LGBTQ+ of FIRST is a student-run initiative focused on encouraging and supporting LGBTQ+ students in FIRST. LGBTQ+ of FIRST has a thriving online community in our Discord Server (we have over 300 members). We also host meetups at FIRST events throughout the season -- in many ways, it’s very similar to FIRST Ladies!
There are a variety of ways to get involved with LGBTQ+ of FIRST. You can apply to be a student staff member (directly supporting the organization and organizing events/writing posts/etc.), apply to be a partner team (your entire team supports the organization and hosts events), or you can just join the Discord server as a member to have fun! Regardless of how you get involved, you’ll be joining a diverse and supportive community of FTC and FRC students and mentors!
Personally, I have been involved with the organization in all three capacities: I was first a member, then I became an admin, and my team is now also a partner team. Every experience with the organization has been fantastic -- I always come away excited by the efforts that other teams and people go to for inclusion, inspired by the community, and motivated to do more myself.
Discord Server: https://discordapp.com/invite/B6uPnrX
This blog was written by Katie Johnson from FTC team 3595, Schrödinger’s Hat. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
On Friday, November 17th, 2017, the Girls of Steel hosted a FIRST Ladies meet-up and movie night in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University with girls from surrounding FRC and FTC teams. As an official regional FIRST Ladies partner, Girls of Steel decided to kick off the year’s events with a showing of the movie Hidden Figures (reviewed here). The movie follows three women, Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, that work as “human computers” for NASA in the 1960’s. In the midst of the space race, the Americans experience the pressure of sending an astronaut into space. To accomplish this successfully, they must accurately calculate every aspect of the mission. Katherine G. Johnson, a mathematics prodigy, is promoted to a department entirely filled with white men to perform analytic geometry calculations. Unlike the existing employees, Katherine is not affected nor intimidated by their differences and begins calculating the extensive work she is assigned. She does not fail to complete her work, despite her co-worker’s covering necessary calculations with Sharpie and doubting her abilities. The movie captures not only the gender disparity but also the racial segregation these women experienced during their time at NASA. Katherine would run over a half a mile to simply use the designated women’s restroom, pour from a separate coffee pot, and she was never treated with the true level of respect she deserved. Nevertheless, her persistence prevailed and she took on an influential role in the desegregation of NASA, sending astronaut John Glenn into space, and many more iconic NASA missions. Dorothy Vaughan took the initiative of learning the early programming language, Fortran, and applied her knowledge to be the first to successfully operate the IBM computing machine. She was later promoted to be the supervisor of the IBM computing department. Finally, Mary Jackson played a huge role in the improvement of the first American manned space mission’s heat shields. She pointed out a major flaw and was encouraged by her coworkers to continue her education in order to qualify for an NASA engineering position. She experienced many roadblocks but eventually won a court case allowing her to attend night classes at a local all-white high school. She then goes on to become the first African American female engineer at NASA. These three women embody the #SeeHerBeHer movement that coincides with FIRST Ladies’ mission.
By creating a community in FIRST that supports our future goals in STEM, we can close the gender gap and reach great accomplishments as the ladies in the movie did! And the best part is, organizing a meet-up is super easy! Organize the event around something that is both fun and embodies the FIRST Ladies mission of empowerment. Some of our past examples include talking with women in engineering at a lunch conference at competition with attending teams.
Send out an invitation and RSVP form a couple weeks ahead of time and then spread the word. If possible, reach out to your regional director to send out an email to all the teams in the area. Here is an example of the form and invitation we sent out through Google Forms: Pittsburgh FIRST Ladies Meet-up and Movie Night
If you are interested in hosting a movie night of your own, here is a list of girl-power documentaries about women in technology. All documentaries listed are available to request a screening:
She Started it Film
Code Girl Movie
Go Against the Flow
Thank you to FRC teams 4991, Horsepower, and 4150, FRobotics, along with FTC team 13873, the OC Eagles, and our FTC team 9820, Girls of Steel Hypatia, for joining us! We really enjoyed spending time with our FIRST Ladies community and can’t wait to see you all again at future FIRST events!
This blog was written by Mikayla T. from FRC team 3504, Girls of Steel. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
One of the most important things I’ve learned from my time on robotics teams is how to be a good leader. I’ve always fell into leadership roles on robotics teams and in school, especially in group projects. However, it took me a while to actually learn how to fill these roles well. I would always end up doing all of the work, partly because I didn’t trust group members, and partly because I didn’t know how to give up control of the work I was doing. I was living the idea that “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” THAT IS NOT TRUE
This robotics season has been about me working on myself and my own leadership skills. The first thing I did was try to learn about myself and the problems I was having in teams. I discovered that I have a tendency to take things over, and none of it is the fault of the teams that I am on. It’s my own problem. I also saw what having one person take over a project does to the rest of the group. When one person takes over, it can make the rest of the group feel unappreciated and incompetent. It makes you question why the person taking over doesn’t trust you. I realized that I had been doing this to my teams for years. From feeling this happen to me, I realized that the people you accidentally isolate when you do all of the work DO want to contribute, and DO want to be helpful. But it’s really hard to be helpful when one person takes over an entire project. So I worked to change, and look more closely at what my team members wanted to contribute, and what value they brought to the team I was on.
The second thing I did was to work to bring people into the work I was doing. It was a hard thing to do, especially knowing I may have been able to work quicker by myself. But making your team members feel valuable and like they have a place on your team is worth it. I made a point of showing my team what I had been working on, getting their feedback, and asking for help when I needed it. Even if work wasn’t always done the way I would have done it, I found value in the simple task of asking for help. From giving up bits and pieces of work that I had been taking over, I learned to appreciate what my team members bring to the team. I no longer feel frustrated that I feel like I’m doing all of the work, because I’m able to ask for help and include others to help balance the workload. The feeling of frustration had been my fault the entire time, and I had been blaming my friends for not doing enough when I wasn’t letting them do anything.
So, my point is that the best leaders are able to work in teams. Not take over teams, but help and ask for help. When you stop taking over, you spread out the work more evenly. And when you spread out work, you make everyone on your team feel like they have a place where they are important. Not only this, but it also makes teams much more productive when more people are doing more of the work. So if you, like me, tend to take over projects, look at the effects you’re having on your team, and work to change how you lead. It makes all the difference.
This blog was written by anonymous. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule.
My experience with Girls of Steel and the pipeline of FIRST programs by Kavya S. FRC 3504
As an all girls FRC team, Girls of Steel has had many experiences empowering girls in the STEM field through outreach and through our pipeline of FIRST programs . We have hosted numerous events and meetups to try to encourage girls to get involved in STEM. We hosted two FIRST Ladies meetups in the 2017 FIRST Steamworks season. One was at our annual “Week Zero” Scrimmage held on Saturday, February 18th, right before Bag & Tag. Several girls from our team and other area FRC teams got together to talk about how being on FRC teams will help to achieve career goals (photos). The second was at California University of Pennsylvania during the 2017 Greater Pittsburgh Regional (photos). At this more formal event at the regional, girls were able to socialize and interact with people in the STEM field that have experience and have overcome challenges that girls in STEM might face in the future.
“It was great opportunity to meet other girls who experience similar challenges of being a girl in the STEM field, ” said Sarah, a senior on the team.
Another senior on the team added,“ l love the sense of unity and support I’m able to get from being around like-minded and driven girls.”
Also, at outreach events, we talk to students of all ages and genders to pursue a career in STEM. Each year the Girls of Steel has a goal of reaching at least 5,000 people through direct contact at these events. Last year we reached over 4100 people and this year we are off to a great start having reached over 1300 people so far.
At some outreach events we offer workshops with our “Robot Chassis Project Kit” to give kids and adults hands-on experiences with activities that represent what our team does - we build robots. The “Robot Chassis Project Kit” is a mock robot chassis, about 23” x 21” that can be built in less than two hours by people of any ages and any experience level. This activity can help increase the interest level in robotics because people can get hands on exposure to what robotics is really like.
Recently we offered the chassis kit workshop at Assemble’s Girls Maker Night. Ziya, a junior on the team said, “It was really fun to watch the kids work together and assemble the chassis in about an hour and have fun driving it around.”
Outreach is a vital component of our team. We believe that it’s our job to share our message with others so that all girls can experience STEM with less stigma and more support. We want every girl to realize her amazing potential!
My times with Girls of Steel and FIRST in general have given me many valuable experiences and expanded my knowledge about the STEM field. I started as a 7th grader on one of the Girls of Steel FLL teams, team 2641 “Bricks, Sweat, and Gears,” which let me get a feel of what it was like being on a FIRST team. I learned all the basics in every sub team and got experiences competing against other FLL teams from the Pittsburgh area. I then moved onto being a FTC member of the Girls of Steel Juniors team 9820 and started using more advanced parts and building “real” robots. I became familiar with programming and electronics and got to try out all components of the team. Last year, I joined the FRC team, 3504, The Girls of Steel. I have learned so much about how to work in a team, to manage my time, and got the opportunity to gain knowledge about robotics and reach other people through the program.
Being on Girls of Steel, or any FIRST team in general is an opportunity that every girl should go for. Whether or not you are interested or have any prior experience with robotics, joining a team like this can be a lot of fun. It teaches you more than just robotics and engineering, but teamwork and responsibility. I would recommend FIRST to any girl and encourage everyone to try it!
Girls of Steel April 2017
This blog was written by Kavya S. from FRC team 3504, Girls of Steel. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule
Even though judging sessions looks very different depending on what FIRST program you are in, one idea runs through all of them---PRACTICING IS IMPORTANT. Judging to a lot of teams can feel like an afterthought; it’s something you have to do at competitions. But it’s something few teams prepare for as much as they should.
Judging is the way your team conveys everything you’ve done in a season and why. It’s easy to forget that all of your work as a team doesn’t automatically make sense or even come across to judges. Judges don’t see your team during meetings or events, and they won’t know what you don’t tell them. This is why practicing, and practicing in front of lots of people, becomes important. I like to say, especially to FLL teams, that they should explain themselves to judges as if they were talking to their grandmother. This meaning that teams have to put a focus on being extremely clear and concise in judging sessions. It’s hard to do when you, as a team member, know your own motivations and decisions so well that it seems excessive to have to explain them. So if you can wrangle someone’s grandmother, run judging for her! If she doesn’t understand what you’re trying to say, then there’s a good chance judges won’t either.
Practice is also important so that everyone on your team ends up on the same page. Everyone on your team should be able to explain the basics of everything that’s happening on your team. Teams who are too segmented in this way seem to defeat the purpose of being a robotics TEAM (emphasis on team). Too many times I have seen teams having mid-tournament meltdowns because the team didn’t communicate with each other when making decisions and part of the team doesn’t like the direction the team went in. Practicing judging can help with this. Because judging is meant to convey EVERYTHING, all team members must have a chance to explain their work and must listen to the rest of their team doing the same.
Because judging runs in incredibly short periods of time, teams who don’t practice what they’re going to say and how they’re going to say it run into problems of talking too much or too little. For some teams, this means practicing conciseness, for others, this means practicing thoroughness. Either way, an important thing to note is that every team member should have about the same amount of time to talk.
So how and when do you start preparing for judging sessions? In FTC, where the structure is pretty free-form, it’s a good idea to make an outline sometime early the week before your tournament and use at least that week to prepare. This works well because most of what your team is working on should be about finalized in this week and so judging information will be up to date. An outline should lay out generally what your team needs to talk about in what order and who is responsible for saying what. Teams I’ve been on have laid out judging based on what our team thinks makes our team impressive. Scientifically, people remember best what came at the beginning and end of a speech or performance, so we always structure our information so that things we want judges to remember start and end our session. Judges are looking for things that make a team stand out from the teams that come in before and after you, so emphasize what your team is proud of and sell it!
If there’s one thing to take away from all of this, it’s that practicing is crucial. It makes tournament day less stressful and gives your team a far better shot at having a good day.
This blog was written by anonymous. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to 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: