Getting a good education and having success is all about choices and everyone would agree that the all-girls robotics team from Pittsburgh, popularly known as FIRST Team 3504, The Girls of Steel Robotics has certainly made the right choice in becoming future experts and scientists in the field of robotics. The team was founded in 2010 and consisted initially of twenty-four girls from twelve different schools. The team is supported by the Carnegie Mellon University and Field Robotics Center with full access to the top facilities on campus.
Girls of Steel’s name and logo are well chosen. The central image of the logo is Rosie the Riveter with a robotic arm. Rosie was made during World War II to illustrate the power of women -with the slogan, “We Can Do It,” – who took over jobs in factories such as the production of munitions when the men went to war. The Team is thus about female empowerment in a field mostly dominated by men. For Elisa Ashwood, CEO of Truly Accomplished, a consulting firm for Self and Business Productivity Management, her first encounter with the Girls of Steel team was one of her “proudest moments as a woman and a mother […] walking into the robotics lab half way through the build season and seeing a lab full of young women working together for hours on metal shop, programming and electronics.” She continues, “It was so social, so smart, so clearly the future of what having a critical mass women of will bring to engineering that it made me catch my breath. It’s everything we’ve fought for in women’s rights, happening right now.”
Girls of Steel achievements have been impressive. Competing in 2010 as a rookie team under strict FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) rules that applied to all teams, it took Girls of Steel Robotics a mere six weeks to build their first robots, Crush and a minibot named Squirt, to participate in the “Logomotion” competition. This was followed by first place spots in the Rookie All-Star competitions in Pittsburgh and DC to earn the team a well deserved double qualification for the World Championships in St. Louis.
By 2011, the number of team members has increased to almost 60 girls from over 20 schools which indicated more creativity and productivity. The outcome was Watson, a basketball shooting and tracking robot which could also balance on bridges. In the 2012-2013 seasons, the team built Eve, named after the Eve character in Wall-E. She is embedded with a pneumatic system and target tracking software that enables her to shoot Frisbees and climb the rungs of pyramids. The current number of girls is 39.
Some of the awards Girls of Steel have won include the Chairman’s Award for rookies, the Engineering Inspiration Award, Website Award, Dean’s List Finalist Award, Innovation and Control Award and the Volunteer of the Year Award for their mentors. The Girls of Steel are partnering with the African-Robotics Network (AFRON), which is an online community of teachers and professors working together to inspire students in the field of robotics.
Prediction? The future looks pretty promising. With the rise in the numbers of girls joining the team and the availability of first-class facilities, it can be expected that Girls of Steel will be very successful and produce future leaders in the fields of robotics.
You can contact the Girls of Steel team at firstname.lastname@example.org