CINCINNATI — Only 5% of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields are of color, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

That’s why one Ohio university has partnered with other sponsors to provide a free camp to get girls interested in the field.

What You Need To Know

  • The University of Cincinnati recently kicked off its second annual Women of Color Summer Engineering Camp

  • Throughout the week-long camp, students interact with engineers in the field and work on various projects

  • This year, students worked on a project where they had to create a robot that helped solve an issue in society

Mariah Couch is a Walnut Hills High School senior and entrepreneur. She’s also the owner of ML Creations, a personalized shirt business.

“The thing that I enjoy most about designing is the fact that I’m the one designing it, and I’m giving it to my customer,” said Couch. 

It’s designing things that sparked her interest in becoming a civil engineer.

“I’m designing shirts for people and as a civil engineer, I’ll be building and designing things for people and communities,” she said. 

That’s why she decided to take part in the 2021 University of Cincinnati Virtual Women of Color Summer Engineering Camp. It’s her second year participating in the week-long camp for high school teens.

Throughout the week students interact with engineers in the field and work on various projects.

“I’ve learned so much from a lot different female engineers about their experience as engineers, their downfalls, all their successes and I’ve just learned so much about myself and my interests as well,” she said. 

This year, the women were tasked with creating a robot to help improve an issue in society. Couch’s group came up with a robot that will clean up pollution in the Citarum River in Indonesia. 

“We wanted to think about the place that we wanted to have this machine where it would work so we chose Indonesia which is poverty-stricken because we would like to help those who are more in need and use it long term,” she said. 

Here’s how it works: The robot is released into the water and the bristles pick up the trash and the bin is there to collect it. Couch said there were some challenges along the way.

“We had to be mindful that it is in Indonesia so they would be restricted on what materials they could pay for or what materials they could use,” she said. 

Couch said working on this project has opened her mind to endless possibilities in the field. More importantly, she’s excited to make a difference in a field that’s dominated by men. 

“Just to know that I am a young Black woman and I will be going into the field of engineering and making a difference and problem solving is such an amazing feeling,” he said. 

Overall she hopes her experience will help inspire other women of color to pursue careers and that one day men will no longer dominate in the field.

“I would like that from here on out that would not be the case anymore and that women of color, and women in general, not necessarily dominate this field of study, but just that they can discover their possibilities,” she said.