The Robotics Education & Competition (REC) Foundation was excited to help host the Google Girl Powered VEX Robotics Workshop, uniting 565 middle and high school girls for a weekend of STEM fun last weekend at the Google in Sunnyvale, CA. The students gathered with Google engineers to build and program VEX EDR robots, network and meet others during a series of Girl Powered activities, and put their newly built robots to the test playing a version of the VEX Robotics Competition game Turning Point.
The Workshop is an effort to engage more young women in robotics and STEM. It aims to give young women an opportunity to meet like-minded peers, explore building and programming robots with experienced volunteers at Google, and expose them to fun, hands-on STEM exploration. Girl Powered is a joint initiative by the REC Foundation and VEX Robotics to redefine the face of STEM by creating a community where all students feel welcome, able to contribute, and genuinely excited to participate.
“Girl Powered is a conversation starter for many competitive robotics participants. It is beneficial to all of us in the tech community to engage and understand a diversity of perspectives,” said Dan Mantz, CEO and Chairman of the Board at the REC Foundation. “We’re thrilled to have partners, like Google, who see that by removing barriers and providing critical learning opportunities, more young women will chose to participate in robotics and potentially enter the STEM workforce.”
“The key to making STEM subjects fun for any child is helping them overcome the fear and intimidation that surrounds activities they haven’t tried before,” explained Shiv Venkatraman, the Google Engineering VP spearheading the workshop, “It’s inspiring to see interest sparked in these girls when they realize they’re capable of bringing robots to life from scratch with the help of local volunteers, teachers, the VEX team, and mentors from Google.”
The Girl Powered initiative, now in its third year, strives to engage more young women in the robotics community through hands-on workshops, team grants, an Online Challenge, event marketing materials, and other mentor and community building opportunities. The REC Foundation, which manages the VEX IQ Challenge and VEX Robotics Competition, saw engagement among young women increase from 23% to 29% across all programs during the 2017/2018 season. In addition the to the Google Girl Powered VEX Robotics Workshop, the REC Foundation and VEX Robotics expect to feature over 100 Girl Powered workshops across the U.S. and around the world in honor of the International Day of the Girl.