type of robotic, especially underwater robotics,”
Goldaracena said. “We knew it would be a good hook for the girls and they have
really enjoyed it.”
Chief Petty Officer Miguel Cantu, STEM coordinator for Navy
Recruiting District San Antonio, and other recruiters attended to set-up the
course and judge the competition.
“It is important for the Navy to showcase STEM to children
in middle school for it provides us the opportunity to talk with children about
the various STEM careers the Navy possesses,” said Cantu, who is also the NRD
SeaPerch coordinator. “Programs such as SeaPerch allows recruiters to spread
Navy awareness not only to the children, but teachers and parents as well. Not
all schools have a Seaperch program, so the Seaperch competition held at UIW
allows girls from various middle schools to be exposed to the program.”
The Office of Naval Research is one of the primary sponsors
of the SeaPerch program and it is managed by the Association for Unmanned
Vehicle Systems International, or AUVSI, Foundation.
SeaPerch is an innovative underwater robotics program that
equips teachers and students with the resources they need to build an
underwater ROV in an in-school or out-of-school setting.
Students build the ROV from a kit comprised of low-cost,
easily accessible parts, following a curriculum that teaches basic engineering
and science concepts with a marine engineering theme.