Tuesday, February 20, 2018

R2-D2 Would Be Proud: Girl Scouts Triumph in the Largest Robotics Program Ever

The Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council (GSSJC) has just finished an unforgettable season of robotics competitions. To tell the council’s story, Kelli Cavenah, Girl Scout Leadership Experience manager, shares some background, reactions from participating Girl Scouts, and how the program has worked at the council.

As GSSJC finishes the first decade of our robotics program, the future looks bright! This year, we have doubled our competition teams and continued to revitalize a monthly noncompetitive group. We’re lucky to be able to run the program through generous assistance from corporate supporters, including Anadarko Petroleum, Motorola Solutions Foundation, and Schneider Electric. Our sponsors, along with a dedicated and passionate volunteer corps, allow us to make a lasting difference in the lives of hundreds of girls who participate in one of GSSJC’s robotics programs.

“I learned about programming and building a robot to do different things, learned about teamwork, and how to work well in a group.” 

—Lizzie from FLL team Hydro Puppies

To begin the year, we invited teams to develop their own names, and did they jump at the chance —from the Gear Girls to the Hydro Puppies, the names truly reflect girls’ personalities and strengths.

“The ’Fe’ in Fe-Males stands for [the Periodic Table element for] iron, because we are a strong team,” says team member Kaylyn. Her teammate Jordyn adds, “We are stronger than Iron Man, the superhero of robotics.”

Other teams put equal thought into their names. Katie, a member of Bling Bots, shares how her team conceived its name: “The bling part of our name is girly, and bots represents robots. Our name tells people that robotics isn’t just for boys.”

“We’re all very smart,” says Laura of her team, the Brainiac Maniacs. In addition to inventing creative names, the girls design team shirts to represent their squad spirit.

With teams competing in FIRST Lego League Jr. (FLL, Jr.), FIRST Lego League (FLL), and FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), GSSJC’s goal is to facilitate opportunities through which a girl can become a true G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™. Throughout this robotics competition season, we’ve seen teams power through challenges and develop skills in each of the G.I.R.L. areas.

“My coach encourages me to find my voice and share my thoughts, not just at robotics [events], but all the time.” 

—Katie from FLL Jr. team Gear Girls

This year, the themes for FLL, Jr. and FLL were water-based (Aqua Adventure and Hydro Dynamics), which proved to be difficult for many teams affected by flooding in our area from Hurricane Harvey. Unsurprising to anyone who knows a Girl Scout, our girls rose to the challenge and showed leadership skills while they guided fellow Girl Scouts and team members through the challenging weeks following the hurricane. The skills the girls have gained in innovation, leadership, coding, engineering, and beyond have translated to tangible changes for the girls, who have learned a great deal over the course of the season.

To add to our amazing season, the Brainiac Maniacs FLL team fulfilled the FIRST Core Values (discovery, teamwork, and gracious professionalism) so fully that, combined with optimal performance in robot design and the group’s project, the team received the Champion’s Award at the Southeast Texas Regional Championship and a bid to attend the World Championship. This is a fitting achievement for the tenth year of our program, and we could not be more proud of how the girls’ work has paid off.

Every year, we’re amazed and humbled by the outstanding girls who participate in our program, as well as the everlasting dedication and support of our robotics volunteers—and the 2017–18 year was no exception!

“Being a Girl Scout inspires me to strive for the best, find resolutions to problems, and help others.” 
—Stephany from FTC team Robois

GSUSA is thankful to Motorola Solutions Foundation for their leadership in supporting girl-centered programming through FIRST.