People – Girl Power

Industry Supplier Helps All-Girl Robotics Team Compete In China

Green GirlsAn all-girl robotics team competed in China, and an industry supplier helped them get there.

It’s no secret that American students lag behind many of their foreign counterparts in math and science literacy. The Pew Research Center recently reported the findings of global scores on the Program for International Student Assessment. Students in Singapore, the highest scoring country in the Mathematics section, scored an average of 573, while American students came in at 481, ranking 35th of 64 countries.

In an effort to encourage deeper concentration on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields in the United States, the Obama administration has recently infused billions of dollars into a number of nationwide initiatives aimed at training additional instructors, developing comprehensive curriculums and establishing STEM programs in schools.

But sometimes, it only takes a small group with big ambitions to make a difference, and that’s just what one group of Midwestern girls has set out to do.

Green Girls Robotics from Eagan, MN, is a year-round competitive robotics team made up of seven ninth grade girls who first came together five years ago to design, program and build robots for competition. Today, they continue to compete and offer community outreach, including monthly STEM instruction for kids with disabilities, and they make appearances at local community events (dressed in green, of course) to raise awareness of robotics.

Recently, they brought their robot named “Guy” to the MN State FIRST Tech Challenge Championships and showed the judges what it could do. They ended up bringing home the event’s Think Award and the third-place Inspire Award. Their solid engineering and programming skills certainly haven’t gone unnoticed; they’ve recently fielded internship offers from technology companies, despite their young age.

After several years of doing well at regional and state competitions, as well as encouraging the formation of several other area robotics groups, the Green Girls were invited to compete in China this November. To raise support for their cause, they appeared on the local Fox affiliate TV station out of Minneapolis in the months before the trip and spoke about their winning record and their expectations for competing abroad.

By chance, a co-owner of supplier firm Halls & Company (asi/59080) in nearby Brooklyn Park, MN, saw the broadcast, and recognized an opportunity both to support local girls in their STEM efforts and to help them make their trip overseas. So, company management offered to support the team’s efforts with branded items, as well as cash donations for their upcoming trip to China.

“At our manufacturing facility, almost everything is connected to a computer,” says Colin Johnson, social media manager. “Knowledge of how software and equipment work together is extremely important to our future. We’re a manufacturing company established by a woman, so the sponsorship makes the need to get more women involved in this satisfying career path more apparent.”

Johnson says he expects the relationship between Halls & Company and the Green Girls to stay strong for the coming years as they continue competing. “We’re here for them for the long-term,” he says. “They’re just entering their freshman year and they have several years of competition ahead of them, so we look forward to supporting them all through their high school careers. We also hope we can give them an idea of what they can do with their expertise in science and robotics in a manufacturing setting.”