The Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation and VEX Robotics are working to make robotics reflective of the diverse world we live in, and the one we want to leave behind.
We’re committed to showing how exciting it is to be involved with STEM, showcasing examples of how women are changing the world, providing tools for success, and enabling comfortable environments where all students confidence and abilities can flourish.
Walking around any competitive robotics event, or into the office of countless hi-tech companies, it’s not hard to see that majority of the participants or employees are men. Girls make up only 23% of VEX participants, and women represent 24% of the STEM workforce. It’s easy to shrug it off as “girls don’t like that stuff, ” but that’s simply not true. Studies have shown that girls and boys show equal interest in science and math in elementary school, and show that girls lose this interest in middle school for a variety of reasons.¹ Our mission with Girl Powered is to work to change this reality and to re-define the face of STEM.
This initiative is intended to bring all students who are interested together, to show them that they are welcome in the robotics community. Like many others, we believe in the power of diverse creative teams, and as such, we want to make sure our programs attract as many students interested in STEM as possible. To accomplish this goal, we want to help our community recognize and overcome some of the societal obstacles that present themselves for girls at a very early age. By identifying the common barriers that exist, we can break them down and work to create a more inclusive environment.
Does this mean Girl Powered excludes boys? Absolutely not, we are not pushing boys out – we think robotics is for everyone. In the 10 years that VEX Competitions have existed, the community of students we’ve drawn to the program has been incredible. We all want to continue to see our community grow and flourish with a fresh diversity of ideas and perspectives. We’re encouraging hosts of Girl Powered workshops to make them open to any student who is interested.
We are thinking about the future because the world needs a diverse cast of problem solvers and engineers. No two people see things the same way. We all have different backgrounds and different approaches to creative thinking. To be successful, a design team needs to see problems from all sides and as such needs people who see things through different lenses.
So what does it mean to be Girl Powered? It means supporting your teammates to try new things and reach outside their comfort zone. Being Girl Powered means finding people who you don’t see in robotics, getting them try it, and making them feel like they belong. We want to encourage new experiences, a diverse culture, and a more encompassing definition of what a roboticist looks like.