2017 News Stories
College of Education hosts ‘Girl Powered’ workshop to inspire girls to participate in robotics
TAMPA, Fla. (October 9, 2017) – To encourage more young women to explore the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through competitive robotics, the USF College of Education hosted a free robotics workshop for school-aged girls from across the Tampa Bay area.
The girls in grades 3-8 worked together in teams alongside a USF student mentor to build a VEX IQ robot — a snap together piece robot that is designed to be easy for young students to put together right out of the box. Once the teams' robots were complete, the students participated in an afternoon competition where they had one minute to use their robots to move blocks across a competition field.
The global “Girl Powered” initiative was created through a partnership between the Robotics Education & Competition (REC) Foundation and VEX Robotics, who are working to redefine the face of STEM and make robotics reflective of the world we live in. The event was one of many Girl Powered events hosted around the world to coincide with the United Nation’s International Day of the Girl, a day that aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
For many of the participants, the Girl Powered Robotics Day was their first hands-on experience with robotics. Stephanie Holmquist-Johnson, PhD, a two-time graduate of the USF College of Education and CEO of Holmquist Educational Consultants, Inc., said it’s this type of hands-on learning that students, especially young girls, need to experience when exploring STEM education.
“This workshop was great because a lot of times girls don’t go into the (robotics) clubs,” Holmquist said. “It seems to be more male oriented, especially at the middle school and high school level, and we lose the girls… Sometimes you need to do a girl-specific event where they don’t feel they are being intimidated by the boys. They can just be themselves, enjoy building and doing it their way.”
USF student mentors benefit from the experience as well. Christopher Carney, a student in the Mathematics Education program, said the experience has further developed his hope to teach in a STEM-related field after graduation.
“I have never been exposed to robotics itself, so I’ve taken it upon myself to learn as much as I can,” Carney said. “Getting into an environment where I can help teach other people, that’s the best way for me to learn — by helping other people learn.”
With the skills Carney is learning about implementing robotics in the classroom, he said he hopes to establish a robotics program for the students at a school where they otherwise wouldn’t get the experience.
The event is also part of the David C. Anchin Center’s STEM Education initiative that was launched earlier this year. The mission of the David C. Anchin Center is to promote alliances and leverage resources to develop, enhance and showcase college, university and partnership efforts that support innovation and the advancement of teaching and leadership.
Stacy Hahn, PhD, director of professional development pathway initiatives and partnerships for the College of Education and assistant director of the Anchin Center, said the Anchin Center is committed to enhancing and supporting STEM education.
“Through events like the Robotics Girls Powered event we hope we encourage young girls to engage in STEM education while having fun,” Hahn said. “Building the robots and competing with their robots teaches the girls how to think critically and how to solve problems — skills that can be used throughout life to help them take advantage of opportunities to engage in STEM education and careers. We look forward to offering more events in the future that inspire a desire for students to engage in STEM.”
For the competition portion of the day, the participants’ parents were invited back to observe the activity, and their students excitedly shared with them a demonstration of the creations they had a hand in building.
Laurie Rosenbloom, a parent of one of the girls who participated in the event, said the event was a great opportunity for her daughter Alexa, who showed an interest at a young age in playing with Legos and other activities, such as coding and mathematics.
“I think it was a really amazing opportunity for her to see how she could work with a group of other girls and take on the activity of building the (robot) and putting hundreds of pieces together to create this framework, and then have the task of doing all these cool activities together as a group,” she said.
Having recently moved to the Tampa Bay area, Rosenbloom said this event was an opportunity for her daughter to connect with other girls who have a passion for the same types of activities as her daughter, and that an event like this is exactly what she’s been looking for.
“The minute I walked in, I could see she was busy chatting with another little girl. I didn’t want to interrupt her because I was so thrilled to see how they were connecting immediately,” Rosenbloom said. “That’s exactly what you hope for, that the girls will meet one another, realize they have a lot in common and that they can share these kinds of interests and learn a lot together.”
For more information about the Girl Powered initiative, visit www.GirlPowered.com.
About the USF College of Education
The USF College of Education is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (formerly NCATE), and is fully approved by the Florida Department of Education. The USF College of Education is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 100 programs in the nation, as well as in the top 30 for online graduate education programs. The USF College of Education has more than 51,000 alumni who are making a difference in the lives of children each day.
About the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation
The REC Foundation seeks to increase student interest and involvement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by engaging students in hands-on, sustainable and affordable curriculum-based robotics engineering programs across the U.S. and internationally. The REC Foundation develops partnerships with K-12 education, higher education, government, industry, and the non-profit community to achieve this work. For more information, please visit RoboticsEducation.org or for details on upcoming events, please visit RobotEvents.com.
About VEX Robotics
VEX Robotics is a leading global provider of educational robotics products to schools, universities and competition teams. Their scalable and affordable solutions span primary and secondary schools while encouraging teamwork, leadership and problem solving. With easily customizable projects, educators can match their students' abilities and prepare STEM problem-solvers of tomorrow.