I was first introduced to robotics through a youth robotics program hosted by my future FRC team, 1678. As I learned how to design, build, and program robots, my curiosity and interest for STEM slowly grew. But it was not until my youth robotics mentor, a high school student on Citrus Circuits, encouraged me to attend a Women in STEM Empowerment (WISE) event (previously Girl Powered event) that I ever felt truly inspired and empowered to pursue my passions.
The first thing I noticed at the WISE event was the FRC robot in the middle of the room. I was fascinated by it, pondering how it was even possible to construct something so incredible. As I bounced back and forth between the different STEM activities, talking to all the different female volunteers, I realized that it was the first time I ever saw that many girls in one room participating in STEM activities—I was surrounded mostly by my male peers up until that point. All the female volunteers spoke so highly about their experiences on the team and encouraged me to further my STEM passion and join the team.
Fast forward to the present, where I have come full circle. As the current lead of our Diversity in STEM program, I organize monthly WISE events and other outreach activities with the goal of inclusion and equity for all in STEM. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to see this the program grow at such a fast rate, as our monthly turnout is double what it was a year ago. The initiative has been able to grow and expand into neighboring communities to reach more students than ever before. For the past two years I have also had the opportunity to mentor three different youth robotics teams. It has allowed me to reflect on my previous challenges as a girl in STEM and how it has only encouraged me to inspire as many future leaders as possible. I realize the importance of having role models and mentors that empower and inspire you. For me, these role models were the WISE volunteers and my youth robotics mentor. They provided me with enough support to pursue my passions and grow. I now aim to impact people the way they impacted me, giving others the confidence to support their dreams.
I hope that my journey will encourage all to get involved in any outreach programs possible. Whether you are a mentor, student, or volunteer, there are so many different ways to ensure that the STEM field is as inclusive and representative of all.
This blog was submitted by Citrus Circuts, FRC team 1678. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
Today we are talking with Lillian, who is our documentation expert on FTC #7444 Sisters of the Motherboard and training to take over our social media accounts next year. We are looking at the FIRST philosophy of #MoreThanRobots and how her role on the team reflects this important idea.
Why did you join robotics?
At first I joined robotics to understand the magic of STEM, but discovered I was more interested in the marketing side of our team. This includes posting on social media and reaching out to other communities to educate them about STEM, and share the progress of the growth of our team.
What is your current role on the team?
My current role on the team is creating the engineering notebook which consists of entries related to changes made to the robot. I collect entries every time we meet and edit them. Eventually the entries are printed and made into a notebook. I am shadowing our current social media lead to be ready to take over our accounts next year when she graduates.
What made this role attractive to you?
I have always been interested in the importance of social media for businesses and the steps needed to have a successful social media page. I wanted to connect with other robotics teams not from a builder or coder perspective, but from an outreach perspective and learn how they share their team and STEM to other people. I was interested in helping create the engineering notebook for the season because I enjoyed the idea of creating a book that involves all of our successes and changes to the robot.
Why do you think what you do is important to the team?
I think of myself as an organizer of the team. Which is a very important role to keep the team on track. With as many events that occur and jobs needed to be done, I am useful to keep together information and tasks completed.
What would you say to someone who thinks that there isn’t a place for them in robotics?
There is always a place for someone in robotics! With so many important roles needed to have a successful team like being a coder, builder, or being involved with social media, we are always open to new members trying everything out. Through trial and error you can find your interest and have fun in robotics!
This blog was submitted by Lillian of Sisters of the Motherboard, FTC team 7444. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
As a freshman student at Salem Academy, located in North Carolina, I have had the opportunity to be a part of our RoboLearners program. The RoboLearners program is an introduction to everything robotics. Through this program I have gotten to work with CAD (computer aided design), building, coding and even driving the robot. In the past, I have had some experience with coding and robotics, however I have never been a part of an FTC team. The RoboLearners program is designed to ease students into the realm of FIRST Robotics, and give them a basic overview of the many roles that team members hold.
Two RoboLearners at their First State Competition!
The beginning of the year started with 100 days of CAD by OnShape. This consisted of tutorial style videos that guided students through the basics of CAD and designing various parts. While at first this seemed extremely daunting, we only did about 20 of the 100 days, specifically ones that were most applicable to FIRST. At the start, I had little experience with CAD. Throughout this first unit, I was able to learn the basics of CAD and gained new knowledge regarding CAD. It was great to learn something new about a skillset I previously had little experience working with, and then applying this skillset to robotics.
Learning to CAD
Being a part of the RoboLearners program, I was able to move on to the next unit: building. In RoboLearners I was able to work in a team of students and build an FTC pushbot for this year's challenge. We worked together, often navigating through various challenges, and were able to build working robots. Through this valuable building experience, I found a love for building. I showed that I was progressing fast through this challenge, and was given the opportunity to be a part of the building team for 7444 Sisters of the Motherboard, at Salem Academy.
Working Together to Build a Pushbot
After competition season, I am now learning the basics of coding in FTC Sim. Starting with block code, I have been learning how to code the robot to move, use color sensors, distance sensors, and more. The next step is working on phasing out of block code and beginning to code in Java. After this, we will begin dropping code onto the FTC Pushbots that we built earlier in the year. Then, we will be able to drive the FTC Pushbots in a challenge that veteran team members have designed. This challenge will mimic past First Tech Challenge games, and allow the RoboLearners to practice navigating a robotics match.
Success While Coding!
The RoboLearners program has been a great way to learn the foundation of robotics and FIRST Tech Challenge. I have loved learning how to build and code, and even the basics to 3D Computer Aided Design. I know the skills I have learned in this program will be incredibly helpful to not only robotics, but the rest of my academic career. Through RoboLearners I have learned valuable life skills such as teamwork, collaboration, problem solving, and brainstorming. I can’t wait to see what else I learn being a part of Salem Academy RoboLearners and FIRST robotics.
This blog was submitted by Lola of Sisters of the Motherboard, FTC team 7444. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
By the Marlbots 3526, a high school team of girls and other gender minorities based in Los Angeles, CA.
Contrary to the experience of many people in this world, Dr. Lee Mirsky did not grow up in a household dominated by specific gender roles. She is a sister to a younger brother, LGBTQ+ twins and is married to a transgender man; her father worked from home, while her mother went to work at a hospital. When going to a McDonald’s drive through with her mother, her family was asked if they would like a “boy toy” or “girl toy” with their happy meals. Instead of subscribing to such a binary and gender-specific tradition, her mother would play dumb, saying things like “I don't know what ‘girl toy’ or ‘boy toy’ is.” Dr. Mirsky was aware, of course, that other ways of living existed, but such occurrences were the norm in her family.
Dr. Mirsky fell in love with science in an 11th grade physics class, encouraged by the help of a remarkable teacher at her school. From there, she went on to major in Physics and Environmental Analysis & Policy in college, but discovered her love of Materials Science (a combination of physics, chemistry and engineering) while at college. She decided to earn her PhD in Materials Science, and began to tutor physics throughout her graduate years, realizing her love of teaching physics. In 2016, during her last year in her PhD program, Dr. Mirsky joined the Marlborough faculty part time to teach Physics, and in 2017, after receiving her PhD, she joined the faculty full time.
At Marlborough, the robotics program was beginning to expand in such a way that the illustrious Mr. Witman required extra help, leading him to turn to Dr. Mirsky. At first, Dr. Mirsky was hesitant to join the program, but after going to a robotics meet, she realized how much fun the robotics world is. By 2018, Dr. Mirsky was Mr. Witman’s second hand; she was assisting after school, and also helped to teach the middle school robotics classes, on top of teaching physics.
Although STEM is known as a fairly male-dominated field, Dr. Mirsky feels “very lucky” in that she’s been fortunate enough to have had positive experiences throughout her STEM career. Of course, like so many, she has dealt with inflated male egos: she once overheard a male peer discussing his “discovery”, which he had “discovered” in a research article that he simply modified. Nonetheless, Dr. Mirsky has never faced the typical disrespect so many women have faced in the STEM world at the hands of overzealous men.
Dr. Mirsky attributes her positive experiences to great teachers, some luck, other areas of privilege that she has, but also her upbringing. Dr. Mirsky was never taught to actively see gender, and even in the face of obnoxious males during her school years, she never felt held back by her male peers. So, when asked about the difference between the number of male coaches and female coaches at robotics meets, Dr. Mirsky said she never really noticed it until she began to think about it.
It’s an interesting phenomenon - seeing gender is so ingrained in our society, but when a person is not taught to actively see gender roles, and constantly spend time and energy thinking about gender, their experience differs from the rest. Dr. Mirsky was never taught to see herself as overwhelmingly “female” in a STEM world dominated by “males,” and thus never felt the same effect of discrimination others are prone to.
Dr. Mirsky is currently the “Engineering and Entrepreneurship Program Head” and “Associate Director of the Frank and Eileen Accelerator Program” and teaches AP Physics and Engineering and Invention for Impact at Marlborough School. With the increase of Dr. Mirsky’s responsibilities, she is no longer able to assist with robotics, but greatly treasures her time with the teams.
This blog was submitted by Marlbots, FTC team 3526. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
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