Why Your Daughter Should Be Part of a Robotics Team

It’s no surprise that girls thrive when they’re part of a robotics team. The extremely popular FIRST Robotics program appeals to girls not only for the robotics and engineering experience gained but because it allows them to work in a team-oriented environment. Having worked with many engineers over the years, I am keenly aware of the low number of women engineers in the U.S. and wholeheartedly support efforts to get more women involved in engineering. The FIRST program is a great entry point for girls who are interested in exploring robotics and engineering.

When I learned that an all-girls robotics team at Lexington High School in Massachusetts had been created last year, I couldn’t wait to find out how the team, The Parity Bits, came to be. I had the opportunity to speak with the team captains, Naomi Wharton and Madison Wong, and hear about their experience on an all-girls rookie team. Both girls have had such positive experiences, on the co-ed team and the all-girls team, that I wanted to share the benefits of being part of a robotics team.

The Parity Bits

The Parity Bits

No robotics experience necessary!

Having prior robotics or engineering experience is not required to participate on a team.  This is an important point to know and to share with your daughter since many students assume it is a requirement. If your daughter has an interest in robotics and a desire to learn, then she’s ready to join a team and try something new.

How girls benefit from being part of a robotics team

Being part of the robotics team for Lexington High School has been a tremendous experience for both captains. Madison Wong joined the team because she was impressed with the robot a female captain demonstrated at an activities fair. Naomi Wharton joined Lexington’s co-ed team because she had taken C++ programming classes sophomore year and was interested in learning about engineering as an application of computer science.

Naomi Wharton, co-captain of The Parity Bits

Naomi Wharton, co-captain of The Parity Bits

Both girls gained an enormous number of skills by participating in their school’s FIRST robotics program, including problem solving and design skills, as well as leadership, organization, communication, and time management experience. They liked being part of a group of people who were enthusiastic about robots.

Madison explained that this experience helped prepare her for college. She said, “Not only have I gained knowledge about building a robot, but my experience has taught me about interacting with people and how to lead a team. I also learned what to expect when going into the engineering field and how important it is to have female connections.”

Why start an all-girls team?

Both captains made it clear that no prior experience was necessary but they acknowledged that joining a well-established, co-ed team was intimidating at first. The team was quite large, with 60 members, and only nine members were girls.

Naomi explained that while the co-ed team was a great community, the girls at their school simply were not joining because of the male-dominated environment– even if they were interested in robotics. She shared that “the goal of launching an all-girls robotics team was to create a setting where girls felt encouraged to not only learn about robotics, engineering, and technology, but also to explore, experiment, fail, try again, and to ultimately succeed.”

Madison Wong, co-captain of The Parity Bits

Madison Wong, co-captain of The Parity Bits

Madison also added that “they wanted the team to be a place where girls didn’t feel intimidated to learn about engineering and could explore something they may know nothing about in a more humble environment.”

Both captains liked being part of an all-girls team and were impressed by the number of girls who were inspired and excited to get involved in this new team.

Since the majority of members had never been on a robotics team before, they spent the first few months learning to work with TETRIX, the structural pieces for building robots, and ROBOTC, a robotics programming language. This involved a lot of experimentation- to learn what worked and what didn’t. Naomi said, “Throughout the year, it was wonderful to set our own expectations for our progress throughout the season, and we were thrilled to reach and surpass the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year.”

Joining a team

To find a team, start with your high school and inquire whether they have a robotics or engineering team. You can often find information on the activities page of the school’s website or by speaking with the technology and engineering teachers.

The Parity Bit's Robot

The Parity Bit’s Robot

You can also head over to FIRST’s teams and events pages to search for programs in your area. If you don’t see one, you can learn about starting a team here.

If your daughter is interested in robotics, being part of a high school team is a great way to get engineering experience in a team-supportive environment. While the idea of joining a robotics team can be daunting at first, keep in mind that having prior robotics experience is not necessary. The important thing is to be curious and be open to trying something new and learning along the way.

Finally, hats off to the young women of The Parity Bits team for having the vision and understanding to create a nurturing environment for girls and for taking the initiative to make it happen. You really are an inspiration!

9 thoughts on “Why Your Daughter Should Be Part of a Robotics Team

  1. Donna

    I started an all girl FIRST Lego League team (for agest 8-14) more than 6 years ago. The original team members are now in high school, but we have new girls on the team each year. I’m not an engineer, but wanted to create a safe and fun space for girls to discover, learn, fail, and discover some more. It’s been great! https://www.facebook.com/Lollibots

  2. Linda

    Great article. As a mother of two girls, both of which have been on a robotics team. I think it is important to spread the word about robotics to young girls. My oldest was the only girl on her team her sophomore year. She is currently an Electrical engineering major. Being on the robotics team was a great experience for her, especially since she is going into a male dominated field. I encourage all the parents out there to encourage their children (especially their daughter’s ) to join a team. Parents themselves will also love the competitions. I look forward to them.

  3. Angela

    My daughter was part of a robotics program through middle school and never once touched the Mindstorm. However, she thrived with the research and problem component of the challenge. She gained so much confidnece seeking out community partners to present to, use as resources, and helping to organize the team behind the presentation and research. She is now a senior and a nationally ranked debater and extemp speaker. I really believe her three years in robotics helped her gain the confidence necessary to achieve at the levels she is now. I think the STEM component is important but the soft skills gained are not to be trifled with. Many thought she was marginalized initially because she was the only girl on the team her first year but that simply was not the case. She found her where her passions lied in FIRST and ran with it.

    I was a part of that program for six years and we went from my daughter being the only girl her first year to the robotics club being over 50% girls in a group of 70.

  4. Kylee

    Such a great article! I was a founding member, Safety Captain, Pit Manager, a build team leader, and eventually Captain of my FIRST team. It changed my life in such a positive way. I’m getting a PhD in STEM (Chemistry) because of the love of problem solving I gained from my 3 years in FIRST. Good luck to those ladies!

  5. Robyn

    Inspirational! Naomi and Madison show great strength in moving to start an all-girls team. They already know FIRST is a life changing organization that shows kids of all skill levels and backgrounds that they can do great things they may have previously thought impossible. Encouraging girls to take an active role in the design, build and execution of the robotics challenge opens their eyes to the practical side of what they are learning in the classroom and to a field of study where their skills and ideas are needed. The focus of FIRST on presenting to judges, news media and competition visitors empowers student participants and gives them valuable skills they can take with them throughout life. My daughter was part of an all-girl’s team (eventually went co-ed) throughout her high school years and has continued to reap the benefits of that experience. She is a computer science major who is grateful to FIRST, the professional mentors of the team (it was not a team affiliated with a school) and her high school computer science teacher who challenged and inspired her. Go Naomi, Madison and all the great kids who are part of FIRST! You will someday change our world for the better!

  6. Nadia

    Great article young ladies. I am an engineer by trade. I started a Robotics Club in our local community about a year ago and it has been amazing. Just seeing how you young girls took the initiative of creating your own all girls team is amazing. Through my years of schooling and working in the engineering field there is very little support for females. I think by sticking together, encouraging each other, and spreading the word of the great opportunities engineering has to offer will be beneficial to many females. So keep up the good work. The sky is the limit in all your future endeavors!!

  7. Katie Manno

    I am going to be starting a Robotics team in the fall with my girl scout troop. Would anyone have any suggestions for me as I start this??

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