BY ANNA MARIA VITERISI
The B-Town Girl-Bots, a robotics club made up of fifth- and sixth-grade Girl Scouts from Clear Creek and University elementary schools, “kicked butt” at a statewide robot-building contest in Fort Wayne, finishing second out of a 222-team field made up mostly of boys.
For the 2013 FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Indiana Championship Tournament, the 10-girl team built a robot designed to respond to flash floods. Inspired by the tournament’s theme of “Nature’s Fury,” the Girl-Bots designed a Lego robot to serve as an underwater emergency car kit including an inflatable vest and a seatbelt-cutting and glass-breaking instrument for easy escape.
“Working with the robot took the stigma away — the idea that technology is just for boys,” says Carlene Quinn, the troop’s leader and an instructor in the Indiana University School of Social Work.
The competition was the Girl-Bots’ third FLL experience, and their second time to advance to the state competition. In their first year, they were the only all-girl team to enter. At the most recent competition, girls’ participation had increased significantly on both mixed gender and all-girl teams.
“The increase was noteworthy enough that the announcer said, ‘Boys, pay attention, these girls are showing you they don’t need boys to get it done,’” Quinn recalls.
Quinn emphasizes that the experience is about more than playing with Legos. By participating in a large-scale competition, she says, the program encourages her Scouts to seek innovative possibilities and grow more confident. It also has enabled her to recruit new girls to the troop because of their interest in robotics. The Girl Scouts of the USA as a whole has prioritized science, technology, engineering, and mathematics projects.
Says 11-year-old Girl-Bot Madison Oldham, “Technology shouldn’t only be a boy’s thing. Nothing should only be a boy’s thing.”