I hope no one minds, but I would like to take liberty here with the words of Dean Kamen, the Founder of FIRST® Robotics. Kamen developed the vision for FIRST® which is for all young people – but I want to focus on young women today. My revision goes like this “Robotics can transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young women dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”
Think about it- more young women dreaming of becoming leaders in science and technology. Sounds great to me! I am glad to say that thanks to Robotics programs all over the U.S. increasing numbers of young women are discovering that the fields of science, math, engineering, technology and robotics are all open to them. In the past, society has led us to believe that these fields were mostly “a man’s world.” Well they are NOT just for boys anymore. Watch the video of several members of St. Catherine’s Middle School Robotics Team and they will tell you why. Learn how they became involved in robotics and how they feel it will affect their future career choices.
Becoming involved in Robotics and the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) at an early age shows young women that they can make future career choices in these fields. Ian Armitage, a 7th grade science teacher at St. Catherine’s School and a Middle School Robotics team Coach tells us that young women should participate in robotics “because it’s not expected of them. Robotics is really good for the way their minds work because it plays directly into girls’ strengths as strong problem solvers and creative ‘outside the box’ thinkers. They like working together and collaborating in groups.”
How will Robotics help prepare young women for the future workplace? Armitage shares that “girls who participate in Robotics acquire skills that prepare them for the workplace. They learn how to effectively collaborate, problem solve and overcome obstacles - all while gaining confidence in themselves.”
According to Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, the Owner & Deputy Chairman of the LEGO® Group who collaborated with Dean Kamen to create the FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL), “FLL encourages children to design, construct, and program their own intelligent inventions. This allows them not only to understand technology, but to become masters of it.” And mastering programming, designing and building a robot is exactly what the St. Catherine’s Middle School team is doing.
Meet Laney, a 6th grader who has been involved in robotics since the 4th grade. She got involved in the program because she liked playing with Legos and liked building, engineering, and inventing things. It is no surprise that now her career choices include jobs that will allow her to do just that. Laney shares that her “favorite thing to do in robotics is programming. Because when you get the programming perfect -you feel this rush of adrenalin when you see the robot out on the table. You get to see what you programmed and how it makes the robot do things.” Sounds like mastery to me!
Meet Sarah, an 8th grader who has been on the team for 3 years. Sarah started playing with robots and computers in lower school and she discovered that it was so much fun she wanted to stay with it in middle school. Sarah’s favorite part of being in the FLL competition is developing the Project. The FLL Challenge has 3 parts - the Robot Game, the Project, and the Core Values. This year the theme is “Senior Solutions.” Each team is challenged to create an idea, a game or a system that will help solve a problem that seniors face. St. Catherine’s team is tackling the challenge of short term memory loss.
Sarah likes the project because they get to have fun while coming up with creative ideas. “You create a rap or a song to get your point across. You talk about the problems with your team and you develop ways to solve them.” I’d like to add creative problem solving to our list of important skills for the 21st century workforce.
When I asked Sarah why she thought girls should be involved in Robotics she told me that “Girls should do robotics because it empowers them to be themselves – not be told only guys can do science and robots and things. It’s a girl thing too.”
I asked Arianna, a 7th grader who has been involved in Robotics since 4th grade to tell me about her favorite part of the process. “I’ve spent most of my time doing programming and building. I like to talk to people and program with them- to help them figure out what needs to be done.” Programming involves computer skills and an understanding of how things work - additional skills our children need for future jobs.
If we want to see more young women in STEM fields, Robotics programs are an excellent way to get them engaged at a very young age. Like Arianna says “Doing Robotics is important. Besides being a lot of fun, it gets your brain working!”
For more information on Robotics Programs in your area visit:
Article by Debbie Mickle, Science Matters Project Manager