Korea, one of the top countries leading the world IT, is where FTC Team Shatterdome is based. Despite all the world famous Korean IT companies, such as Samsung, Hyundai, and LG, STEM education and robotics aren’t supported greatly in Korea. FIRST Robotics is especially neglected and unknown to the public.
Currently enrolled in Bugil Academy Global Leadership Program, some of the team members –including me– were given the chance to participate in a student exchange program with Westlake High School. As we were already deeply interested in the sciences and engineering, the existence of robotics class itself was quite exciting. All the class members were full of robotics knowledge and were eager to go to the FTC competitions and meet other friends who are as engaged in robotics as they were. When we came back to Korea, we founded Team Shatterdome (#8338) in our school.
Starting a robotics team was very hard in Korea. Since robotics is not a popular field in, most of our teammates had no knowledge related to it. Knowing nothing about robotics, we dreamed of becoming FTC champions. However, as one of 4 girls in our team, I went through a lot more obstacles.
I was personally dissuaded to join the club by my dad. Deeply influenced by Confucianism that has been a part of Korean culture for a long time, the society considers STEM is a “guy-thing”. My father wasn’t any different. Even though his company now sponsors us and he is the best supporter for my robotics ambition, LEGO and Tetrix kits were boy-only toys in my father’s view and the same was true for many other parents. However, my mother is different. Having majored computer science in 1990s -which is shocking for a girl to major at that time- my mom supported and understood my passion.
“There are limits to everyone. Success depends on whether you overcome your own limits or not. Remember you should have confidence and belief in yourself because you can always push through your limits. What others say doesn’t matter at all. What matters is what you believe in and decide to do.”
Trusting my mother and stepping up for myself I realized that robotics is not just for boys nor only for girls, but is for BOTH.
One thing that I saw in 2014 Block Party Asian Pacific Invitational FTC was that not a lot of girls were present. Certainly much less than in World Championships. I know that conditions for girls in China, Japan –I don’t think there are any FTC teams there– aren’t better than Korea. Australia is different and open-minded, similar to US but other teams from Asian countries seem to go through the same hardships. Girls are not expected and assumed to be the best engineers nor champions of FTC.
I soon became more aware of the seriousness and decided to do something. I started to focus more on outreach and any possible chances to implant confidence into all the ladies out there. This is when I was invited to FIRST Ladies. I am not a radical feminist, but I believe that women deserve the same rights and expectations. I also believe that we, women, are capable of doing as much as the men can do, even better.
We are all different but similar and share one thing in common: passion for robotics and for women’s success in STEM and robotics. Asia is still behind other continent’s acceptance and support for robotics, but I am sure one day, robotics and FTC will be famous sports and the number of women participants will equal that of men. Until then, Team Shatterdome and I will try our best to promote both in Asia.
This was written by Sunbin Kim, of FTC Team 8338 Shatterdome from South Korea. Don't forget to sign up to blog!
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