(1/2) Diversity in STEAM Ft. FTC Team Infinity & Beyond

In early September, The STEAM Connection was honored to do a showcase at the first annual Goonettes Invitational put on by FIRST Robotics Competition Team Goon Squad from Woodhaven, MI. We held a Design Lab complete with the SOLIDWORKS App for Kids, Every Kid Gets a Robot, our The STEAM Connection book series, 3D prints, and more. It was so awesome to see the engagement from all of the children who came and to be in the Hands-On Hallway alongside remarkable organizations such as the Association for Computing Machinery of Women of Wayne State University.

Me, Danielle Boyer at the Goonettes Invitational

All of the photos taken in this blog post were taken and edited by Bollu|Boyer Photography.

Now there was something special about this robotics invitational (an off-season FIRST robotics competition that you have to get invited to), it was an all-girls competition. That meant that most of the organizations in the Hands-On Hallway were female-run organizations, that the majority of the lead volunteers on the field were female, and that girls were competing with their team's robots.

When I was a high school student, the erasure at competitions as a woman/girl was a real and constant struggle. This struggle doesn't dissipate as you get older, either. I was on two different FIRST robotics teams in high school and didn't completely fit into either well as often one of the only girls in a room. To have an all-girls competition means that you're not going to get stepped on as much or told something insane like "you seem too girly to be an engineer." Crazy, right? This is what many female engineers hear every single day (and often much worse). The self-doubt that comes from being in a male-dominated world is a troubling one, and one that events like these strive to begin to fix through accessibility to events where girls can be their brilliant selves unapologetically.

I also had the honor of involving students from middle school all-girls FIRST Tech Challenge Team Infinity and Beyond in Troy, MI at the event to interview attendees on why diversity in STEAM is vital for a forward-thinking future. The six girls who came are beyond brilliant and are exactly the type of girls I want to see killin' it in STEAM. It was really refreshing to hear the perspectives of mentors and students alike on why STEAM is so important, and I am so thankful that the girls did these excellent interviews!

Separated into teams of three, Akshara, Vinaya, and Akshaya went first. Here are the results of their compiled interviews:

Interview One: Brandon Queen

Brandon is a mentor on FRC Team Goon Squad as their Drive Coach. He is also a huge supporter of The STEAM Connection and is the one who organized our participation in this event. Beyond that, he also volunteered to help us out at the Detroit Maker Faire this summer for our Every Kid Gets a Robot workshop.

What do you do?

"I am the Chairman of the Goonettes Invitational, having planned the event and ensured its success alongside FRC Team Goon Squad. I am also a Sales and Accountant Management Intern at Bosch while also studying at the University of Michigan Dearborn/"

What is your favorite part of robotics? "I love to design and build. I am more of a business person, but I love challenging myself with design."

Why is it important to foster women and minorities in STEAM careers?

"There is a gender gap, with way more boys than girls in Robotics and there aren't enough opportunities for women. This needs to change."

Why is STEAM important to you?

"STEAM helps drive the future."

How did you get introduced in robotics?

"My friend, Austin, dragged me into a meeting. Slowly, I got more interested and eventually joined a team."

What changes do you hope occurs over the next 5 years?

“I hope there are more events like this one.”

Anything you would like to share with our readers?

“If women and minorities break through in the industry, it will force everyone to work harder. Improvement is key.”

Interview 2: Maliha, Hafsa, and Saloni

These three girls are from the Association for Computing Machinery of Women of Wayne State University and are all STEM majors! Their club teaches students about coding and technology, and they brought a robot that was chemically engineered with them too.

(Left to right) Saloni, Hafsa, and Maliha

How did you get started in STEAM?

Maliha: "I started off in web design in high school and now am pursuing programming at Wayne State University."

Saloni: "STEAM is important to me because I am a mathematics and chemistry e-car student. After joining robotics in high school, I learned ACM and Java, and it pushed forward my interest in STEAM."

Why is diversity in STEAM important?

Saloni: "It is important because there are not that many women in STEAM fields and we are trying to change that here at the ACM."

What changes do you hope occurs over the next 5 years in STEAM?

Maliha: "I want to see more people join STEAM oriented programs and continue to expand their learning in STEAM to pursue even brighter futures."

Saloni: "We want to see more women in STEAM fields."

Anything you would like to share with our readers?

Hafsa: "It sounds cliche, but follow your dreams and pursue what is best for you!"

Saloni: "Never give up, be involved in clubs at an early age to gain confidence, like what you girls are doing here."

Their robot runs off of chemicals, created for a competition and now being used for a showcase.

Interview 3: Anonymous from FRC Team 3538 RoboJackets

Competing at the Goonettes Invitational. This is her 3rd year with the team.

Why are all-girls events like these important for women in STEAM?

"Events like these show people, that they are capable of anything, even if they are told they are not. Usually, the guys take over, so these all-girls events give girls a chance to shine. It also allows girls to step out of their comfort zones."

Anything you would like to share with our readers? 

“Teamwork makes the dreamwork”

Interview 4: Katie Mueller & Elyse Zurawski from Team 1481 The Riveters 

Competing at the Goonettes Invitational. Both of them have been on the team for four years. They are design leads, which usually consists of CAD (Computer-Aided Design) and working on different parts of the robot.

Why is STEAM important to you?

Katie: “It is what I’m passionate about."

Why are all-girls events like these important for women in STEAM? 

Katie: “There is no reason girls can’t be in the same position guys are."

Anything you would like to share with our readers? 

“‘You are the architect of your future’” - Katie states from her mentors.

Elyse: "We can do it! We can make the change we want to see!"

"Some tips Elyse listed was to stay true to yourself and to remember that your team is a brand and an image. The girls also gave a tip on building your robot, that tip was to focus on different portions. While one part of the team works on one part, the other works on another part." - Akshaya and her interview notes. According to Vinaya and her interview notes, Katie added "GIRL POWER!" at the end of the interview. Given our blog topic, this is the best way to end an interview ever!

Interview 5: Kim Galea 

FIRST Mentor and Coach (FRC 3175, FTC 7140). In her 11th year with FIRST. A chemistry teacher at Liggett high school and mother of our avid volunteer, Anthony Galea, here at The STEAM Connection.

Why is STEAM important to you?

"Without STEAM, there is not that much of a future. We have to learn about STEAM and teach about STEAM. Getting girls more involved will help build our future."

What do you do?

"I used to teach math and an engineering class. Now I teach chemistry."

Why are all-girls events like these important for women in STEAM?

"More girls will keep their interests demonstrated while they were younger if they have experiences in STEAM."

Anything you'd like to share with our readers?

"Keep it fun! Don't be too serious about competition and use it as a learning experience."

Stay tuned for part two to hear the second group of girls interviews.

Coming up this weekend, I will be at the Science Communicators Camp in Los Angeles to network and to learn more about the art of science communication and education. I was one of four people to get a scholarship to the camp, which I am endlessly appreciative of. I can't wait to participate! Stay tuned for a blog post on that! Special thanks to Eric Beatty and the SOLIDWORKS User Group Network for the reference and suggestion to attend the conference.


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