“Don’t move your robot during the match. Stay where you are and don’t get in our way. We can’t afford to lose.” These were the words from our alliance, a foreign boys team, before a match at Worlds. This unsettling event inspired us to host the largest Girl Powered conference of all time as we knew it was time for change. In our team, 8787C, Girl Powered is a lifestyle that represents our ideals and hopes to see the world unify and become unbiased towards gender. As a girl in robotics and STEM, one not only have to worry about their robot’s performance and about their opponent’s strategy, but also the prejudice that already exists in the field. Because of this, our team strives to create diversity in the STEM field by hosting annual Girl Powered conferences to empower the minds of our future engineers.
In the West Texas Region, 8787C was the first all girls team to arise. In 2015 “Nothing but Net”, our robotics coach and mentor decided to create an all girls team to create a more varied robotics and STEM field. We faced many struggles our first year, yet the greatest and most predictable one was discrimination. Our region had never seen an all girls team and trust us, it was noticeable. We often got smirks full of skeptical thoughts, they didn’t believe we had potential, yet we did not allow this bias dissuade us. Through our hard work and determination, we were able to reveal what we can truly be capable of performing.
8787C won the West Texas Regional Championship, receiving Tournament Champions and the Excellence Award, winning our infamous ticket to Worlds where we won the Worlds “Teamwork Award”! We were exhilarated! What we rejoiced in was not just going to Worlds, but also for representing all girls who felt they weren’t good or didn’t have a voice. Going to Worlds was bigger than us, this was 8787C contributing to the movement that was focused on making STEM a diverse field with no discrimination nor intimidation. We became a Girl Powered voice. This feeling was so immense we knew we had to do more next year to share and contribute to this motto of ours; Girl Powered.
So we did.
The next year, 2016 “Starstruck”, we hosted the largest Girl Powered event in the world. This conference was our pride and joy.
In our very first Girl Powered event, over 350 girls ranging from ages 7-18 were in attendance from local schools all eager to learn more about STEM opportunities they though was not possible. We invited these girls because we were eager to provide the resources and information we had to offer to 350 minds thirsty for knowledge.
We taught them computer and graphical programming, binary language, CAD-ing, and much more. We also invited men and women from different professions to give presentations and women speakers to share their words of wisdom and experience in the STEM field.
We felt more inspired than ever knowing these girls felt a little bit more confident in themselves and a little less intimidated by the STEM field’s rigor. Because of all of our hard work and effort, our coach and mentor, Mr. Torres, was blessed to have received the “Volunteer of the Year” award at Worlds that year for taking the initiative to revolutionize the way robotics is perceived by society and making it a diverse field for anyone to enjoy.
Being devoted to the Girl Powered movement has been influential to our work ethics as a team. With this movement, our teamwork improved, understanding that unity is power in the engineering field. When we first joined robotics we all tried different jobs such as CAD-ing, programming, building, scouting, engineering notebook, etc. in order to determine what we excelled in and where we were most helpful to the team. Through trial and error, we all found a place that fit our style, knowing full well that everyone’s jobs are very important in order for the team to function properly. Going through this process is one of the greatest learning experiences one can have in robotics because one learns that their contribution is essential to the team and when everyone contributes, teamwork is created. Even though we all have very different personalities and come from diverse backgrounds, we work exceptionally well together, listening and appreciating others’ viewpoints in order to continue to construct stronger friendships while simultaneously constructing better robots.
This in turn has made us approachable, allowing our new members to immediately feel welcomed and comfortable in a new setting. The potential of one’s team can’t be fully achieved until everyone’s ideas are shared. The power of a team working together is ultimately limitless.
With the success of last year’s Girl Powered event, as a team knew instantly that it was just the beginning of a lifelong Eastwood tradition. This year, 2017 “In the Zone”, we hosted our second annual Girl Powered event, but unlike other years, it was a bit more challenging. Our school is undergoing extensive construction which means access to certain facilities are limited.
The entire school body was shuffled into a restricted area on campus that is now called “Fort Eastwood”. This soon became a problem as our working space became significantly smaller than what we were originally accustomed too. Packing and transporting all of our equipment from our classroom to a portable posed a tremendous challenge. One of the many issues encountered was following the strict moving and packing guidelines enforced by the district. In other words, our team had to be careful in choosing the items, materials and sources being transferred.
The future of our robotics team at Eastwood High School looked bleak. With all of the uncertainty in the future for the Eastwood Robotics Club, we hoped for the best and adapted quickly and inevitably, we not only had to worry about losing materials and space, but also our next concern was this year’s Girl Powered event. With buildings being torn down daily, we didn’t know what the future of our Girl Powered events would look like. With all the uncertainty looming, we knew one thing for certain: Girl Powered had to take place. We quickly reviewed our options for the location for the 2017 Eastwood Girl Powered conference. Renting a locale for the evening was brought up but it was unrealistic due to our club’s lack of funds.
So we were left with the final choice: use the gym which still remained in the middle of havoc. Everyone knew it would be a challenge, but we had our minds and hearts dedicated to this movement. So it began. We fund raised tirelessly for two months by selling Girl Powered shirts that our club designed, selling chocolates around school and throughout the community, and by asking local businesses for donations.
After two months, our club was able to fund raise enough money to pay for the conference’s expenses and for a Girl Powered shirt for every single girl and volunteer in our event. After countless hours of planning, our gym was finally ready for our second annual Girl Powered conference. It was another unbelievable success as over 550 girls were in attendance. Three booths were solely dedicated to teaching how to build a VEX IQ Clawbot, how to program graphical programming for VEX IQ on Robot-C, and how to drive the robots they built and programmed. The attendees also learned about this year’s VEX IQ competition and VEX VRC Challenge, how electronics circuits worked, computer science cyber security, and many other branches of STEM. In addition, we had a Hypertext Markup Language booth ran by one of our team members from 8787C.
This was the station after the photo booth, therefore we would get the pictures that we’d taken of them, and they were taught how to import pictures and embed them on to our own website. The girls learned and watched their own picture become a part of a website. In truth, they became more than a picture or part of a website– they became a voice that resonated loud and clear that gender was irrelevant. A voice that broke the stigma.
As a presenter, you became an inspiration to these 7 year old girls; they ask questions in admiration, trying to understand that girls are truly a part of STEM. They see you as a role model as they grow up; an inspiration. This is why we are Girl Powered. To make change; to become the role models we were never exposed to while growing up.
Not only do we host annual Girl Powered events to generate diversity in the STEM field, but we also participate in a wide-ranging variety of events throughout our community to raise awareness of this prevalent problem and to expose kids to the different aspects of the STEM field. We start off the year by hosting our annual robotics summer camp for incoming freshmen and middle schoolers. For an entire 2 weeks the students build and learn to program their own VEX IQ robots in order to compete against each other in the VEX game on the last day. Throughout the rest of the year Eastwood Robotics engages with our feeder schools, our school District’s main location, and local companies such as TecH20 Center. At these events, we elaborate on Electronics Breadboard circuits, 3D printed figures we design, model rockets, computer programming, and cyber security as well as our own VEX Robots and many more aspects of STEM. We inform these kids of anything we can to engage them in STEM. Making them comfortable in this revolutionizing field is something we can have an impact on, therefore we try to give them the best experience we can.
Girl Powered represents who we are as a team in all aspects. It represents strength, voice and desire to be better. Ambition.