Thanks to the SES sponsorship of the YWCA Princeton Robotics program, for the second consecutive year, the world of creation and invention has expanded even further for the YWCA Princeton’s all-girls competitive robotics teams.
On Thursday, June 14, the two YWCA Princeton all-girls competitive robotics teams – Robotics Rockettes and Prototype G – visited the SES facility in Princeton to demonstrate their work, and tour the SES premises.
“SES admires the girls in the program at two levels: 1) what they are creating in terms of engineering and technology and 2) the professional nature in which they handle themselves in public. It’s clear that the YWCA’s commitment, the wonderful mentoring and coaching provided to the girls, and the hard work invested by these young robotics rock stars is creating something quite special. We have no doubt that these impressive cohorts and individuals will not only design and construct robots that win awards, but, more importantly these girls will improve the world,” said Douglas N. Clayton, Senior Vice President at SES
In today’s technologically advanced world, with new inventions and discoveries being made every day, access to these advances is still restricted for young girls, especially those of color. Dr. Cheryl Rowe-Rendleman, YWCA Princeton Board President remarked, “STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) engagement programs such as those at YWCA Princeton, do more than provide access and opportunity for robotics for these young girls – they also help shape their self-confidence, mastery over complex concepts and empower them to reach out to their peers to cultivate similar passions as theirs.”
The girls’ passion for STEM and robotics was evident in the way they spoke about their teams and the season they’ve had. In the inaugural year of the scholarship, Prototype G won the Connect Award, 3rd place for the Inspire Award, the Think Award twice, the Captain Alliance at the 1st and 4th seed, and were Finalist Alliance multiple times. Prototype G has also been invited by other teams to mentor them in theoretical programming and the creation of the engineering notebooks, and also to mentor a FIRST Global Team.
For both 2017 and 2018 league tournaments, the Robotic Rockettes were nominated for the Connect and Think awards, won the Motivate award and 2nd place for the Inspire Award; and for the 2017 and 2018 State tournaments were nominated for the Connect Award.*
As the success of the all-girls robotics teams grow, it has also attracted negativity in forms of online bullying and intimidation from their male peers. After her code ran into issues at a competition, a fellow competitor remarked to Aparna Rajesh, the captain of Prototype G, “You’re a trash coder…This is why we can’t have girls in FTC.” There were many other instances like these, and the remarks got worse.
With a maturity that is rare for someone so young, Aparna said that such negativity only pushed her to channel it into something positive. She started writing about her experiences and her robotics journey in a Girls in STEM blog, which has thus far garnered the support of more girls like her who have faced similar pushback from their male peers while pursuing their interests. In her latest blog she writes, “Although these are merely small acts of sexism, and are nothing like the growing number of cases of women being sexually harassed in the workplace, it must be addressed. We must extinguish even the smallest of flames as they always have the potential to grow into large, uncontrollable fires.” We couldn’t have said it better!
YWCA Princeton Robotics Programs aren’t just about robotics – one of the truly striking things about this program is how it has empowered young girls to share their skills with their peers and encourage them to pursue STEM and robotics. Says Anjali Dhayagude, captain of the Robotic Rockettes, “The most rewarding aspect of FIRST robotics is the fact that it covers so much more than just the technical side of robotics. It emphasizes on reaching out to your communities and helping others be able to succeed as well. It also forces you to think creatively and develop more skills during the process, like documentation, CADing, and fundraising.”
After their presentation to the SES scientists and management, the girls had the opportunity to go explore SES’ satellite operations with some of their scientists, and learned about how satellites are launched and controlled from the ground. The day ended with a discussion with the women leaders at SES, who spoke candidly to the girls about how they have managed to combine their passions and expertise to have strong careers in male-dominated industries. After all, empowered women, empower women.
“We are thrilled to receive this SES scholarship that will continue to help these inspiring young girls expand horizons and shatter glass ceilings. Robotics has not only helped them not only build an interest in STEM, but also empowered them to positively impact the world they live in by sharing their passion with others”, said Judy Hutton, CEO of YWCA Princeton.
Learn more about YWCA Princeton Robotics Program, please visit: www.ywcaprinceton.org/robotics.
Follow the Robotic Rockettes here: https://twitter.com/roboticrockette
Follow Prototype G here: https://twitter.com/prototypegftc
* The Connect Award is awarded to the team that best bridges the gap between the local community and the FIRST family, the Inspire Award is awarded to the 3 teams who best display every element of FIRST, the Think Award is awarded to the team who best documents the engineering process in their engineering notebook, and the Captain Alliance is a ranking of teams that are able to pick their partners for the Playoff tournament.