"So your parents made you do this, right?", "Is your boyfriend on the team too?", "I bet you're doing this for college applications.", "Looks like you're in it for the tutu!" - all phrases that I am much too familiar with. This year marks the beginning of my 8th year in the FIRST program, so despite popular belief, I'm involved with FIRST because I actually like building robots and I really do want to be an engineer. All it takes is a 5 minute conversation to realize how passionate I am about FIRST and engineering in general. I'm constantly defending my involvement in a program I truly love, simply because I'm female.
Two weeks ago, my team attended the International Manufacturing Showcase in Chicago as part of the FIRST exhibit. It was an amazing experience and we got to see so many real-life applications of things we have learned through building out own robots. There were huge manufacturing displays that had state-of-the-art machinery, huge robots that could do just about anything, a 3D printed car, and so much more. Walking around, I couldn't believe how much of the manufacturing world I knew nothing about. It was really exciting to see so many people and learn about different companies.
The one thing that bothered me as I was making my way around the booths was this: there were no women engineers. Every booth or display I went to, the only women I saw were the ones who smiled and asked me if I wanted a catalog of the company's products. I didn't see any women working the machines, and very few of them answered questions I had. Not that I was expecting a huge number of women there, but it made me sad that even at a huge event like IMTS, it took a lot of effort to find someone I could see myself being.
Engineering isn't easy, no matter who you are. Maybe it's harder for women because of all the sexism we have to push against, but any girl or woman in FIRST can tell you that it's worth it. By standing together in groups like FIRST Ladies, we can empower ourselves and others to face the adversity with strength. Together we can change the world of engineering.
This blog post was written by Rachel from FTC Team 5972 The Patronum Bots . If you want to write a blog post for FIRST Ladies, get your spot on the schedule now! Click here to pick a date.
When I was in high school my robots looked something like this. Now that I’m in college my robot looks like this.
FIRST Robotics really showed me that I not only loved robots, but that I wanted to spend my entire life playing with them. I’m a computer science major at Carnegie Mellon with a double major of robotics. My on campus job is as an undergraduate researcher in the Robotic Institute’s Personal Robotics Lab. We work with HERB, Home Exploring Robot Butler, who is designed to work with and around people inside their homes. Our lab focuses on several key areas of robotics research: vision, manipulation and human-robot interaction. I am primarily interested in the intersection of manipulation and human-robot interaction, with a focus on enabling human and robots to collaborate successfully.
Its pretty easy to see how my role as our team’s programmer has contributed to my career in computer science and how years of FIRST’s Beta Testing has provided invaluable debugging tactics in the holy-cow-why-won’t-this-work-someone-please-call-the-holy-cows situations. Those skills sets are obvious. But their are other skills sets too.
Although I am not part of the team that messes with HERB’s circuits, because of my FIRST experience, I have a general understanding of helps me navigate around at a beginner level. Likewise I do not do any mechanical work but if needed I can use the FIRST safety culture to help me work some machinery. Being in academia means constantly trying to acquire funding, which means any and all skills from the business side of FIRST come into play.
It’s all about acquiring skills. And one of the best parts of FIRST is that it allows you to experiment around in so many different areas, gathering technical expertise and experience in fields that, believe you me, will be useful always. I actually regret not having gotten more comfortable with heavy power tools. The FIRST learning environment is so forgiving and accepting that I could have and should have picked up even more skills when I had the easy chance.
So use FIRST to find out what you love to do and then go get the skills to do that and so much more. And if interacting with robots is what you love to do, be a roboticist - its a lot of fun!
This blog post was written by Rachel from FRC Team 1912 Combustion . If you want to write a blog post for FIRST Ladies, get your spot on the schedule now! Click here to pick a date.
Feminism is, at its simplest, about equality. The push for more women in STEM fields presumably started out as a push for industry equality, as a way to give everyone equal opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math. While equality is a worthy goal, we need to be cautious in the implementation of this movement.
Girls going into STEM fields are celebrated, and rightfully so. They have identified a passion and are pursuing it. Girls who are interested in other fields should be celebrated as well. They, too, have identified a passion and are pursuing it; however, they have a much harder time finding the recognition they deserve in our current society.
We have all heard the statistics: “18 to 20 percent of US engineers are women…,” “There are not enough women in STEM fields,” etc. It is true that women are underrepresented in STEM fields, and we want to create a more welcoming environment for them. However, that does not mean that every woman needs to go into STEM. A common mindset that I have encountered is that because I am talented in many STEM fields, it is almost compulsory that I seek a job in one of those fields. It is as if it is my responsibility to improve the statistics with my career choice. People with this mindset put no thought into whether or not I actually want to work in STEM, as it is just assumed that this would be a good role for me to fulfill in my future life.
While FIRST is marketed as a STEM-based program, it is so much more. It can allow people to explore and celebrate both STEM and non-STEM related interests. Aspects of the challenge such as the Promote Video are incredibly valuable as they allow people to blend STEM experience with more artistic skills. The mention of the arts in the intro to this year’s game video was incredibly important. It is good FIRST is acknowledging that it is more than a STEM-only program, as it had previously been marketed as completely STEM-based.
FIRST requires a level of artistic ability. For a FIRST team to experience success, it is required that they know how to do much more than simply building robots. Most robots that do well in this competition have a high level of artistic influence, be it in the construction of the parts, the precision in the wiring, or the thoughts behind the robot design. Programs like FIRST are so valuable, because they teach a variety of skills and promote the idea that a blend of skills in different areas is necessary for success.
In conclusion, I would just like to say that this is something that should be kept in mind. Not everyone in STEM events wishes to go into STEM-based fields. Both STEM and non-STEM-based fields are important, and they should be treated equally. To achieve true equality, one group cannot be elevated at the expense of another.
This blog post was written by Colleen from FTC Team 3595 Schrödinger's Hat . If you want to write a blog post for FIRST Ladies, get your spot on the schedule now! Click here to pick a date.
Hi! I’m Kelli and I am an alumn and former mentor of FRC Team 1802, Team Stealth. For a variety of reasons I was able to join Team Stealth during my freshman year and the team’s rookie year. I was a shy girl as I was one of the youngest in my grade, making me one of the youngest students in the high school of about 400 students. Our rookie year the team had 12 students, 10 of those were male students and only 5 students were not seniors. Due to my shyness and the strong mindedness of some of the other students, I didn’t really get a chance to work on the robot or drive like I wanted to. Instead I ended up working on the business side of the team, eventually taking over as treasurer. My 4 years as a student were spent fundraising, keeping the books, creating business plans, creating scouting sheets, creating scrapbooks, etc. As a mentor I did the same, I helped students with the business aspects of the team. Had I felt inclined I was more than capable of going to the shop and assisting with the building of the robot, I just came to realize my business mindset was better utilized outside of the shop.
Despite not building the robot I wanted to go into Chemical Engineering and eventually become a Bio medical Engineer. I had already decided no matter what degree field I ended up in I wanted to continue working with FIRST as it had helped mold me during my 4 years as a student team member. During my 1st semester as a freshman, I look a tour of the chemical plant with other Chemical Engineering students. My biggest take away from that tour was Chemical Engineering was not for me. I went back to campus and changed majors. After a few other changes to my major I finally decided I wanted to get a business degree and eventually work for FIRST or another STEM-focused youth serving non-profit. May of 2013, I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the University of Kansas. Fall of 2013, I began classes to pursue a Master’s in Youth Development from Kansas State University. (For those of you who understand the rivalry, I bleed purple and always will. I started my Bachelor’s at KSU and then transferred to a non-traditional program at KU that better fit my schedule both for work and FIRST.)
FIRST focuses on STEM but it’s not all that those involved take away from the program. FIRST can teach you so many things and can shape and mold almost anyone involved, both students and mentors. FIRST helped me get over my shyness. FIRST helped me realize my passion for science. FIRST helped me realize my passion for business. FIRST helped me cultivate my presentation skills. FIRST helped me learn to be professional. FIRST taught me things can change in an instant. FIRST taught me to work under pressure. FIRST taught me that I cannot do it all. FIRST gave me experience in grant writing. FIRST gave me experience in building a revising business plans. FIRST gave me experience in talking to business professionals. FIRST helped me grow my accounting skills. I could go on and on about what FIRST has taught me and the opportunities that have arisen because of my involvement with FIRST.
I am spending this year as a FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA for the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. I am not directly employed by FIRST but am loaned to FIRST for the year though AmeriCorps VISTA to assist with recruitment and support of teams, mentors and volunteers. For those of you who have not seen the video, FIRST has put together a wonderful video about what we do as VISTA’s. If you’d like to watch it this is link www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGPiS-O2l70 or you can search for it on YouTube with the phrase “Fighting poverty with robots.” Having volunteered since 2008 in positions which focused on one or more of what I’ll be doing this year the choice was easy to make whether or not to accept the position, even with it being a pay cut. I hope to use this year to become more technical with FRC and FTC to better help local teams. My overall goal in life is to help youth realize they can reach for their dreams and pursue their passions this year is just a stepping stone to making my goal a reality.
This blog post was written by Keli, an alumn from FRC Team 1802 Team Stealth. If you want to write a blog post for FIRST Ladies, get your spot on the schedule now! Click here to pick a date.
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: