top of page

School to Seas

Mentoring young women to develop practical marine engineering skills


Support RNZN to increase the number of girls in their marine engineering school.


A program which challenges girls to design, build and pilot their own underwater robot to explore an underwater environment.


Develop and deliver a fun educational program based around electrical engineering and underwater exploration.


The program is highly rated by participants, some of whom have gone on to join the Naval engineering school and other engineering careers.


In order to enhance gender diversity in New Zealand's maritime industry, there is a pressing need to attract more women to fill positions as engineers, technicians, and operators. 

Over the past 15 years, the representation of women in the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has been on the rise, with women now comprising 15% of the overall NZDF workforce and 20% of the Naval workforce. Despite these advances, women are still under-represented in technical and leadership careers within the NZDF. Across the NZDF, only 6% of officers in operations branches are women. 

The School to Seas Program is run by NZDF and aimed specifically at women, as part of a strategy to decrease the existing gender diversity gap. School to Seas gives young female students a chance to gain skills and experience in marine engineering, technical and leadership operations. 

Nanogirl Labs, working with Pilot Productions, designed an underwater engineering and education module as part of School to Seas.

We created a practical, hands-on electrical engineering challenge for the program participants, which also taught underwater physics, teamwork and problem-solving skills. 

The result was the Underwater Challenge, where students competed to design, build, test and pilot an ROV—a remote-controlled underwater robot—through a series of underwater challenges.

“ROVs are used for underwater exploration all over the world. It was great for the girls to see the huge ROVs on the HMNZS Manawanui, and to understand that the concepts they were learning—like buoyancy, electrical engineering and propulsion—are the same concepts that drive the Navy’s ROV teams on real-life rescue and humanitarian missions.”
—Dr Kate Sparks, Nanogirl Labs

Learning the theory of buoyancy, electrical engineering and underwater communications is great, but applying it to a real-world problem is even better.

Learning to waterproof an underwater camera, making sure a robot drives in the right direction, or even learning how to repair a faulty motor halfway through a test were just some of the challenges of the program.

The first group of students who participated in the programme rated it a huge success and their experiences have led to positive outcomes, including an engineering internship with a New Zealand ROV company, entry to the Naval marine engineering school, and many applications to study engineering at university. The School to Seas program continues to run yearly.

Dr Kate Sparks from the Nanogirl Labs team led the design of the education program. Dr Sparks is a marine scientist and science communicator and was on-site to watch the young women build and pilot their own ROVs.

We work globally with partners who share our passion—creating opportunity through STEM.

If you’d like to join us on our mission, please get in touch.

bottom of page