All-Girls Robot Fight Club take home 1st and 2nd place in LEGO Challenge
On Saturday, March 18th, 2017, kids from schools across the province came together in the spirit of competition for the Manitoba Robot Games. Five teams from the University of Manitoba’s own All-Girls Robot Fight Club participated in the LEGO Challenge and two teams were triumphant in earning first and second place.
The All-Girls Robot Fight Club is run on Saturday afternoons by WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) Kid-Netic Energy and spans from January 21 until March 11. The club is open to middle and high school girls, and this year the participants included girls from Grade 6 to 12. The goal of this program is to teach logic and programming in a practical application and setting, and does not require any prior programming knowledge on the participant’s behalf. Each student has access to a LEGO Mindstorms kit, from which they can create customizable and programmable robots to perform tasks such as navigating a maze, following a line, or delivering a payload. These are only some of the tasks that are tested in the LEGO challenge, which attempts to simulate a “hospital” setting, with busy hallways and multiple rooms where the robot will have to autonomously make deliveries and watch out for obstacles.
The girls in the club are coached by two University of Manitoba students, Jenica Woitowicz and Valorie Platero. Jenica is a 2nd year computer science major, and hopes someday to work in an area that incorporates artistry and technical knowledge. Valorie is a 4th year electrical engineering student focusing on engineering physics, who is also part of the University of Manitoba Space Applications and Technology Society (UMSATS). The program’s supervisor, Michelle Carriere, is a recruitment and outreach officer for the Engineering Access Program (ENGAP) and WISE Kid-Netic Energy, and is also a robot nerd who has experience competing in the Manitoba Robot Games.
The main objective of the All-Girls Robot Fight Club, and all other programs by WISE Kid-Netic Energy, is to encourage and support girls and other under representative peoples to gain access to more opportunities in STEM. They seek to shatter the traditional views that science and engineering are predominantly male fields, and strives to help girls enjoy and excel in them. WISE Kid-Netic Energy also gives remote schools access to programs and workshops that are otherwise not available to them. In the end, the mandate of the organization is to create a brighter future for youth by recognizing the importance of equal opportunities in STEM fields.