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“There’s no shortage of female applicants, but we have trouble finding ones who are skilled enough,” said the female engineer guiding us at Adobe Headquarters, where my robotics team had the privilege of visiting. Her words stuck with me. I, myself, was once an aspiring coder who was inexperienced, but luckily, I joined a robotics team that patiently taught me software.
After visiting Adobe, I realized that aside from learning robotics myself, I wanted to share my knowledge with other girls. I began conducting research by interviewing young girls involved in robotics and noticed the disturbing trend: many girls join robotics teams to expand their coding and engineering skills, only to find their male teammates often unwilling to teach them. With their male peers already so far ahead, the girls lose confidence in robotics, either quitting or accepting their fate as “secretaries.” To tackle this problem, a teammate and I partnered with a Girl Scouts troop to equip Girl Scouts with the skills to contribute technically on a robotics team. We designed a four-session robotics program and developed a mentoring system through which high school girls served as role models to Girl Scouts. We taught coding and building, as well as using statistical methodology to analyze and improve their robot performances. Having young girls learn these skills from a young age is critical because they are less likely to become discouraged during their formative years.
To me, building and designing is incremental, but code is the blood and lifeline of the robot. I also believe having a statistical background is essential to understanding algorithms and correctly implementing them. Whenever our team implements a PID algorithm, we gather data on how our motors respond to different coefficients and analyze it to achieve consistent performance. Whenever we implement motion control algorithms, we use statistical methodologies to count the possibility of failure in different scenarios while considering the overall robot performance. By combining computer science and statistics, I hope to become well-versed in aspects of computer science like data mining, which would allow me to predict trends and facilitate machine learning. I am also driven by the girls I have taught, many of whom have continued to learn robotics and some even successfully integrated into teams. I not only want to become a computer scientist, but also continue to serve as a mentor inspiring girls to realize they are capable of robotics.
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