We had a really excellent conversation today, as part of the Woods Hole Black History Month programming. This year's theme is Black Health and Wellness.
Swimming and water sports have a long list of health benefits, from life skill to exercise; but historically there have been enormous racial barriers in access. Segregation of both man-made facilities and beaches and parks has left a lasting impact. The latest CDC report still shows a large racial disparity in accidental drowning deaths through 2020. But there are many efforts to remove barriers and restore access to our community.
The CDC reports on fatal drowning rates. For those under 29yr old, Black individuals were nearly twice as likely to die of drowning as their White counterparts, and Alaska Native and American Indian people were 2.5 times as likely. Additionally, African American youth aged 5-19 were more than 5 times as likely to die by accidental drowning than their white peers.
Today we talked about moving beyond that legacy. Our panelists spoke about how we can invite previously excluded groups into the space. Swimming wasn't a big American pastime until the culture was built in the mid-20th century, built excluding Black and African Americans. We spoke about some of the ways we can work to create a culture of swim ability and water skills for everyone.
Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE)
It was my pleasure to chat with the Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) club at Falmouth Academy, along with some overlap with the knitting club! We had a great afternoon talking about ocean exploration, underwater robots, and pathways to marine science careers.
We also talked about the similarities and differences between ocean exploration and space exploration. The biggest difference is that electromagnetic waves are absorbed by the ocean. The result is that it is less complicated to communicate with the rover on Mars than it is with an untethered vehicle in the ocean!
WHOI Ocean Encounters - From the Sea to the Stars
What an incredible evening! It was such a privilege to be part of this vibrant panel, discussing our paths to engineering and our work exploring the world around us. We all heard from students from around the country in the days after this event.
One of our messages to the audience was, you are not alone. You might not always be near other people who share your interests, but you can find them. With internet search and social media, students were able to reach right out and find us that same day. We all loved to see it.
Black in Robotics Lightning Talk
Had a wonderful opportunity to present to the Boston Chapter of Black in Robotics at the Fall Community Mixer. I was the only one addressing the constraints that large amounts of salt water impose on robotics: pressure, corrosion, and lack of electromagnetic signal.
The biggest take-away for many was how little of the ocean we've actually explored, combined with a glimpse of how much there is to see.
I'm very excited to be working with this group and look forward to collaboration.
Maria Mitchell Women of Science Symposium
"A different kind of symposium" - mmwss.org
Maria Mitchell told her Vassar College students: "We are women studying together." In that spirit, the Maria Mitchell Association puts on this biennial symposium which I co-chair, to bring together people anywhere on the gender spectrum who want to learn together about advancing women in STEM.
We're moving forward with plans for a live event, but even if we have to pivot again this year we will be sure to bring back the salons for meeting and discussing solutions. As one 2018 attendee said: "The salons were the highlight of the entire event for me; this unique format allowed me to learn about the specific experiences of other women in STEM and brainstorm ideas for solutions to problems."
Find out more or register here. Scholarships are available for students.
PEARL Intern Seminar
I was so moved to be invited to give a seminar for the Summer Interns at the Patuxent Environmental & Aquatic Research Laboratory at Morgan State this summer. My family has a long history with this HBCU, going back at least to my great-grandfather serving as Dean in the 1950's. This was my first professional interaction with Morgan, but I grew up with my Mom and Aunties talking about it like Morgan was another family member I hadn't met yet. I look forward to continuing to collaborate both with PEARL and the Baltimore campus, discussing all the rich pathways from the core disciplines into ocean research and exploration.
Juneteenth STEMFest Film Festival
The students at Falmouth and Mashpee high schools created a series of short video interviews with African American and Caribbean STEM professionals from the area in a variety of careers including epidemiology, primatology, biology, landscape architecture, engineering, fisheries management, science education, and more.
I was delighted to be on this panel, the students did an amazing job and brought real professionalism and grace to their project. It originally aired June 17, 2021, and is available here. Check it out!
I was pleased to be invited to give a talk at this wonderful conference centered on career, identity building, and tech put on by the Khoury College of Computer Sciences at Northeastern University. A "multicultural tech conference", it was meant "to inspire creativity and innovation while also shaping the next generation of computer scientists with a lens on BIPOC experiences."
A Beautiful Resistance
Delighted to have been part of a wonderful discussion with Jeneé Osterheldt and Onjalé Scott Price at our Woods Hole Community Black History Month event - A Beautiful Resistance. The panel's theme was "The Beautiful Resistance" series Jeneé has developed as Culture Columnist for the Boston Globe.
Her series tells stories of Black joy and Black lives. "We amplify the truths of Black folk and other people of color living as their fullest selves in a region, in a country, set up to keep them from doing just that. Their joy is a form of resistance." Season One is six short episodes.
Woods Hole Community Black History Month Planning
This is an unusual year, so we've had to adapt. In addition to a month of virtual panels and interviews, we're inviting people to take part in a Virtual Harambee! It is always the highlight of the year, our joyful gathering to celebrate through food and music and fellowship.
Sadly we cannot gather in person, but we didn't want to give up on the opportunity to engage each other through the language of shared food. So participate, send in the recipes you would have brought to the pot luck, send in recipes and stories from home. Then browse the recipes, try them, and send us your pictures.
Come share your dishes virtually until the day we can share each other's presence again.
Maria Mitchell Women of Science Symposium
"A different kind of symposium" - mmwss.org
The 2020 Virtual MMWSS was a tremendous success. Due to pandemic restrictions, we put together a modified version of the symposium and met virtually on October 2 via Zoom. Our keynote speaker was Catalina Martinez, and I moderated a panel entitled "Diversity, Inclusion, and Intersectionality," with four accomplished panelists who were incredibly generous sharing their experiences. A full recording is available.
SoLa Robotics - underwater robotics session
SoLa Robotics is a fantastic community tech club founded by Jennifer Lashley to serve the students of South LA. They are South LA's premier community-based, year-round, competitive robotics club, providing affordable and on-going coding and robotics experience to students who did not have consistent access to these opportunities.
I got to address the 2020 summer scholars of the Build & Code class. We discussed underwater robotics and careers in oceanography, the week before they accomplished their at-home builds. Over 100 students built robots at home, building, programming, and troubleshooting remotely. It was a huge challenge and you all rose to the occasion.
It was wonderful hearing all your insightful questions, and I am so proud of each of you! A big congratulations to Jen and to all the students! #youngtechscholars #stemeducation #diversityintech #womenintech #blackowned
On June 10th, more than 300 members of the community participated in a protest march to reflect on anti-Black bias in America, in academia, and in STEM. George Floyd's brutal murder, after so very many other unjust murders of black bodies, has been incredibly painful. The anger and despair that have accompanied each loss and each injustice are all pouring out again, and this time the outrage is echoing throughout the country. My Black Lives Matter pin has brought comment for years as too radical, but on Wednesday a Black Lives Matter sign stood in the park. Scientists and engineers stopped science as usual. This time feels different. Photo by: Jayne Doucette
Maria Mitchell Women of Science Symposium
“We are women studying together,” Maria Mitchell told her Vassar College students. Maria Mitchell, America’s first woman astronomer, believed in learning by doing.
The Second Maria Mitchell Women in Science Symposium is designed to serve as a source of inspiration and support and to be a hands-on experience in which all attendees are actively participating and problem-solving. Keynote speakers, panels, and salon-style gatherings will offer a unique environment in which all voices can be heard and encouraged. Participants will connect with colleagues and mentors and devise strategies to encourage and keep girls in STEM and support women in STEM at the beginning, middle, and late career stages.
Gwyneth Packard, Co-chair Joseph E. Santucci Jr., Co-chair
Hanging out with Junior Troop 62010
This fantastic group of Girl Scouts invited me to talk about how women can grow beyond stereotypes and shouldn't be afraid to explore their talents. So I sprang a REMUS from the lab and went to chat about being a woman who is an engineer; a mixed race woman who doesn't look like people expect, doing things people don't expect black women to do; being a software engineer who on any given day might be down on the dock elbow deep in salt water instead of sitting at a keyboard; being a serious, dedicated engineer who sometimes likes to wear a dress and paint my nails and talk about fashion; and how incredibly important it is for science to have us on the team.
Junior Troop 62010, you are such a delight! These Girl Scouts were totally engaged and we chatted for nearly an hour as they asked me questions about how the robot moves, what it can do, where it can go, and all the amazing things we can find and measure.
When someone asked "how heavy is it" and I responded with "want to pick it up", the room got brighter with shining eyes and everyone jumped up to get in line to pick up the REMUS. You all made my night!
I had the opportunity to speak to the 39th Annual Massachusetts Marine Educators Meeting and Conference. The theme was "Adventures with Marine Technology", and I described the range of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) that have been used for numerous challenging tasks and missions, from examining underwater tunnels to finding plane wreckage on the seafloor and observing shark behavior.
The 2015 Science Fair is done, and what a great time it was! In addition to the usual excitement this science fair was something of a coming-out party for the STEM Boosters. We had our own table with board members present to talk to folks about our programs, and we had a “Coding Corner” with professional programmers showing kids (of all ages) what coding is about. Thanks to Eliot Glist from Convention Data Services and Gwyneth Packard from WHOI for staffing the Coding Corner!
Museum Institute for Teaching Science
"Research engineer Gwyneth Packard from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) discusses the engineering and research involved with AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) Remus. — at Massachusetts Maritime Academy." From the Museum Institute for Teaching Science - MITS Cape Cod summer institute for teachers. This non-profit promotes teaching of science, math and technology. Using hands-on inquiry they train Massachusetts elementary teachers to learn new ways of teaching science and new ways to use museum resources in their area. It was a real pleasure engaging with this group!
Under the Waves, June 7
Visitors to a 2013 WHOI public event listened as research engineer Gwyneth Packard explained the workings of a REMUS 100 autonomous underwater vehicle like the one that was featured during SharkWeek in 2014. This weekend, guests will have the opportunity to get up close with Institution researchers yet again at Under the Waves: WHOI Science in Local Waters. Come meet the people and see the work being done right here on Cape Cod this Sunday, June 7 in Woods Hole. There will be activities, displays, and more behind Redfield Lab and at the Ocean Science Exhibit Center from noon to 3:00 p.m.(Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)