High school girls build kick-### robots | The Verge

Great article by Josh Davis on Verge!

Swear filter screws up the link, here is a working one.

Thanks! ::safety::

I’m amused that the article quotes a ChiefDelphi post.

… and the school internet filter screws up the rest.




(btw it’s been great watching the progress of the girls on the Falcon Robotics team over the years!)

I’m really disappointed that the article never mentions FIRST or FRC at all! It just says that it’s a robotics team.

Well to be fair he would have to list more than FRC if he wanted to give credit to competitions 842 competes in. I think he wanted it to be more broad in a sense that FRC or FIRST is not the only thing around.

I’d like to learn if someone from 842 pointed the author to ChiefDelphi or to particular discussions or, if in the course of doing research for the story, the author found the site and that thread on their own.

That would certainly be impressive! Would be cool to see journalists taking an actual interest to do the research on robotics, if that’s the case.

Josh Davis has known us for ten years and has seen the progress the girls have made. Most of thr girls in the “We left the boys at home thread” now have engineering degrees and point to that all girl activity as a key event in their decision to pursue engineering. Josh knows and has kept aware of their lives.

So, Josh was aware of Chief Delphi but delved into us and CD for the article.

It actually does

The girls’ team travelled to San Diego to compete in Dean Kamen’s FIRST robotics competition.

Let me preface this post by saying that I am all for girls in STEM. Our team is almost half female (12/30) and they are all valuable, contributing members of the team( I wouldn’t allow them or anyone else to remain on the team if they weren’t) . We would definitely not be the same without them and I wouldn’t trade them for anyone.
It is team policy that, in the absence of extenuating circumstances, students are allowed to choose their jobs. We have girls on our Video Production, CAD/Design, Electrical, Controls/Programming and Marketing teams. We don’t have any girls on our Fabrication team due to the simple fact that none of them was interested in it. If they had expressed an interest, they would be on the team without reservation.

With that said, I find this article disturbing. I can understand the desire to highlight achievement by girls in STEM, but I don’t agree that it should be done at the expense of the boys. Consider this:

The girls started working with a robot that the boys had initially built. Almost immediately, they solved problems that the boys couldn’t. One example: the robot wouldn’t drive straight. The boys tried to correct for this by over-steering, but it wasn’t a real solution. The girls took the robot apart, identified a problem in the drivetrain, and fixed it. Now when the robot needed to operate autonomously, it could complete its tasks without of veering off course.

A person unfamiliar with FIRST would read this and assume that the boys were simply incompetent and needed the the girls to “fix” their mistakes.
As a FIRST participant, my first thought was that the autonomous problems were encountered during competition and the boys, “fix” was the best they could do given the time constraints of a competition weekend. Did the girl’s “fix” occur under the same circumstances, or was it achieved in the relative calm of the shop between competitions? My point is, you can build people up and recognize their achievements without denigrating the work of others. If I were a male member of the team highlighted in the article, I would definitely feel like my skills and hard work had been minimized. I might even feel like I had been treated unfairly.

It is my job as a mentor to encourage, motivate and inspire ALL of my students, male or female, and create a cohesive environment where they celebrate the achievements of everyone. It is my philosophy that “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, watch closely and do later”, regardless of gender or anything else. In my opinion, in a team setting, an “us against them” mentality is toxic. Especially if the achievements of one group is framed against the failure of another.

This also stuck out to me:
They developed competition strategies without loud-mouthed boys and repaired the robot on the fly without having to defer to the strongly held opinions of the male members of the team.

Imagine the reaction if someone said, “they developed a bold competition strategy despite the timidity of the girls and made mid-competition changes despite the risk averse attitudes of the female members” .

The girls would be offended and rightly so.

The point of this whole screed is that, in my opinion, anyone who is bold enough to take on the mental, physical and emotional challenge of a FIRST season is entitled to respect. Celebrate the achievements of girls or any other under represented group at every opportunity. Just do it in a way that uplifts everyone.


With due respect, this is passing the buck. You’re foisting the burden of developing an interest in this part of STEM upon someone else. It’s not enough to let girls do what they want (although that’s certainly better than NOT letting them do what they want) – you have to encourage them to do things that every other part of society is telling them that they cannot or should not do.

It’s on us to step in and fill the gap that society creates. Simply being neutral here is not good enough. I don’t mean to go after you, specifically, since I don’t know you at all; I just see this sort of comment around here a lot and it’s frustrating. Being gender agnostic will be a laudable thing someday, but I don’t think that day is here yet and we should acknowledge that.

That sounds good in theory, but is problematic in practice. If I were to insist that certain members of the team participate in something other than their favored area while others are allowed to work on the team of their choice, I would soon find myself on the receiving end of a “favoritism” charge (this is not conjecture, it’s happened).
What would I tell a student when confronted with the situation? “You can’t do what you want like everyone around you, because you’re a girl”?
It comes down to a choice. Do I dictate how everyone participates, or do I allow them to choose. In my opinion, a more productive and harmonious environment is achieved by allowing everyone to match their interests to their contributions. This, in my opinion, allows students to develop a sense of ownership in the project, which is the real key to unlocking potential.
Not to say that I haven’t moved students around when the need arose. However, when I did there was always a clearly articulated reason for it and little room for argument that it was done for any reason other than what was good for the team. It is also understood that the younger members of the team will have less autonomy as to their designation (but not none), and earn the right to choose their specialty as they gain experience.

I would also argue that the girls on the CAD, Controls and Electrical team are as deeply embedded in STEM as anyone on the team. They are certainly cut no slack and are expected to contribute as equals. And they do.

I think it’s problematic in practice if guys on the team are uneducated in this kind of matter. When I first joined 842 as a freshmen, I thought it was a little off putting at first that girls on the team received “favoritism” because they seemed to be pushed more to leave their comfort zone and do the jobs that society has deemed they can’t do as Madison put it. At first I was a little off put at this but veteran members of the team and mentors quickly broke this mindset of mine by explaining to me challenges girls face in terms of breaking stereotypes. From there I started thinking about how my whole life, girls were constantly divided from boys in what they should play with, what they should like, and what they should be when they grow up. It’s especially bad in the area of Carl Hayden where many families have the stigma that girls should only stay at home and take care of kids. It’s an awful truth but the truth nonetheless. As I went through high school with the team, I started to realize why mentors and veteran members pushed girls more. Maybe they didn’t delve into aspects like Mechanical as fast as the guys but the closer and closer it got to senior year, the more the idea of being whatever you want to be in life became the norm. Stereotypes were broken down and is what I believe to be a key reason as to why girls on our team go on to do pretty amazing things along with guys. Don’t get me wrong too, no one on the team was forced to do anything they didn’t want to do. Things were simply highly encouraged and at the end of the day, people did their jobs because they wanted to do it.

As far as your first point though about degrading the guys in the article, perhaps the wording of that could be better but as a guy who was on the team for four years, I was taught extensively that the only validation you need is from yourself so the article doesn’t bother me at all. I know I worked hard and dedicated my life to the team and don’t really need anyone to validate that for me. I also understand why articles like these need to exist and why stories like these need to get out. Like Madison said we can’t just pretend these problems don’t exist. Of course every area in the country and the world are different and these problems may not even exist at all in some of these areas, but for many others they do. Just my thoughts and of course people have different experiences and thoughts.

Are we missing the HUGE part of the story here of “Girls can also build kick ### Robots!” The journalist re-writing his story of “The Carl Hayden High School Robotics History” concerning former & current female team members in Robotics (if only a minor part of their particular entire CHHS history), and he the author, will certainly use his own words in writing said story…He chose to show, that given the chance, young ladies of High School age, can and will “if invited to participate,” or / and “even if pushed outside” of their normal comfort zones initially, will sometimes, can & do often, go on to an area of career path & further education, that personally may not have normally interested them initially. But, do to the path taken or directed to, may just become interested in STEM & Further Education and going on to related careers like Engineering, and the like.

We can easily judge later how that all came about…It just shows only “one GREAT JOB DONE & very successful path taken by mentors and students alike”…Please don’t armchair judge the nuances of the particular path later (or part out the words a non-directly involved author uses to relate the story)…It was an idea that worked. Enjoy the successful idea, implement what worked for them, that you think will work for your team, dump the rest…Enjoy the mission they took on and completed, and the path taken…“Getting Girls Also Involved in the Building of Robots!..And many of them going on to careers in STEM RELATED INDUSTRY & EDUCATIONS!”

The article wasn’t aimed at diminishing the male robotics team members…It celebrated the involvement of the female team members, and some amazingly GREAT RESULTS to those involved females, to STEM, and our society as a whole.

Our team is a mixed community team, and when I see a new female team member (sometimes even some of the male members), that I didn’t quite expect to get involved (from short pre-season observations only), in actually fabricating hard parts, and building the new robot(s), who is right after kickoff, running a lathe or a mill, or wiring up an electronics board, or the like.

I just smile and think…There may be, a future engineer or inventor, in just a few short years. (Out of the normal comfort zone is exactly where we should be pushing each student, male or female, at least once…They just may discover something deep within themselves, that they never even knew existed).

My first thought is they should be wearing safety glasses & tie their hair back. :slight_smile: ::rtm::

The method we have found to work is to require that all team members receive training in all available fields, and then choose what they want to do. We have found that more people will choose to go into the fabrication areas of the team after receiving training than before, because it seems less intimidating. These results occur with most members of the team, regardless of gender.