I'm sitting there in the stands watching as the match starts. It's the 2019 Forest Hills tournament in Michigan. As the sandstorm begins our robot moves to place a hatch panel but not this round, it sits there idle. I watch thinking maybe nothing’s wrong, maybe, but as the sandstorm period ends it's still sitting there. The controls system advisors come over to help troubleshoot and figure out what is wrong with the robot. The light is on, it has power, so what is wrong with it? Computer issue? Driver Station malfunction? As the match nears the end there are still no answers and it still has not moved. I sat on the edge of my seat ready to sprint down the bleachers as soon as the match ended to help in any way I could.
My name is Bridget, and I am a member of That ONE Team, Our Next Engineers. This is my 3rd year in FIRSTⓇ. As I sat trying to write about how FIRST had impacted me, I was not feeling it and with the deadline fast approaching and gone, to get it turned in I settled on my story, my FIRST story, which in a way could be an impact story.
As I look back, FIRST was everywhere and I never noticed. When my family went to Washington DC for a conference there was a FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team there that let us drive their robots and raffled off LEGOⓇ Mindstorms robots (one of which I won and still have). The summer after 6th grade I went to a STEPS camp for girls, where we built model planes and there was a FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team there showing off one of their robots and letting us drive it and shoot a ball. When I was in 8th grade I joined a robotics class where we learned how to build and program LEGO Mindstorms. During this class That ONE Team came and showed the 2018 robot that played on the Einstein field at Championships. But all I cared about was the robot and how badly I wanted to know if the green compliant wheels were squishy or hard. So I grabbed a business card and off I went.
In September of my freshman year of high school I had completely forgotten about the team I so wanted to join until my dad had asked if I wanted to join Odyssey of the Mind that year, and remembered about the business card and contacted the team. From there I attended meetings and found out that the green wheels on the robot were in fact squishy. My freshman year I was on the fabrication team and soaked up as much information that I possibly could about how the robot worked, how to fix it, and how to build it. That year I learned many important lessons and skills that I still use today.
The second year, I took up the lead role on the fabrication sub team. Even though as a leadership team we didn't set anyone to be in charge of a set subteam, we all assigned ourselves to the group we were on and took charge. I helped build the timeline and give everyone tasks. That year (2020) we had a lot of new students and fell behind in our time line. We got the robot done mostly on time and had a competition in Canada before COVID-19 shut down the world.
This year (2021) I learned alot about the timeline, how important deadlines are plus how fast they pass, how to run a standup meeting, and how to keep everyone engaged, attach the radio to the robot with something more than the dual lock, and that Zoom sucks. This was my third year and my team was fortunate enough to be able to meet in person without a COVID outbreak within the team. I took on the new responsibility of co-captain, with the other being one of my best friends, Anna. Together we continue perfecting the art of standup meetings and adapting them to meet the needs of the team. I also continued to help lead the fabrication team. This season we still had issues trying to meet deadlines, but got the robot done with its fair share of issues and with barely enough time to get the videos submitted for the Infinite Recharge at Home judged awards. Though we did not get to go to a tournament this year, it was still one full of learning.
As I am looking into my 4th and final season on the team as a student, I am looking forward to an off season competition that we are attending and the hope of in-person tournaments and attending worlds.
This blog was written by Bridget L. from FRC team 4967. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
This past year or so has been a year of many firsts, although not in the way most of us would have wanted. Schools were closed. Vacations were cancelled. To avoid was to care. However, despite the cancelled plans and the isolation, this year was also a year for FIRSTⓇ, a year in which teams from all around the world found creative ways to make an impact. As competition season closes, let’s take a look back at all the wonderful things FIRST – and the wonderful girls who are part of it – have accomplished, and celebrate what the diverse and resilient teams have done to help close the gender gap in STEM fields.
First of all, let’s take a look at the impact FIRST has had on girls. According to the FIRST Impact study for 2020, 46 percent of the participants were girls. This is amazing, especially considering that, according to the US census, only 27 percent of workers in STEM careers are female. While it’s true that not all the students in FIRST robotics will move on to partake in these areas, it does show that participation offers a welcoming and equitable community for both genders.
Next, let’s look at the impact these girls have gone on to make. Through FIRST, many of these girls are getting the opportunity to make a splash in big ways. Dolphin Droids, an all-girl FIRST Tech Challenge Team (FTC), made the news some weeks ago for winning third place in the Connect award. The Missfits, a girls’ FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team, caught the attention of a journalist, and a documentary was made on their 2019-2020 season. The Afghan Girls Robotics Team, another all-girls FIRST Team, took the pandemic as an opportunity to save lives, designing a low-cost ventilator. This team faced many hurdles on its path to success to boot: They were not even allowed to compete in the U.S. initially, and had to fight for the right to participate. Now if that’s not girl power, I don’t know what is!
That ONE Team 4967, the FIRST Team I am part of, has always recognized the importance of girls in FIRST. In fact, we wouldn’t exist without one! Founded by Tami Hartley, or, as we all like to call her, Mrs. Coach, That ONE Team is currently led by two female student co-captains, and it has been one of the best resume-building experiences of my life. It was through FRC that I first met another girl who shared my interest in aerospace engineering, and it was through my time participating that I got hands-on experience in embedded controls programming and leadership within STEM fields. Although I have only participated during 2020 and 2021, my team, like countless other FIRST teams around the world, did not let the pandemic stop them from achieving their objectives, and kept busy when last year’s competition was cancelled by making PPE for essential workers.
What does all this demonstrate? FIRST has the potential to make a serious difference when it comes to women in STEM fields. The statistics clearly show that, afforded the opportunity, resources, and information, girls are just as willing and capable as boys at participating in engineering and other STEM matters. And yet, despite this, if we look at the field of aviation alone, women constitute only 18 percent of aerospace engineers, and a mere 5 percent of pilots. This is not from a lack of skill, either; women are equally well-performing in these fields. The issue, or at least from what I’ve seen as an informal math tutor at my school, is a combination of confidence and exposure. By providing girls with a safe, open environment to test the waters of engineering, FIRST Robotics could be a real force for change within the workforce, helping girls realize their dreams one robot at a time.
2020 Impact Study
This blog was written by Raven N. from FRC team 4967. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
FRC 2881 The Lady Cans, a team from Austin, Texas, wear hats, and each member begins their hat with duct tape, scissors, and a hat of their choice. The first stripe of duct tape is always Safety Pink, which repeats after our green, blue, orange, and purple stripes (“PGBOP”)--similar to the pink polyester of our team shirts or the pink LEDs on our robots, but neither color exactly. We aren’t just one type of pink, though Safety Pink is the correct pink.
If you pass our pit during competition or visit our build space, we’ve got pink bow ties, batteries, and tool drawers. Our pink isn’t for girls, it’s for girl engineers and builders. The sexist, pink packaging, which our female stereotype is “supposed” to use, was pink because pink was for girls and everything else wasn’t. So we made our hats, tools, and robots pink, and therefore robotics was for girls, too.
In the early days of our team, we wore many shirt colors from blue to orange, but we were never able to stand out from the crowd. In 2014 we chose Safety Pink and we not only had a visual impact, but we also glowed. We begrudged pink before we loved it, disinclined to wear a color that didn’t want us building, programming, or getting our hands dirty. Pink was for girls, and we weren’t trying to make ourselves different from anyone else. Pink was the sexism of one girl engineer among teams of boys, but sexist pink wasn’t the only pink. 2014, we wore loud pink, feminist pink, neon pink, STEM pink, and Lady Can pink, reinventing the middle and high school girl into a girl who could be on a robotics team without rejecting their femininity and other female peers.
We were pink for good. Now, when new things are pink-less, we get another roll of duct tape and make the patriarchy a little pinker.
This blog was written by a member of FRC team 2881. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
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