By Agrippina Fadel
Coral Springs Middle School student Lucy Woo won the Girl Powered Online Challenge sponsored by Google after her essay about girls in STEM was recognized as the best in the VEX Robotics World Competition.
Lucy, including her team of seven girls, are all students of Jennifer Roberts, robotics teacher at CSMS. At the World Competition event in Dallas on May 7, the team was recognized for their accomplishment and was called up on stage to receive the award.
“This was once in a lifetime experience for the girls. They got special seats in the front row. This is the memory they will keep forever,” said Roberts.
She added that Lucy is a driving force behind many school projects and competitions, and every project she takes on ends up being a huge success. “I am very proud of her. Anything Lucy starts, she does an excellent job and always brings accolades to any group she is a part of. She is a magnificent student,” said Roberts.
A 7th grader, Lucy will have a chance to participate in the robotics class for another year.
The robotics club started in 2017, eventually becoming an elective class for 7th grade, and included 60 students this year. With the program becoming a big success, the school is adding an advanced competition class next year for 8th grade and other students, based on experience.
Roberts has been teaching in CSMS since 2001 and constantly applies for grants and organizes school fundraisers to give her students a chance to participate in competitions. The school recently won a $5,000 federal grant for STEM education, which helped Lucy and her team participate in the VEX Robotics events.
“The World Competition entry fee is $6,000, so we usually fundraise or rely on grants to make all this happen. Since we started the program, we have made the world’s robotics competition every year, and we are the only school in Broward County with these accolades,” Roberts explained.
She said that engineering had been traditionally viewed as a male-dominated profession. “By offering female students this opportunity, we show them that there are no limits to what they can do, in the classroom, or in life,” she added.
Roberts said programs like Girl Powered offer a chance to involve female students in STEM competitions, a field where girls and women are traditionally underrepresented. They also provide incentives for teachers, providing them with resources and funds. After one of the competitions, CSMS robotics class got its own robot.
Roberts believes a female teacher helps girls feel more comfortable getting into science and robotics, and her students agree.
In her winning essay, Lucy said Roberts is an inspiration as a STEM educator and individual. “In addition to managing the robotics elective at Coral Springs Middle School, she is also a 6th-grade GEARS science teacher. She makes both robotics and science engaging, interesting, and hands-on,” she said.
Lucy added that girl power is about female empowerment and bringing women’s rights up to the standard that men’s rights are currently.
“It’s about equality, confidence, strength, and independence. It’s about wanting to be seen. And, most relevantly, it’s about inspiring women to enter male-dominated fields such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” she said.
The VEX Robotics Competition is the largest and fastest-growing middle school and high school robotics program. This engineering challenge is presented in the form of a game. Students build innovative robots and compete year-round with guidance from their teachers and mentors.