Episode 233

Dr. Carlotta A. Berry on Diversity in STEM


May 17th, 2024

38 mins 15 secs

Your Host
Special Guest

About this Episode


Dr. Carlotta A. Berry


Richard Littauer

Show Notes

In this episode, host Richard Littauer engages in a conversation with Dr. Carlotta Berry, a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and a passionate advocate for diversity in STEM. Carlotta shares her journey from an undergraduate student rarely seeing diversity in her field to becoming an engineering professor determined to change that narrative. She discusses her work at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, emphasizing the importance of making STEM accessible and exciting for all, especially girls and underrepresented minorities. She also dives into her motivations behind founding two nonprofits, Black in Engineering and Black in Robotics, highlighting their roles during the racial reckoning and the importance of maintaining momentum in diversity efforts amidst societal backlashes. Additionally, Carlotta touches upon her engagement with open source communities, particularly in robotics, to further democratize STEM education. The discussion also covers her unique approaches to connecting with younger audiences through hip hop slam poetry on TikTok and the significance of representation in every aspect of STEM, from academia to community initiatives. Press download now to hear more!

[00:01:05] Carlotta tells us about the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and describes it as one of the largest children’s museums in the world, detailing its features and her role there in STEM and robotics activities.

[00:02:00] Richard comments on Carlotta’s extensive education and asks about her journey from PHD to her current position. She explains her motivation for pursuing a PhD was to become an engineering professor and to represent diversity in the field.

[00:02:59] Carlotta recounts that her PhD experience was relatively smooth compared to her undergrad challenges, highlighting the focus on subjects she loved.

[00:04:57] The conversation turns to Carlotta’s involvement with nonprofits, particularly ‘Black in Engineering’ and ‘Black in Robotics’, and she shares the origin of these groups. She talks about the purpose of ‘Black in Engineering’ and its relevance in the current political climate.

[00:08:26] Richard inquires how Carlotta stays motivated amid setbacks in civil rights progress. Carlotta cites the resilience of past civil rights leaders as inspiration and emphasizes the role of true allies.

[00:10:41] The discussion shifts to open source, and Carlotta outlines her work in STEM communication and her involvement with open source hardware through her robots, the ‘flower bots’. Also, she acknowledges she has built a community primarily through social media engagement.

[00:15:16] Carlotta explains Rose Bot’s origin, related to her school’s mascot, and its connection with various STEM outreach and education initiatives, such as Rosie, Lily, and Daisy bots. She celebrates the success of her program in increasing enrollment and diversity in computer science and software engineering, as well as her own department.

[00:17:50] Richard inquires about Carlotta’s day-to-day activities and how she manages everything. She clarifies she’s a workaholic with a high teaching lead at a teaching-focused school and does not balance well, yet she is passionate about her work, and she details her daily schedule.

[00:20:25] What is Carlotta’s mentoring approach for young women in STEM? She emphasizes honesty and support for her students, sharing her own struggles and the importance of community and resources to navigate the difficulties in engineering education.

[00:23:46] Richard asks Carlotta what changes she would suggest for the broader open source community to increase diversity and representation in STEM. Carlotta advises against working in silos, stressing the importance of education about open source, reaching beyond typical recruitment spaces, and creating diverse testing groups.

[00:26:35] Carlotta shares her strategy of code-switching and the importance of connecting with people and listening to them. She encourages students to pursue what is authentic to them and to avoid forcing themselves into careers they are not passionate about.

[00:29:21] Richard inquires about hip hop slam poetry, and Carlotta shares that she used hip hop slam poetry as a method to connect with younger audiences and teach them about STEM on TikTok.

[00:31:03] Carlotta talks about her books and describes her passion for romance novels and her decision to write black STEM romance novels to represent black women in science and engineering positively.

[00:33:19] How does Carlotta balance her mission with her personal aspirations? She explains her mission serves her internal validation, aiming to improve the STEM experience for black and female students and thus contributing to a more diverse and inclusive future.

[00:35:18] Find out where you can read more about Carlotta and her work.


[00:09:57] “Yeah, and is that supposed to be a problem? So, I got my PhD because of affirmative action. Is that better than your Twitter scholarship? I say yes!”


  • [00:36:15] Richards’s spotlight is Corina Newsome.
  • [00:36:42] Carlotta’s spotlight is Dr. Brandeis Marshall.



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