We had an amazing experience at the Gwinnett Competition last weekend and had fun making memories with our PCH friends! Throughout the competition, our robot - Astro - did especially well placing cones on the grid and consistently balancing on the charging station. The other PCH teams were formidable forces, though, and we were ranked 5th by the end of the qualification matches.
A special shout out to our alliance captains, FRC 1771, for picking us to be a part of their alliance! Another shout out to FRC 2415 for being AMAZING alliance partners! Our final 2 matches during play-offs were intense, and we couldn't have secured that blue banner without our alliance's teamwork.
In addition to being a District Competition Winner, we were thrilled to receive these awards:
- Industrial Design Award
- Deans List Semi Finalist (Maia P.)
- Woodie Flowers Nominee (Brandon King)
From our drive team and pit crews who worked tirelessly, to our amazing scouts who analyzed a ton of data, to our team members who volunteered to help keep the event running smoothly, to everyone who cheered us on in the stands and at home - THANK YOU!
FIRST Robotics is home to a few initiatives focused on uplifting females pursuing STEM, most prominently being ‘FIRST #LikeAGirl’ and ‘LadiesFIRST. Programs like the ones just highlighted are imperative to allow women interested in STEM the support they require as their journeys past FIRST and highschool ensue. However, while idyllically apt– and an amazing look to the public–, how many of these programs can effectively alter long-time, homologous identity perceptors or historically binary societal ebbs and flows? Are women set up with the proverbial tools to succeed in these male-dominated fields, or are they unintentionally being set up to fail?
In modern times, Sociologists have pondered a notion deemed the Leaky Pipeline Phenomenon, which explores the longevity of women pursuing STEM past their vocational years whether or not they are equipped with words of encouragement rather than strategy. The proportion of women in the STEM occupational fields has decreased continuously through the educational and vocational tracks, leading scholars to use the metaphor of a leaking pipeline. Women navigating through STEM-based career pathways drop out at higher rates along the way, as opposed to men going to school in the same field, resulting in a much smaller proportion of women at the end of the pipeline. A published paper by the Magazine of Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training emphasized the high dropout rate of female STEM students in college, attributing this as being a direct symptom of the aforementioned phenomenon. Women drop out due to various factors such as career mismatch, sex-based discouragement and identity-centered incongruence. Career mismatch, specifically, refers to the tendency of women to be overqualified for the careers that they end up in, likely due to their reluctance to enter jobs that are inconsistent with typical gender roles. That is, women who receive STEM degrees are not as likely to choose STEM careers– juxtaposed to males with comparable STEM degrees. As an additional result of career mismatch, this concept is symbolic of a positive feedback loop where women continue to serve jobs below their abilities, while their male counterparts reach higher leadership positions. This then amplifies the amount of women who feel a lack of self-confidence in their professional skills, a deficit in assertiveness on interactions with male counterparts, as well as a persistent pressure to assimilate to male culture.
Look around– metaphorically, of course… When you see a woman in a higher position or even an unconventional role in engineering within FRC, let’s say… working in their team pit…, do you feel surprised, intrigued, or even merely recognize the implications of one taking a second to actively notice a feminine entity engaging in something traditionally done by masculine figures? Social role theory argues that societally shared beliefs on female or male ‘roles’ are preserved through “psychological processes that stabilize these societal practices by making them seem natural and inevitable to members of the society” (Markova, et. al., 2016). This is further evident when one looks at how only select women are championed for their work in male-dominated fields, and how ‘we’ would find it “out of place” to see a female with a yellow hard hat and a neon vest clocking into the construction site. Putting emphasis on women in STEM is of utmost importance, however, recognizing why much of society feels the need to apply this emphasis is even more integral. As, despite increasing numbers of women in science and engineering fields, this fact alone does not ensure any improved conditions for women’s real careers. Even women with a higher position in their respective fields have reported a lack of self-confidence to advocate for other, younger females within their departments. Thus, despite the increasing number of female students in gender-atypical study fields, “organizational structure within units, and the divisions they engender, continue to isolate women” (Markova, et. al., 2016).
Despite the progress that is perceived at competitions, such as a female-operated Drive Team or female Programming and Mechanical Leads, there is still ample work to be done in the field of STEM to have these women appear as less of a show-stopper for being in leadership and more of a normalized construct within STEM fields. As notably theorized by West and Zimmerman, the scientists who constructed the idea of ‘doing gender’, “gender is not a set of traits, nor a variable, nor a role, but the product of social doings of some sort.” We, as a people, prescribe these social doings, meaning we also have the power to alter them and to dismantle them to an extent that lets each sex feel comfortable in the other’s historically-designated fields of work. Women should not have to ‘act like men’ in order to be assertive and assume leadership positions in STEM fields, nor should women have to go out of their way to advocate their worth. Women, as well as men, possess the innate abilities to lead or to serve, but, as a symptom of gender-roles, this autonomy has been somewhat stripped away from the sexes.
But what can we do, even amongst FIRST Robotics members, to curve the narrative towards true acceptance over a figurehead status, and to patch up the leaky pipes? Firstly, companies and educational institutes need to hold themselves accountable, looking at their gender-based statistics or how they may have failed women as a symptom of their own ignorance. Companies should be challenged more to actively combat sexism and gender discrimination, effectively creating an inclusive working environment for young women in gender-atypical careers. Moving through this vein of thought, there are a few introductory tasks that may produce far more equitable working environments for women, beyond the current structure:
Makarova, E., Aeschlimann, B. & Herzog, W. Why is the pipeline leaking? Experiences of young women in STEM vocational education and training and their adjustment strategies. Empirical Res Voc Ed Train 8, 2 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40461-016-0027-y
“STEM Gender Equity: Supporting Girls in STEM Without Diminishing Boys.” FIRST, 5 Feb. 2020, www.firstinspires.org/community/inspire/stem-gender-equity.
Figure 1. UNSCO Institute of Statistics estimates based on July, 2015
From the roar of the cheering crowd, to the scramble and stress of last-second robot fine-tuning in the pits, to the laser-focus of the drive team, to the fun of dancing in-between matches - There is nothing like the first competition of the season. Especially if you are a new FRC team member.
Twelve of our CSP team members heightened their FIRST experience by being an integral part of the competition as volunteers in field reset, queuing, safety glasses distribution, and AV support. Not only were they happy to assist our hosts by filling these important roles. our team members also learned a lot from their experiences. In today's post, we will share their stories.
"Volunteering at the comp was a joyful and thrilling experience. I very much enjoyed seeing the robots and the matches up close, which was was very exciting and fun. I was able to learn a lot about the robots, the teams, and the game itself such as the design and the ability to score if the robots, as well as crucial rules about the game." ~ Yash P.
"Working as a pit reset volunteer was very fun and exciting. It felt like being part of an F1 pit team in the sense that everyone had a role that they tried to achieve as efficiently as possible in order to start the next match. In addition, being able to see the matches from the field was very entertaining and a completely different experience from watching in the stands." ~ Micheal R.
We started the week 1 competition in Albany with Astro, our 2023 robot, as a push bot. After overcoming electrical issues and making programming adjustments, we persevered to become the 3rd-highest scoring robot. CSP 4188 was chosen as a part of the finalist, second-seed, alliance along with @mechbulls as our alliance captains and @camdenwildbots as our partners.
Thanks to our entire team for working together - from our pit and electrical crews who tirelessly worked on our robot's arm, to our programmers and drive team who powered through stressful matches, to our scouts who scrutinized over 8,000 data points collected over the weekend!
Thanks also to team members cheering from the stands and volunteering on the field - We were #ChargedUp!
On top of being a part of the finalist alliance, we were also awarded the Engineering Inspiration Award through the tireless work of our awards and outreach teams! To round-out our winning streak, team member Arha G. was chosen as a Dean's List semi-finalist. We can't wait for our next competition!