Dorks Estate: Desert WAVE, ASU's first all-female underwater robotics team

A story of diversity and ambition


Podcaster Diana Dudurkaewa sits down with the president of the Desert WAVE robotics team, Whitney Foster, to discuss what the team is working on and what an all-female robotics team can offer ASU. 


Diana Dudurkaewa: A robotics team is for everyone but a particular group of females are part of the first ever all female robotics team called Desert WAVE here at ASU. 

Whitney Foster: My name is Whitney Foster. I am the president of Desert WAVE and I am studying General Engineering here on the Polytechnic campus at ASU. 

Diana Dudurkaewa: Lets first see what the Desert WAVE team is all about and what it does. 

Whitney Foster: The Desert WAVE team, the acronym stands for Women in Autonomous Vehicle Engineering. Right now, we are looking to compete in a RoboSub competition held in July. You could say the goal of the competition is to create an autonomous underwater vehicle and it can complete various challenges and obstacles within a course in a swimming pool and it's being held in San Diego this year. We've started creating our robot for the first year and right now we're focusing more on getting our programming done. As we are a new team, we're trying to get off the ground. We're using a lot of pre-made components so that we can get in the water as soon as possible and we can start coding right away so we can be in top shape for the competition this July. 

Diana Dudurkaewa: Now how exactly did this team come to be? 

Whitney Foster: My first semester here at ASU, I was approached by my Engineering 101 professor Dr. Dan Frank. He had mentioned in his announcements that there was a women's underwater robotics team that was going to be created and if any of us were interested that we were to contact him. And I contacted him and asked him about the team. I was concerned at first because I don't have much experience in terms of robotics or in terms of any engineering as I'm studying it right now and I'm trying to get better. He said that any level was accepted for the team and that the mentors along the way would help us to develop our skills as engineers so that each year we would improve and have something more than just a Bachelor’s of Science on our transcript — more, you could say, experience and references. 

Diana Dudurkaewa: Why choose to have an all-female robotics team?

Whitney Foster:  For me, it doesn't really matter whether or not it's an all-female team or if I'm the only female on the team. I think it's more important that people get the job done. But one of our mentors, he thought that it was a good idea to create an all-women’s team because there are so many women that aren't in the engineering field and this would encourage and inspire so many others. We've already gotten so many e-mails from a bunch of people saying how proud they are of us and how excited they are to see how we're doing. It just encourages other girls in the high school level. There's a high school foundation club and there's a bunch of girls that already consider us their sister team. I haven't even met them yet but they already consider us their sister team because one of our mentors, Dr. Dan Frank, he is a mentor for them as well. It's so exciting to see them all for robotics and seeing this engineering, take it to a whole new level, and with an all-women’s team I think they're just very excited about the new opportunities it poses. 

Diana Dudurkaewa: The all-female robotics team represents and benefits ASU in a lot of ways and here’s how. 

Whitney Foster: I think it will provide ASU with a lot of positive publicity because seeing this all women's team, the second in the world — Texas A&M being the first all-women’s underwater robotics team — it's going to provide a lot of public publicity. There's already been articles posted about us and how we are striving for our goal. We've already met with President Crow and he's spoken highly of us and he's encouraged us to ask him if we ever need anything. It's so exciting to see ASU being so supportive of us and I think that's a big deal because, especially depending on how the competition goes which I wholeheartedly believe that we're going to do very well for ourselves, especially in our first year, that ASU gets behind us and that they can really benefit from us partnering with them. 

Diana Dudurkaewa: Now you might be asking, why should ASU students know about this team and what it represents?

Whitney Foster: I think it's important for everyone to understand that, especially in a strange time such as this, just coming out as a new team, it's just important to realize that it's not just making a statement. It's getting behind what you say and genuinely going out and trying your best and your hardest in everything and that it's not going to be easy that, for us, we're going to work hard but we're going to work as hard as any other team. 

Diana Dudurkaewa: For the State Press, I'm Diana Dudurkaewa.


Previous episodes: 

Dorks Estate: Augmented reality technology makes automated medical visits possible for students


Reach the reporter at ddudurka@asu.edu and on Twitter @DianaPress55.

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