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Girls of Steel Robotics
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Empowering women and girls in the pursuit of STEM by exemplifying female success in robotics

Girls of Steel Robotics

Pittsburgh, United States
Girls of Steel is more than a robotics team; our mission goes past building robots for competitions. While building robots, we're building futures.
Introduction

Build Robots - Build Futures

“The world needs more engineers.”

George Kantor, Senior Systems Scientist Carnegie Mellon, lead technical mentor Girls of Steel

Girls of Steel Robotics members are the future STEM workforce, future inventors, and future innovators. It's not just about building a robot---it's about building their futures.

"My experience on Girls of Steel provided me with the tools and confidence to be an effective and empathetic engineer, team member, and leader. To this day, that confidence is what empowers me to speak up at work- where I am often the youngest and only female mechanical engineer in the room. As I continue to learn and grow throughout my career, I am reassured knowing that Girls of Steel has prepared me to tackle any challenge head-on." Naoka G., 2014 Girls of Steel alumna

This program is an outreach effort at the Field Robotics Center at Carnegie Mellon University using the FIRST® robotics platform of K-12 programs. FIRST is an international organization that provides the competitions to engage the students.   More than a robotics team, Girls of Steel Robotics is a program of FIRST teams and community outreach.

At the high school level, students:

  • lead the meetings
  • make the big decisions
  • build robots for competitions
  • embrace near-peer mentoring of younger students
  • run K-8 FIRST teams
  • design and write promotional materials
  • give presentations
  • and more...

Striving to help to close the gender gap in STEM by empowering more females in STEM, we work hard to give girls leadership, teamwork, and communication skills in addition to technical skills like electronics, machining, and programming that will last far beyond their high school years.  

"Being a part of the Girls of Steel Robotics team has changed my life because of the new skills I have learned from being on the team, including both technical and business. Even if I don't end up using the technical knowledge I gained, I will definitely apply the time management, leadership skills, and the understanding of trial and error." Ananya R., Girls of Steel FRC member.

The Girls of Steel pipeline (below) of FIRST robotics programs has multiple inputs, including FIRST teams, media, and outreach all ultimately leading to empower more women in STEM.  

Girls of Steel Robotics STEM Pipeline

Each year the Girls of Steel program directly serves about 180 boys and girls in grades K-12 from over 30 different schools in the Pittsburgh area who participate in all 4 levels of FIRST robotics - FIRST LEGO League Jr. (FLL Jr), FIRST LEGO League (FLL), FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), and FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams as well as local summer camps.  The FRC level high school students volunteer as near-peer mentors and role models for the students in programs serving students in grades K-8. Near-peer mentoring provides role models close in age to the students who find it easy to relate to their student leaders.  

One thing that makes the annual Girls of Steel FIRST LEGO League Skills summer camp stand out is that students, not adults, are teaching other students, and campers say that makes things really fun.

 "I'm glad to have them as mentors. They're never harsh. They're just great people." Patrick A., camper

Near-peer role model at summer camp

Mentoring students at Girls of Steel summer camp.

100% of the girls in the program graduate high school, 100% attend post-secondary school, and 80% major in STEM, as shown in the figure below.  In our annual survey we find 100% of the girls responding feel more confident in STEM at the end of the year and 100% are interested in having a career in STEM.  The FRC level team member retention rate for 2019 was 94%, indicating the continuing interest and commitment of the girls in the program.  


Results of National, FIRST, and GoS

Sources: More Than Robots: An Evaluation of the FIRST Robotics Competition Participant and Institutional Impacts. Brandeis University (2005)  High Schools in the United States: Quick Stats Fact. Argus. J. National High School Center at the AIR (2010) Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, AAUW, (2010) 

Not only does the program have an impact on its members, but Girls of Steel reaches out to the community offering a variety of STEM activities for both adults and children. Their chassis project workshop is described below. Read about other outreach activities on the Girls of Steel Robotics website here.

Throughout the year the Girls of Steel program offers innovative robot chassis building workshops to hundreds of people of all ages from kids who drop in at Pittsburgh's Home and Garden Show or the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh during Remake Learning Days to executives who come together for an activity outside their field. Participants build and drive a completely functional robot chassis in less than two hours. Our goal for this project is to show people of all ages that robotics is fun and approachable, and that anyone can build a robot!

Chassis Project Workshop

Robot Chassis Project participants and mentors

Girls of Steel does not discriminate in admission, participation, employment, or administration of its programs or activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, ancestry, belief, veteran status, or genetic information. Furthermore, as a part of Carnegie Mellon University, Girls of Steel does not discriminate and is required not to discriminate in violation of federal, state, or local laws or executive orders. 

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Innovation Overview
6 - 18
Age Group
500
Children/Users
1
Country
2010
Established
Not-for-profit
Organisation
577
Views
Tips for implementation
4-6 adult mentors willing to commit to supporting the program September through August; A large facility suited to light industrial activity; Equipment for robot design and construction; Funding for competition registration and travel. (See a detailed list of resources in the Posts below.)
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Girls of Steel Robotics
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Milestones

Achievements & Awards

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Steps

Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

01
Identify a group of students eager to explore robotics
After recruiting your mentors, find 5 - 10 students or as many as express interest. With technical and non-technical roles for the students, the kids interested in coding or marketing will have a place on team.
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02
Train the students in technical and business skills
Each student is a member of a business and technical team. From September through December students learn both technical and business skills.
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03
Attend FIRST Robotics Competitions
While building a robot is fun, taking the robot to a competition is even more fun and exciting. Students are proud of their work and enjoy working alongside other teams at the competitions.
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04
Reach Out to the Community with Outreach Activities
After the competitions and before the next training season, the students reach out to the Greater Pittsburgh community by offering presentations, summer camps, and robot demos. By raising awareness of the robotics program we aim to work towards closing the gender gap in STEM.
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05
Develop your Program and Grow Your Teams
After establishing the FIRST Robotics Competition team and gaining experience with community outreach, it's now time to start FIRST teams of younger children.
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