I became a lead of a program called “Women in Robotics Empowering Sisters.” (WIRES) A problem I have noticed is that in any STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, and Math) career fields, the number of women involved is less than 30%. I was extremely annoyed when I first heard that, because of how horrible that is, hearing that also increased my mission and determination to get more girls into STEM and FIRST Robotics by the time I graduate is to have on my team to an equal gender ratio of 50-50. This problem first sparked my mentor, who sparked me, which I have sparked a bunch of my friends who now all want to see the same happen, more girls inn STEM and Robotics. Last year, about 12% of the team was made up of girls. . This year, 25% of the team was made up of of girls. We were able to increase the amount of girls by 13% in one year.
How I am working on closing the gender ratio? I've worked to lead WIRES in doing demos, visit schools, convince our friends to join the team.
WIRES is a support system for girls that participate in robotics. We tour and have women in STEM fields come and talk to us. A couple of the companies that we have visited is Ergotron, Monticello Nuclear training center, and the Nerdery.
Last month the team travelled to St. Louis for the championships. While I was there I attended seminars on how teams were able to get more girls to be interested in STEM careers. I experienced hand to guide and lead them with a fellow girl. The girls have the option of going on their learned that several teams all had you thing in common a support system. They consistently have an high school’s co-ed robotics or join the districts all girl team.
I have found out that having a support system for girls will help them want to continue to participate in robotics. What ended up happening is The support system was the push I ended to stay in robotics because there was a network of girls, helping each other out, and we have got to know each other.
This blog was written by Maddie Elsenheimer of FRC Team 2220/ If you want to write a blog post for FIRST Ladies, sign up on the schedule.
Women have a history full of suffering and oppression. They had to earn their rights in society as opposed to men who had their rights guaranteed from birth. It wasn’t until August 18th, 1920 when women were allowed the right to vote in the United States of America. On the other hand, most men had the right to vote at the birth of the country. Despite the fact that women were working relentlessly for equality before that, women continue to face discrimination in society today. In the workforce, women are not encouraged to go into careers involving STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) the same way men are. From a young age, I was lucky enough to have my father stress that I can do anything I set my heart out to do. He told me that no woman is confined to certain careers and always taught me the beauty of STEM education. Unfortunately, not every girl is raised this way. Most young girls are given dolls with unrealistic looking bodies and faces plastered with make up to play with as a child. Not only does this reflect a false representation of women, but it encourages young girls that objectification of women is not only acceptable, but a necessary part of success. Not many girls are given a set of LEGOs or told to build cars and experiment with the multitude of gears and motors. However, in FIRST, women are given the opportunity to contribute and show knowledge of STEAM in a comfortable environment. Because of this, it is an honor to be a part of FIRST.
Last month, our team traveled to St. Louis to compete in the FIRST Championship. We had an unforgettable experience and we learned so much from all the other teams there. As it is commonly quoted, robotics is “the hardest fun you'll ever have.” Upon returning home victorious after the competition, the mood of the team was different. We were no longer spending every waking hour worrying about autonomous or our alliance partners for the upcoming match. As the realization dawned on us that this season was officially over, we felt lost. FIRST had been such a huge part of our lives for so long. This feeling, commonly known as 'robotics withdrawal' has been felt by each and every member of the team. As a woman in FIRST, this withdrawal has never felt so good. It's amazing to know you're part of something bigger than you can imagine. In FTC alone, there were over 4,400 teams. 4,400 robots were built in total for competition; all of which is unique despite performing the same tasks--albeit some performing better than others. FIRST gives women the opportunity to pursue interests in STEAM and encourages a healthy, educational environment to cultivate forward thinking minds. Not every organization can say the same.
FIRST also teaches women valuable life skills. We have been given the opportunity to challenge the norm and go against the grain. Not only is it encouraged that you share each idea you have, but it is necessary no matter how far-fetched it is. Women's voices are heard loud and clear. The environment FIRST creates lets women be taken seriously without the worry of feeling inferior to others. Furthermore, we have been taught to trust ourselves, gain well-deserved confidence and to know when to show that sparkle hidden in each of us.
We would like to thank FIRST for giving us women the experience of a lifetime. One that will cease to be forgotten and stay in our minds and hearts forever. It is a pleasure and an honor to take part in such a wonderful organization. We will continue to be involved in FIRST and are curious to see what the future holds for women in STEAM.
This blog post was written by Tina Wu, Emily Weis, Andie Weiser-Schlesinger of FTC Team 3415. If you want to blog for FIRST Ladies, sign up on the schedule.
My name is Erin. My FTC team won the World Championships as well as the Championships PTC Design Award in 2013, and the Championships Connect Award in 2014. In Minnesota, we are the most successful FIRST team. I’ve coached/mentored 106 FIRST teams and I am planning on getting my MBA, Bachelor’s degree in Industrial & Manufacturing Systems Engineering, and minor in French at Iowa State. This summer, I am interning at a company where a position was created specifically for me.
My name is Rachel. I was one of the people who founded FIRST Ladies, an organization that has grown to over 600 people in less than a year. My FTC team has won 23 trophies in the past 2 years, and my FRC team made it to Einstein and won Engineering Inspiration at Championships. I’m part of a team that was invited NASA to test an experiment of our design in zero gravity.
You might look at these accomplishments and think, how can you not feel successful? How do you still not think you’ve made enough of a difference? The answer is simple - we both suffer from imposter syndrome.
Impostor Syndrome (n) ɪ̀mpɒ́stər sɪ́ndròm
definition: a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.
Imposter syndrome comes in many forms. Maybe you’re sitting in Calculus class, the day before the AP exam. Your teacher asks if there is anything left to go over, and all of your classmates shake their heads, appearing to be confident that they’ll all get 5s, while you’re unsure of even pulling a 3 because you still can’t remember the difference between integrating square or circular cross sections. Maybe you’re at a robotics competition. You think your robot is pretty cool, but looking around everyone else’s seems better. They all seem to know that they have the best robot there, and they aren’t afraid to confidently tell you how their high score this season was when their partner died in the middle of a match.
A lot of times imposter syndrome stems from intimidation. The key to overcoming it is making sure that you are deceived by the confidence of those around you. A lot of times, everyone else is making it up as they go along - just like you. Those kids in calculus are probably just as lost as you are, they’re just too afraid to be the one to speak up.
Here are some of our suggestions with handling Imposter Syndrome:
Of course, some days you wake up and think “What on earth did I get myself into?” That’s okay! You’re not alone. FIRST Ladies is a great place to find support and get advice from girls going through the same thing as you. Don’t be afraid to reach out, because chances are there are dozens of people who want to help you or have had the same experiences as you. Imposter syndrome is difficult, but it is easy to overcome when you believe in yourself and have a good support system.
This blog post was written by Erin Mitchell and Rachel Hunter. If you want to write a blog post for FIRST Ladies, sign up on the schedule. Buy a FIRST Ladies shirt before May 28!
FIRST is not about the robot.
“But wait,” you ask, “isn't the whole point of robotics the robot?” Nope. This is obvious in FIRST LEGO League, when you also need a research project with an innovative solution to compete, but I think this idea can be applied everywhere in FIRST.
My name is Anna Marie Mitchell. I am part of FLL team 29, Caught in a Brainstorm from Lakeville, MN, the FIRST Ladies FLL partner. Not very long ago, my team and I were in St. Louis competing in the 2015 FIRST World Festival where we won third place Creative Presentation. Not only was it incredibly fun, it taught me a lot about myself, my team, and how I should think about FIRST. Because it’s not just about the robot.
FIRST has taught me how to talk to people. By going through judging sessions, endless mock judging, explaining our team’s ideas to people in the pit, and showing our team to the community, FIRST has taught me how to think (and talk) on my feet. I’ve always been good at making up explanations, stories, and even songs off of the top of my head, but FIRST has helped me communicate in a fluid way that will make sense to anyone who may be listening. That really comes in handy within competition, and outside of competition.
This year, I auditioned for my High School’s competitive speech team and made it as one of two eighth graders. I was put into a category ---- Extemporaneous Speaking ---- that gave competitors 30 minutes to prepare a seven minute speech answering a question revolving around world politics. We would pick three questions out of an envelope, chose the one we wanted to speak on, and then use recent articles via. Dropbox (no internet allowed) to outline a three-point speech answering the question we chose. I also competed in the impromptu category, where you are given a quote to speak on, and one to two minutes of prep time to internally outline a five to six minute speech about the quote. Naturally, I ended up winging quite a bit.
I became comfortable talking about almost anything at the drop of a hat (even Tunisian counter-terrorism efforts. That was an interesting speech). My involvement and competition on the speech team I consider to be largely due to my involvement in FIRST. FIRST taught me how to speak comfortably in front of people, or groups of people, that I didn't know. That carried over to my audition for the speech team, and my competition as part of the speech team.
FIRST has also taught me quite a bit about my team. Aside from learning that head-programmer Selina should not have caffeine, lest she go cray-cray, we've all learned more about our interests and each other through our participation in FLL.
Caught in a Brainstorm started out as a friend group long before we became a robotics team. That meant that maintaining friendships was always our top priority. FIRST brought us closer together as friends, and as a team made up of friends We learned to hear each other’s ideas, rather than push them aside and follow our own path. We learned to compete, cooperate, incorporate, mentor and share.
One big thing FIRST did for every member of Caught in a Brainstorm was to show us that STEM is a viable career path for any and all of us. As a group of 13 and 14 year-olds, we are often targeted by ads flaunting headlines like “Be Sexy Now!” or “Lose 37 Pounds every 37 Seconds!” or “Make Him Love You!” Sadly enough, a lot of people brush these messages off or buy into them because they're so normal. But they shouldn't be so normal. I am advertised to as if I should only care about my appearance and if boys like me. What FIRST did was show my team and me that we can be programmers, scientists, or engineers. We can be women who make a difference in the world. We don’t have to be the types of women that society seems to expect us to want to be. FIRST gives everyone the skills to be an innovator and a thinker no matter who they are, where they’re from, or what they’re interested in. That’s a message that I have never heard or understood so clearly before.
Our team has found a lot of success these last two years. But we’ve learned more than we could’ve ever anticipated. From our very first regional tournament last year when our robot didn’t do anything we wanted it to, we learned that we grow more as a team by failing than we ever could by winning. From demo-ing our robot at the Science Museum of Minnesota, Dakota County Technical College, and the Works Museum, we learned that we like sharing what we’ve learned with anyone and everyone who will listen. From mentoring two FIRST LEGO League teams this year and last spring, we learned that, by mentoring, we not only teach; we learn. From competing in the 2015 FIRST World Festival, we learned that a lot of people care about FIRST, and everyone has a different way to solve the same problems. FIRST has shaped us as individuals, and as a team. It’s pretty incredible how much we’ve all changed since we started getting involved in FIRST. Everyone is more confident, assured, driven, and inspired than we’ve ever been before.
I think we all know that FIRST is pretty cool. But it really isn’t about the robot. No matter how your team may win (or not win), FIRST helps everyone in all of its programs.
One thing that stuck out to me when Dean Kamen was talking about FIRST at the World Festival was that, like FLL teams have to create an innovative solution to a problem, Dean Kamen’s solution to all of the world’s problems was to create FIRST. FIRST is creating the innovators of tomorrow by introducing kids to STEM and creative problem solving at a very young age..
As Kamen said at the closing ceremony of champs, “we don’t need people to go out and conquer the world. We need people to go out and fix it.” FIRST inspires kids to be a person who can go out and fix the world.
A part of a FIRST team, I know that we FIRST-ers can get caught up in the competition. But I think it’s important to realize that the robot is not the important part. The importance in FIRST all lies in what you take away from it. Don’t get so caught up in the robot that you forget what FIRST has done, and what it hopes to do. At the end of the day, it isn’t all about the robot. It is about being able to create, inspire, and engineer as part of the community of incredibly hard-working and dedicated people that FIRST has created.
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The impact of FIRST is truly more than robots. It goes far beyond a STEM education and it provides all of its participants with a tremendous amount of opportunities and skills that transform kids into amazingly driven and inspiring young adults. This transformation is often referred to as a pipeline, and it serves as a path for student participants from the FIRST program to pursuing STEM degrees and later STEM careers. However, like any pipeline it has leaks, and in particular, girls are leaving the program. The real issue is that girls are leaving FIRST, and STEM, not because it is no longer their passion, but because they have no female leaders to inspire them to have passion. The passion students have for FIRST, and STEM, is what makes FIRST the unique program that it is and without passion the program loses impact.
In short, girls need girls. Girls need girls to be the leaders that inspire them to become leaders themselves and stop the leaks in the pipe. Only girls can become role models for other girls in FIRST and inspire them to become the passionate leaders the FIRST program really needs to retain its female students and stop the leaks. Through passionate leadership we can stop the leaks in the pipe and inspire girls to be future leaders for FIRST and STEM.
So, as the 2014 to 2015 FIRST season comes to a close new opportunities for leadership arise with the incoming season. It is now our task, as girls, to become the passionate leaders that will stop the leaks in the pipe and inspire other girls to become new leaders. Now, stepping up and becoming a leader will never be easy as it seems, but, it is an act that will have a tremendous impact on the FIRST community. So, be a passionate leader in your community. Leadership doesn't need a fancy title, and as a passionate and inspiring girl you will become a leader by default and help stop the leaks in the pipe.
My challenge to girls in FIRST is to become pipe stoppers, passionate leaders, and be the role models that we need to inspire other girls to become pipe stoppers, leaders, as well.
This blog was written by Maggie Rosner of FRC Team 2557. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, sign up on the schedule.
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