A week ago, I sat down with the Techno Chix, via Skype, to talk to them about their team’s accomplishments. Team members Tara, Emilia, Sarita, Sim, Elanagh, and Sarah shared an hour with me explaining how they got involved, how their robots work, the process they go through to build a successful robot, and how much they love competing against and meeting other teams.
After a full year of planning, programming, writing code using Java and Android Studio, and building their prototype (nicknamed “Goldilocks”), the Techno Chix advanced all the way to World Competition. Earlier this summer they traveled to St Lewis to take on 130 other teams from around the world – including India, Jamaica, and the Netherlands. They finished ranked 20th in the World.
How was the event? “AMAZING!” is the unanimous reply. “The best part is meeting people from everywhere”, says Sim. The teams each set up their own station – showcasing their team spirit and, often, their country’s culture. Everyone exchanges SWAPS and shares their experiences.
To advance to this level, they had first won the Qualifying round (Westchester), Regionals (Hudson Valley and Albany), and Super Regionals (North East United States).
So how does it work?
- In September they’re given a challenge. (This year’s will be released on September 9th). The challenge, always announced by video, will give them the year’s theme and tasks they need to complete.
- Brainstorm and strategize. They work together to figure out the mechanisms and parts. The girls keep track of everything in a notebook which they often use to reference past projects and track changes to the current robot.
- Local Competition. It’s 2 teams versus 2 teams, with different partners each match, so you have to be collaborative. “You’re in a competitive environment, but show compassion”, suggests Sim. The team you’re competing against in round 1 may be your teammates in round 2. “It encourages working together and forming bonds with other teams,” explains Elanagh.
- Back to the drawing board. After each competition there is time to make adjustments and changes to the robot itself as well as the programming. “One of the big advantages is that we go to a lot of challenges staggered throughout the season, so if we see something we like, we can go back and improve,” says Emilia.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4. At competition the teams are judged on performance and ability to complete the task, innovation, their notebooks, and how well they work with other teams. The top award is the “Inspire” Award which means you’ve excelled in all areas. Winning the Inspire Award guarantees your team’s advancement to the next level of competition.
More than Robots:
“It’s so much more than robots” the girls tell me multiple times throughout our conversation. “It’s about marketing, outreach, buisness, public speaking, fund raising, socail media… these are all important things we’re learning and practicing that have nothing to do with robots”, says Elanagh. “Robots are just the medium FIRST uses to teach all the other skills,” adds Emilia. “The real goal is to prep you for the real world. Robots are just used to bring us together,” finishes Elanagh.
The Techno Chix are also active with community outreach – bringing knowledge and hands-on activities to Girl Scouts, kids in STEM, and other members of the community. They recently held a robot demo at a STEAM expo at Westlake High School, and traveled to the Intrepid for a program run by NASA to give a demo and talk about what they do as a team.
Looking beyond high school, the girls agree it’s opened up a lot of options for them. “I’ve always been interested in engineering because my parents are architects. Actually being able to build something has reinforced that idea”, says Sarita.
Emelia, who is now in her first year at NYU, adds, “Techno Chix helped me find my career path. When I joined as a sophomore, I was confused and didn’t know what I wanted to do. Now I’m pursuing Computer Science. It gave me a good feel for it, and a lot of hands-on experience.”
Progression by Age:
While the Techno Chix is just for 9th – 12th grade Girl Scouts, Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson also hosts an elementary school and middle school aged team for Girl Scouts who want a safe place to try robotics with their peers. “It’s a supportive environment, so you’re comfortable asking questions if you don’t know something. It’s great for learning,” says Sarita.
The elementary aged team works with projects and models, while the middle school team build Lego robots with kits. They’re given themes like “natural disasters” and have to work together to solve problems. The idea is progression and continuous learning, but the girls are sure to point out that you can join at any age. While some of them have been competing for years, some only joined last year.
Join them. Follow them. Support them.
The Techno Chix are a high -school aged Girl Scout robotics team that meets officially on Saturdays (although they tend to meet additional times during the week as well) in Pleasantville. If interested in finding out more info, or joining the team, email firstname.lastname@example.org. You won’t regret it. Elanagh shares, “These are friendships that mean more than anything. They’re like my sisters.”
You can also follow them on Social Media: