Chica in Tech

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I’ve always been the “oddball” or the one that doesn’t care to follow stereotypes that are often seen as representation of “a girl.”  I was a great soccer player and I enjoyed being the only girl on the team. The only Barbie doll I ever owned was a soccer player Barbie, which accompanied me to every soccer game. Over the years I have not been afraid to mingle with the boys, be it in sports, Robotics, AP Computer Science, Principles of Engineering, AP Physics, and other classes and activities. My school, Harmony Science Academy, focuses on STEM related classes and activities. Harmony Science Academy has various teams for Robotics, Science Olympiad, UIL academics competitions and many more. Our most notable competition is our Robotics program.

Robotics

I still remember when the robotics program, the First Lego League, started during my 7th grade year. The First Lego League robotics program consists of project presentations and completing missions based on a theme with your very own Lego robot. That year there were enough students for two teams. I was chosen to be a part of the red team, which had the most “veterans” from the previous year.  I was chosen to be on the presentation part of team and took part in planning a visual presentation of our project, like a thorough power point, a board, a movie, etc. The presentation aspect of the team seemed extremely boring to me and I would often find a good time to sneak off and head over to where the actual building and planning of our robot took place. Alex Arreola, one of the veteran team members and team captain, would let me stick around and watch instead of shooing me away back to the presentation team. Alex would also show me little tricks here and there about how the robot worked. That year both our teams won trophies, though I don’t recall in what category.

After our success, word got out about our neat robotics program. During my 8th grade year, more and more students signed up. Five teams, about twelve students each, were created! To my surprise I was chosen to lead my own team that was named Robotigers Omega. I was the team captain and I let my teammates choose whatever position they wanted to take. It actually all worked out everyone was happy, and to my relief not many chose the robot building part of the team. That year’s theme was named “Climate Control” and I had my own plans for our robot.  Everything was related to staying green and using alternate energy to take care of the environment. The presentation team did exceptional at their job. I appointed Zoey and Laura, the other girls in my team, as captains, and they were amazing leaders. It was all really well thought out (the presentation), all thanks to Zoey, and Laura (GIRL POWER!). I on the other hand ate, slept and breathed robot building and programming. I even asked my grandpa to create a replica tournament table so I could accurately program the robot even when our practice sessions were done.

Competition Time

Then competition time came and we left for Albuquerque, New Mexico. We received our schedule and prepped for our first event: the presentation. We were hyped when we came out from our presentation session. The judges loved our video and presentation. We even went over our presentation time limit without getting kicked out, which happened to two of our other teams. Our first robot run came up and Bowser did great. We collected 90 points and were top 10 for the first round. When our second round came, just before lunch, disaster struck. Bowser completely messed up and all we managed were 25 points, and our rank went down. We were devastated. After the second round everyone headed for lunch. I grabbed Bowser and the nearest laptop and headed to the practice tables. I ran Bowser again and again, and reprogrammed him. A volunteer judge came unannounced and observed me.I kept working on Bowser and even forgot about her after a while. After tweaking a few things on the program, I decided to stop and charge the battery.When I looked up from the table I noticed two more judges observing.I smiled at them, packed up Bowser and the laptop and headed back to my team’s pit (headquarters). I felt an intense adrenaline, but was still nervous and jittery.

We performed great and received 105 points, putting us back in the top 10.

We wound up being selected as one of the finalists for the “teamwork” exercise we had earlier. A Lego Building professional, who helped design the missions and mission mats for the competition, met us.He told us he had heard we were an exceptional team, and that he had wanted to see for himself.He assigned us a new task of building a sturdy super high tower (with LEGOS). We ended up with a 4 ft tower, very sturdy too.The key here was to let everyone participate and my team all knew it very well.The man was impressed and said that it was the tallest tower so far.We thanked him and he thanked us, and we headed back to our pit. It was almost time for the “playoff” matches. We definitely qualified and were excited!

DISASTER HITS, AGAIN! We were immediately eliminated in the first round, one of the objects on the mat decided to fall and mess Bowser’s path up, leading to 40 points, but not enough to continue. It was fun while it lasted.

Eventually it was time for the awards. I didn’t even know who had won the “playoff” matches, and honestly I was too devastated to care. I looked around at my team we were all disappointed.“We still have one award left ladies and gentlemen!” the announcer boomed. “This year we have a new award.The All-Around Champions Award!” Everyone cheered.“The New Mexico Qualifier All around Champions Award will go to….”He turned to look straight at me as he started saying our team number.“Robotigers Omega!”

All thanks to the ladies, Laura and Zoey and their excellent team leadership, our hard work paid off. After the competition, our school’s robotics program took off, landing us various bids to attend world championships, and sponsors.

So there it is, a first account of girls handling tech. It is very possible, all that is needed is hard work and dedication!

 

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