As a woman, old stereotypical view is that women are not as good as men in engineering - for our case, robotics. Especially, I could hardly see a girl working as a constructor at the World Championship the last year when my team competed there. Even more so, as a Korean, it was extra-hard for me, a young woman, to do construction part of robotics. Though Korea is known to have high technology, robotics, especially in FTC in which high school students participate, it is very unpopular. However, the story wouldn’t proceed if it ends with people giving, right? So, the story starts now.
I am a senior and go to Bugil Academy in Cheon-an, Korea. This school has a program called Global Leader Program that provides its students with U.S. top boarding school’s curriculum. Thus, I could be said to have different situation from rest of the Korean high school students. My school is a sister school of Westlake High School in Texas in sophomore year. A few of my classmates went there as exchange students and one guy participated their robotics program. He was fascinated by robotics and decided to make a robotics club at Bugil Academy. I had almost no interest in the club when he was trying to get some members. However, he heard that I had little robotics background (I took a special robotics program when I was in elementary school, but had no idea what robotics was because I forgot all about it) and tried to scout me. I said no. I was more into my academics, the volunteering club I had made, and Lacrosse. I told him that I had no time or energy to expand my interest into the robotics. But, he kept bugging me and I gave in.
So I became a member of my school’s first and the only robotics club. Starting from the second semester (Korean school system starts second semester in August or September), we started to prepare for FTC Korean Round that would be held in January 2014. At first, none of our team members, except for Steve (the guy who made the team), had knowledge of robotics. We didn’t even know what wrenches were! So we started with little things: bolting and nutting, and accelerating and decelerating with big and small gears. We devoted our holy weekends and winter vacation to robotics. As a result, in January, we could make our robot. However, every time we had a meeting, problems suddenly emerged from what we thought would be perfect, and we painstakingly disassembled and remade the robot over and over. The robot got its final shape one or two weeks before the Korean Round and was finalised the night before the competition. At the competition, we struggled a little bit but surprisingly did well in the semi-final. But, our final round sucked and we couldn’t get any awards. After the competition, all of us knew that if we are qualified for the World Championship, it would be a miracle.
So what’s next? The miracle happened. Two teams are qualified to represent Korea in the World Championship and we ranked the fourth. The two other teams gave up their qualifications because of their school works (they went to normal Korean high schools) and Team Shatterdome was able to go for to Worlds!
Still then, I was not very into the robotics. I certainly liked building the robot, but it was just that. That was because I was in love with Lacrosse. I was the captain of the school team and a part of Korea U17 Girls’ Lacrosse Team and was to go to Japan in April to compete against Japanese college and high school girls’ lacrosse teams (Just like robotics, lacrosse is very unpopular in Korea. Japan is the strongest Asian country for lacrosse.). Every second of my existence was devoted to Lacrosse, I even played lacrosse in my dreams every night. So the robotics was not the priority for me. But, after our robotics team went for the World Championship in April, robotics became larger part of my life and I devoted my time on both lacrosse and robotics.
Things changed in May. At the first competition of the season, I got injured. When I was drawing the ball for the first game against the second ranked team, I had a good feeling and was certain that my team was able to win this game though the opponent was much stronger than our team. The opponent team took the ball and I was running to get the ball. Still, I had that feeling that I could get that ball back! I improved so much after the trip to Japan. I just overcame my slump and all of my teammates were so much better too. However, I suddenly fell down. I was running so fast and so hard to get the ball, and almost got the ball. The next moment, I was lying on the ground. Somebody was screaming in pain. It took me few seconds for me to realize that I was making that screaming sound. I stopped screaming and tried to get up, but could not. I was removed from the field. Still, I wanted to run so much. I begged my coach to put me in the game during the lunch, and I went into the second to the last game after lunch. I fell down again and went to the ambulance.
Later next week, I found out that my ACL was fully ruptured and that my lateral meniscus was also torn. My heart was broken and I could not do anything. I came home to do the pre-surgery rehab and had a surgery in June. So I lost the biggest part of my life - lacrosse. And I could not even do the second biggest thing of my life - robotics. Team Shatterdome was qualified Asia-Pacific Invitational and was to go to Australia in summer. It was scheduled to be two weeks after my reconstruction surgery. I really wanted to go and fulfil my responsibility as the Head of Construction that I could not do because I was out of the school and my entire life. I really wanted to grab something that was precious to me. I didn’t want to lose another precious thing too. The teammates were willing to help move around with me in wheelchair. However, right after the surgery, I was in a great pain and I just knew that I could not do that. I do not regret that decision. I could not do anything even if I went to Australia with my team and my knee would have been worse.
I wanted to get back to my normal life as soon as possible. That was why I scheduled the surgery so hastily because I had to wait two more months to get surgery from best doctor who does ACL reconstruction. It was a bad idea. I had a bad prognosis after the surgery and my rehab didn’t go well. (Later I found out that it was the problem with the surgery. I saw few more people who did ACL recon surgery at that hospital in my rehab center and they all had bad prognosis like I did) After summer vacation, I went back to school, but, not long after, had to go back to the rehab center. I returned to the school in the fourth quarter but could not walk like a normal person. I soon scheduled to have another surgery in December, right after the school year ends (this time in another hospital where the best surgeon was).
Now, I can walk like a normal person and even jog. Then, I look back. What held me up when I was falling down? I wanted to give up everything. No, I thought about giving up everything when I failed to stay at school after the summer. I thought about quitting school also and actually told my homeroom teacher and my parents that I quit. But I am in school writing this little story of mine to
share with FIRST Ladies. What held me up? I say it was my teammates. It was Team Shatterdome that held me up. They named the robot JJ because I couldn’t participate API with them. I told my teammates that I wanted to resign from the title of “Head of Construction”. I hate being not able to fulfil my responsibilities. So I hated not being able to help the team when
everybody was working hard to get the best out of the competitions. However, again, my teammates help me up. I know that, without my teammates, I would have been failed to overcome the hardship I had last year. I never had chance to thank my team, Team Shatterdome.
Thank you Team Shatterdome and thank you robotics for not giving me up. Now, I say our loud that robotics became one of the two biggest parts of my life. I found myself exclaiming in happiness when the lift finally worked when we were preparing for our second Korean Round’s Cascade Effects over the last winter break (we devoted entire 48 hours every weekend and some time during the week for preparation). I love robotics now.