All of the robotics teams that I have been on I helped found. Two all-girl teams and three co-ed teams. When I started the robotics club, which later turned into the BEST robotics team, I assumed that more guys than girls would show up. After the first meeting, I was surprised that I was the only girl that signed up. I just went with it because I got along great with the guys. Then the same thing happened with my FTC team and my VEX teams.
Because of my love for robotics and my personality, I never really cared that I was the only girl on the team. However, I did notice that there are many pros and cons of being the only girl on the team.
I personally did not mind being the only girl on the team, but there were some negative side-effects of this fact. When we first started out and none of us knew each other very well, I had to work harder than the guys to prove to them that I knew that I knew what I was doing and was able to contribute to the team. Before my coaches got to know me, they were hesitant to let me carry the robot or use the big power tools. I knew that they were doubting my abilities because I was a girl, and I found it annoying, so I simply proved to them that I knew what I was doing and I went from the girl on the team to team captain in a few weeks.
Then competition time came around. All of the guys knew that I knew what I was doing, and fully trusted that I would help lead the team to advancing to the next tournament, but the rest of the world didn’t. I would walk up to the field for a match and sometimes the opposite team would snicker thinking that they had an easy win because a girl was driving for them. Then they would get beaten and I quickly earned the reputation of being a really good driver.
Sometimes when I would be working in the pits, other teams would come to our pit and ask to speak to the driver or strategist or captain. Most of the time when I presented myself, the conversation that needed to happen happened no questions asked. Other times the other person would sneer or joke about how a girl was in charge or that a girl was working in the pits.
Despite there being annoying cons to being the only girl on the team, there are some pretty great pros as well. When we traveled, I got my own hotel room because girls and guys aren’t allowed to share hotel rooms. The stigma of a girl being on the team turned into awe. Whenever I spoke, they all stopped what they were doing and listened to me. Whenever guys from other teams would give me a hard time at competitions, my guys would always be there for me and would always have my back.
The greatest pro of being the only girl on the team is family. All of the guys went from strangers, to friends, to brothers. We turned into this weird, dysfunctional, geeky family and they were all practically brothers to me. They had my back and always were looking out for me and were all extremely protective of me.
Being the only girl on the team is a common thing. Being in robotics in general build community. Running into another robotics kid sparks an immediate bond between the two people and most of the time numbers are exchanged and friend requests are sent, and Twitter handles are saved. Then you get girls who do robotics and the bond is even stronger because there are less of us than the already smallish number of kids who do robotics.
This blog was written by Devynn Rizo of FRC Team 4335. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, sign up on the schedule.
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