Korea, one of the top countries leading the world IT, is where FTC Team Shatterdome is based. Despite all the world famous Korean IT companies, such as Samsung, Hyundai, and LG, STEM education and robotics aren’t supported greatly in Korea. FIRST Robotics is especially neglected and unknown to the public.
Currently enrolled in Bugil Academy Global Leadership Program, some of the team members –including me– were given the chance to participate in a student exchange program with Westlake High School. As we were already deeply interested in the sciences and engineering, the existence of robotics class itself was quite exciting. All the class members were full of robotics knowledge and were eager to go to the FTC competitions and meet other friends who are as engaged in robotics as they were. When we came back to Korea, we founded Team Shatterdome (#8338) in our school.
Starting a robotics team was very hard in Korea. Since robotics is not a popular field in, most of our teammates had no knowledge related to it. Knowing nothing about robotics, we dreamed of becoming FTC champions. However, as one of 4 girls in our team, I went through a lot more obstacles.
I was personally dissuaded to join the club by my dad. Deeply influenced by Confucianism that has been a part of Korean culture for a long time, the society considers STEM is a “guy-thing”. My father wasn’t any different. Even though his company now sponsors us and he is the best supporter for my robotics ambition, LEGO and Tetrix kits were boy-only toys in my father’s view and the same was true for many other parents. However, my mother is different. Having majored computer science in 1990s -which is shocking for a girl to major at that time- my mom supported and understood my passion.
“There are limits to everyone. Success depends on whether you overcome your own limits or not. Remember you should have confidence and belief in yourself because you can always push through your limits. What others say doesn’t matter at all. What matters is what you believe in and decide to do.”
Trusting my mother and stepping up for myself I realized that robotics is not just for boys nor only for girls, but is for BOTH.
One thing that I saw in 2014 Block Party Asian Pacific Invitational FTC was that not a lot of girls were present. Certainly much less than in World Championships. I know that conditions for girls in China, Japan –I don’t think there are any FTC teams there– aren’t better than Korea. Australia is different and open-minded, similar to US but other teams from Asian countries seem to go through the same hardships. Girls are not expected and assumed to be the best engineers nor champions of FTC.
I soon became more aware of the seriousness and decided to do something. I started to focus more on outreach and any possible chances to implant confidence into all the ladies out there. This is when I was invited to FIRST Ladies. I am not a radical feminist, but I believe that women deserve the same rights and expectations. I also believe that we, women, are capable of doing as much as the men can do, even better.
We are all different but similar and share one thing in common: passion for robotics and for women’s success in STEM and robotics. Asia is still behind other continent’s acceptance and support for robotics, but I am sure one day, robotics and FTC will be famous sports and the number of women participants will equal that of men. Until then, Team Shatterdome and I will try our best to promote both in Asia.
This was written by Sunbin Kim, of FTC Team 8338 Shatterdome from South Korea. Don't forget to sign up to blog!
Hello! My name is Connor Tinker, an engineering student. In 2008, I joined FIRST Tech Challenge team 3113- of Glenelg MD. In 2012 I joined the Engineering Career Academy at my high school, as well as a local FIRST Robotics Competition team. In May 2014 I became employed at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory as an intern.
For my entire life, I have had the niche to imagine, design, and build. As a child I got paper and tape for Christmas, and would eventually wreck my room while creating story high marble machines and bridge structures. As I got older I upgraded to LEGO Mindstorms kits, scrap wood, and Popsicle sticks. Eventually leading to the use of Vex and Tetrix parts, during my 1st robotics season in 2008. In 2011, our team won the Maryland state championship and went to the world championship for FTC “Get Over It!”. At this point in my life I had already figured out that this was my real passion. The harmonizing combination of creativity and STEM that was engineering design captured me.
Each season of FIRST Robotics beyond that I grew a little more, did a little more, and learned a little more. I had created and led young rookie teams, captained nearly every division of my robotics team, and even introduced new activities such as CAD design, spirit, and company sponsored outreach. Today, I am a full time mechanical engineering student and a junior in high school attending multiple engineering specific classes in school, I am the captain of my FTC robotics team which competes 10 times a year, meets 2-4 times a week, and devotes 3,000+ hours towards outreach. I work 20-50 hours a week at the lab on projects for the Missile Defense Agency on the Aegis Standard Missile III. I am a boy scout, and my eagle project, called Thrive, has the task of researching and procuring technology that can help children, veterans, and the elderly.
Why am I telling you all of this? To help you understand that engineering is my life. Its what I do, how I do, it raised me, and it is my passion. I have 7 years under my belt of working in engineering groups, whether they be amateur or professional. 7 years networking and experiencing around friends, peers, and industry leaders. In these 7 years I have picked up my own perspective on a few things: The key to success, the key to education, and the false idea that genders affects one's involvement in an industry.
The mind is a superbly powerful thing. It creates our reality, and can even alter other people's feelings. If there is one thing I have noticed, it’s that the biggest benefit to our success is also the biggest barrier, confidence. You probably heard it first from Watty Piper, the author of “The Little Engine that Could”. The little engine kept trying and trying to get up that hill, he worked his hardest to attain his goal. Why? “I think I can I think I can”, these are words of confidence. Confidence drove the engine up the hill, confidence can drive you up any ladder. If you believe in yourself, you can do ANYTHING. The instant you start believing you cannot succeed, you lost the most important part of the battle. This also applies to self esteem, where the perspective you place on yourself is then taken up by people around you. If you keep telling yourself you aren't good enough, then the rest of the world will have no other perspective of you. Do your best to have confidence in who you are, and what you do. If you believe, if you think you can, then you can! Do not let anyone discourage you. For me, and probably many people, the key to success starts with confidence.
The next thing that has kept me going all these years is passion. You have heard it a million times; If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. I work nearly 50 hours a week at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab during the summer, every hour unpaid. Everyone always asks why I dedicate so much time to work I'm not getting paid for, and the answer is simple: I am not working. I love what I do at the lab, and I am happy to say I I am doing the kind of work I would do as a mechanical engineer! I have experienced it first hand, where our love for what we do not only drives our determination, but relinquishes the negative connotation to the word “work”. Homework, school work, chores, essays, we have always seen work as something to avoid. If you want this to change, pursue what you love, not what pays, and you will be much happier knowing you are getting paid to do what you enjoy.
I am a strong believer in project based learning. You can cram as many tests, textbooks, vocab cards, Powerpoints, lectures, labs, and homework papers into my head as you dearly please but it can never surpass the educational quality of a program like FIRST Robotics. Many people are driven by competition, some more than others. In addition to me being driven by competition, I am encouraged to act the most when I the outcome of my work is palpable. In school, the only palpable outcome is a test. Sadly, we don't find tests very interesting. In addition, the purpose of educating us is so we can learn. At the rate we learn, the outcome of our education cannot be seen for decades past our graduation! We honestly have small attention spans, so the key to staying determined is keeping a visible goal. While working on a project, the outcome is clear. Solve a problem, win an award, build a robot, make a car, the goal is visible and we just want to keep reaching if it is right there.
I see all this buzz about women in engineering, and there's a very distinct reason why it upsets me. All I can ask myself is, why is this an issue? Why is it that we cannot look past our genders to see that we are all engineers? Why does nobody realize the only difference between a male engineer, and a female engineer, is that one is male and one is female! Many young girls were raised with the idea that engineering was for men. The boy scouts did the lashings, while the girls did the sewing. The boys built with LEGOs while the girls played with dolls. The boys wear clothes with large pockets to hold tools, while the girls where pretty, aesthetic clothing. I hope soon that our society begins to eliminate the differences in gender and race, so that boy and girls can be exposed to all the amazing careers and opportunities in our world. Please start this movement. Get involved with anything, and everything. Find your passion! It does not matter who you are, what gender you are, what race you are, all that matters is you love what you do and you believe you can do it! I see girls in STEM all the time.
In robotics, at the lab, and I see no difference besides the fact that these women deserve more respect for fighting to do what is not common. Luckily, I do not see a lot of gender discrimination in the professional world. But, I see it in FIRST, and it kills me. FIRST robotics students are here to change the world, and we are going to do this together. Boy, or girl, we all love what we do, and we all have the same potential to do something amazing. Some of my best friends are girls involved with STEM. These people are the smartest, and most successful people of their class, and are clearly determined to succeed. It makes no difference that they are female.
Thank you for listening.. I tend to ramble! Take what I said to heart, remember to find your passion and pursue it to no end. Help change the world, help let our generation be the one that grows the most because we removed the idea of gender separation. Oh, and join FIRST robotics. (:
This blog was written by Connor Tinker, of FTC team 3113. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, sign up on the schedule.
Starting on a robotics team, regardless of age, is a daunting task that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The season is filled with ups and downs, triumphs and failures, and new challenges everywhere you look. The sheer scope of the program can be terrifying if you are experiencing it alone. Luckily, no one should have to.
If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. - Isaac Newton
Robotics is not a solitary endeavor. Look to older students on your team or adult mentors to help guide you through the season. Most people you will encounter genuinely want to help you grow and learn as a person.
In my own life, I have had many different mentors. One mentorship started when I joined an FRC team as a seventh grader. At the time, being the youngest around and new to all friend groups terrified me. I kept to myself most of the time. Into the season, another girl on the team began to talk to me. She was a freshman at the time and her encouragement helped me gain the confidence to speak up at meetings. Currently, she is a freshman at a local University and I am a junior on my team. We still talk, and her simply becoming friendly with me when I first joined the team solidified my involvement with FIRST.
Each one of us at one point or another has been influenced by a mentor. They shape us into the people we will be in the future. Even as students ourselves, we have an incredible amount of knowledge that can be shared with younger students. There is no age requirement for being an inspiring part of someone’s life. We have been that inspiring factor and hope to be in the future for more students to come.
Over the summer, we volunteered at a local computer science camp for ages 7 to 12. The camp focused on arts and crafts along with computer science. Every day, the theme was different. One day it was circuits and the kids lit up LED lights using play dough and a battery. Another day, the theme was sound and the kids made telephones out of plastic cups and string. That same day, they also learned about how to program with sound on Scratch. The theme of each day was interwoven between arts and crafts and programming to broaden the appeal of computer science. Here is a picture of Alison working with some campers and here is a picture of Hannah doing the same. Check out the entire facebook photo album from the camp here.
Throughout the week, we noticed some kids getting frustrated while using the computers. We wanted to do the best we could to help them learn the programming concepts being taught. It wasn’t always as easy as we thought it would be. While teaching the most basic computer science topics, we had to be extremely patient while the kids got the concepts under their tiny little fingers. Seeing that light bulb go off in their brains when they understood a concept was extremely rewarding. Through this experience, we gained some insight into the life of a mentor or more experienced student on a robotics team. Although it may be frustrating at times, the satisfaction of passing on knowledge to someone younger than you can be an amazing feeling.
As the week progressed, the kids seemed to be getting more and more proficient with programming concepts as well as with navigating Scratch. We were a part of teaching them these skills, which will undoubtedly come in handy in their futures. Seeing these young kids getting excited about computers and programming really opened our eyes to how much we can do to impact the future. It is extremely fulfilling to know that we have been a part of inspiring the future of computer scientists, engineers, and other jobs that are needed in the world.
Go out and mentor a student or volunteer at a camp that supports STEM education. It’s not only great to volunteer, but you will also learn and grow yourself while promoting the future of science, technology, engineering, and math. After reading this, we hope each one of you finds someone to help through their FIRST journey.
This blog post was written by Hannah Snesil and Alison Palmer of FRC Team 1086 Blue Cheese. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, sign up on the schedule.
Hi, I’d like you to meet my mom. She has been an electrical engineer for NASA for over thirty-five years, has raised four children and is going into her tenth year of involvement with FIRST Robotics. First, she is my mother. She raises me, encourages me, feeds me (when I’m home from college) and loves me. She is also my mentor. She founded our FRC team and, as a Woodie Flowers Finalist, has served as the mentor for electrical, programming, awards, finance, website, etc. etc.
As my mom and my mentor, she is clearly a role model for my sister and me (and others, but they don’t get to call her mom, although a few have). So while I have technical female role models from history (Marie Curie and Emmy Noether, the names of my first two computers) I also always have a role model at home. And as anyone who has looked into it will tell you, having female role models is critical increasing the number of women in STEM.
The reason female role models are helpful is because they give young women someone to look up to, someone to connect with. If you see someone you identify with doing item X, it makes it easier for you to picture yourself doing item X.
Role models and mentors can be critical to development. They can inspire you and guide you when you need advice. One of a mentor’s most important roles is to always give their students the little extra push they might need to reach their full potential.
If you are a student or of student age (high school or college) then this might be easy advice for you to take. Or at least, easy advice for you to agree with. But I would like to challenge you one step further:
Be a role model.
I don’t care that you are young and still learning. If you do life correctly, you will always be learning. Every role model has a role model so why not be someone else’s role model?
I’ll ignore the fact that with the number of STEM women as it is we need all the technical female role models we can get. You already know that.
I’ll ignore the fact that you owe it to the community. That people took the time to mentor you and you should return the favor to the next generation by giving them your time. You already feel that.
What I won’t ignore and what you shouldn’t ignore is that you have the power to inspire others. You could change someone’s life. That’s a big responsibility but it’s also a big honor. Embrace that. Channel that. Use that.
My mom does. It’s changed my life and those of many others. Now that it’s becoming our turn, we’ll see what we can do.
This blog was written by Rachel Holladay, an alumna of FRC 1912 Combustion, a current mentor of FRC 3504 Girls of Steel and a computer science and robotics student at Carnegie Mellon University. If you are interested in writing a blog, please sign up on the schedule.
Be a guest
Do you want to be a guest blogger for FIRST Ladies? You can write about a topic of your choice! Please email us the completed blog and track your creation using this link: