Don't Tell This Robotics Team That STEM Is For Boys
By Sarah Hedgecock as written on forbes.com
At the Javits Center in Manhattan last Saturday, hundreds of teenagers milled about in sneakers and safety goggles, tinkering with the robots they had brought to the FIRST Robotics Competition New York City Regional. Requests for parts (dowel rods, PVC pipe) boomed out over the PA system. Parents lingered near each team’s staging area, sporting their children’s team colors.
Robotics competitions this large haven’t been a standard part of high school for very long. The ability of so many schools to support teams that build semi-autonomous machines–or find enough kids to even build a team–is a fairly new phenomenon. One thing about the competition will be familiar to anyone who participated in a particularly nerdy hobby in high school: It was very dude-heavy.
But the team FORBES had come to see was busting that trend: The Fe Maidens–pronounced “Iron Maidens”–is one of two robotics teams from the Bronx High School of Science, a magnet school in New York City. It’s made up of 42 girls. The only male members of the team are coaches and mentors. (The high school’s other team is coed, and it’s neck-and-neck with the Fe Maidens when it comes to competitive wins.)
“It wasn’t until I came here that I realized that STEM fields are more than just a career,” says team captain Violet Killy. “I thought you could just start them after college, or during college, and I’d have to wait to get my hands dirty. And then I saw kids driving robots at Bronx Science, and I was like, ‘I want to do that.’”
The team was founded in late 2006, expressly to encourage girls to get into STEM and break down the gender stereotypes that are, nearly a decade later, still rampant in technical fields. Even the students who make up the Fe Maidens regularly hear people saying they’re pretty good at this–for girls. “We’re trying to get girls to realize that this is something they can do, this is what’s out there, it’s available to them, it’s fun,” says Killy.
And the name? The team’s first captain was a fan of the band Iron Maiden. “We’re a group of girls, we’re tough as iron, we’re building what the guys are building,” explains the team’s PR chief, Luz Jimenez. “So we just went with it.”
At the competition, the team was tinkering with its robot for the first time in several weeks. Per competition rules, each team gets six weeks to build its robot (they start with a basic kit of parts provided by FIRST, the STEM education nonprofit that sponsors the competition, but can add parts as needed). The robot must then go into a bag until competition day.
At the competition itself, teams compete in two-and-a-half-minute rounds of a game that changes every year. This year the theme was castles. Students compete in two three-team “alliances,” each defending a castle at one end of the playing field. Among other things, robots were tasked with operating autonomously for the first 15 seconds of each round, clearing certain barriers on the playing field and scoring goals by sending balls through holes in the opposing alliance’s castle.
April 25, 2016
Microsoft Azure Named a Leader in Gartner’s Enterprise aPaaS Magic Quadrant
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] Microsoft Azure Named a Leader in Gartner’s Enterprise aPaaS […]LEARN MORE
April 26, 2016
Orange County Networking Happy Hour @Karl Strauss Brewing Company
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] TONIGHT: Orange County Networking Happy Hour @Karl Strauss Brewing […]LEARN MORE