Girls of Steel, FRC Team #3504 of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has now held three events with local Girl Scout Troops. Since Girls of Steel and the Girl Scout organization have similar missions in boosting the confidence of youth girls and giving them new experiences and exposure to new ideas, it seemed like a great connection to make. After doing a tour of our workspace with a group of Girl Scouts last winter, and since the Girl Scouts organization recently launched new STEM badges which included three for both Daisies and Brownies, we decided to give local scouts the opportunity to earn these badges with our help.
On May 6th, about 35 Daisies from 5 different troops came to Carnegie Mellon University to earn the “What Robots Do” badge. On December 16th we held another similar event where twelve Daisies earned the “What Robots Do” badge, and four Brownies earned the “Showcasing Robots” badge.
With the Daisies, we discussed the purpose of robots and the work of engineers. To define the job of an engineer, someone who solves problems with inventions, we explored these questions with the scouts: .
WHAT is the problem that needs to be solved?
WHO HAS the problem that needs to be solved?
WHY is this problem important to solve?
With these questions in mind, the Daisies broke off into small groups to brainstorm scenarios that would be the job of an engineer to solve. Some of their ideas included building homes for the homeless, having a personal maid, and packing their lunches for school.
As we delved into an explanation of algorithms, the Daisies completed two activities. To show the importance of good instruction we used a sketch of a robot face with simple shapes and without showing the scouts our sample, we gave them inadequate instructions to draw the same picture. We simple told them what shapes to draw, not how to place them or what size the shapes should be. In the end many girls had random squares and circles of different sizes strewn about their paper. They were surprised to see that our picture was cohesive and appeared to be a face. This activity highlighted the fact that an algorithm must be perfectly specific in order for the robot to successfully complete the task, since a machine is only as smart as the instructions that it is given. Then, in another activity, they “planted” daisies (to coordinate with the Girl Scout brand) in pots in a systematic fashion to simulate how an algorithm works. In small groups, a few girls would work together to use their given tools and ingredients (shovels, gardening gloves, pots, “sun”, “water”, “dirt” and plastic daisies) to pot a daisy, but only with instruction of precisely how to do so from their teammates.
We then did a quick foundational lesson on mechanical and programming vocabulary and the use of robots in the real world, before we had the Daisies design their own robots that would solve the issue that they had defined at the beginning of the workshop. They brainstormed with their groups and drew colorful robots with creative mechanisms that would build beautiful homes for people that do not have one, and save them from their chores at home. They named their robots, and presented their ideas to the group.
With the remaining time, we brought the scouts to our workspace so we could introduce them to our robot, MO.
With the Brownies earning the “Showcasing Robots” badge, we also discussed the purpose of robots, as we highlighted the biomimicry industry. We identified the link between nature and many of today’s inventions and learned about how RoboBees can soon become an important part of our world. Then, we explained our team’s structure and mission as well as describing each level of FIRST (to hopefully entice them to join one!). Then the Brownies collaborated to complete our Chassis Project which is a pre-fabricated plate and standoff chassis that can be built and ready to drive in a little over an hour. The girls successfully completed the chassis, each drove it around the room, and were able to explain their process and identify the different parts and tools that they used while building.
To commemorate each event, we gave the girls “Girls of Steel” patches for the back of their vests! These events were very successful, and we look forward to doing another one and seeing some of the scouts on a FIRST team one day!
Here are some tips for running a Girl Scouts Robotics Badge Workshop! Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions!
To earn “What Robots Do” for Daisies
To earn “Showcasing Robots” for Brownies
This blog was written by Langley from FRC Team Girls of Steel (FRC 3504). If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
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