A Lesson in Robotics—for Girls by Girls

Female members of Roaring Robotics, Team 2704—a FIRST Robotics Competition team open to area students ages 13 to 18—recently paid a visit to Alice Gustafson School to meet with BPS101 fourth-grade girls on their last day of “Science Herstory Engineering,” an after-school enrichment course.

Robotics team members (Ava Langstaff, BHS senior; Hannah Thiel, BHS junior; Erica Mattern, Metea Valley freshman, and Kersten McQuillan, RMS eighth grader) and teamadviser Tressa Kett brought their working mini robot named, “Lead Block,” which was built for an off-season competition, along with robotics parts for a building activity to do with the girls. 

Fourth-grade students watching Roaring Robotics’ mini robot in action.

Roaring Robotics’ mini robot, “Lead Block,” was built for an off-season competition hosted by another robotics team last fall.

The session started out with small-group discussions to give the fourth-graders time to ask questions. They asked great questions, too, like “How many robots have you built?”, “Why did you get involved in robotics?”, “Do you like math?”, and “Do you plan to study robotics in college?”

Ava Langstaff answered all of these questions and more. She shared that she has built approximately 10 robots in the five years that she has been a member of Roaring Robotics, and that her dad, Ron Langstaff, who is a forensic engineer with degrees in mechanical and fire protection engineering, inspired her to get involved in robotics. Ava said she will be studying electrical engineering and physics at the University of Notre Dame this fall and received a scholarship to do so.

Learning some robot-building basics.

BHS senior Ava Langstaff showing fourth-grade girls the tallest robot that she has built so far.

Roaring Robotics team member/RMS eighth-grade student Kersten McQuillan leading a small-group discussion.

“The scholarship opportunities for robotics are outstanding,” said Roaring Robotics adviser Mrs. Kett, who has a degree in electrical engineering and is a project manager by trade. “Robotics is something students can continue in college and beyond. I have continued my interest in robotics as a mentor to the team. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!”

Both Mrs. Kett and Ava made a point to tell the fourth graders that being part of the Roaring Robotics Team isn’t just for students interested in designing, building, and programming robots. They said that Roaring Robotics has a robust marketing subgroup that handles all of the team’s printed marketing materials, apparel, web content, and social media.

“If you are creative, want to be part of something bigger, and are open to discovery and new friends, we have a spot for you,” said Mrs. Kett.

Roaring Robotics adviser Tressa Kett showing the wheel structure of the mini robot. (Her son, Koby, in the background, is also a member of Roaring Robotics, Team 2704.)

BPS101 Technology Support Specialist Brian Nallenweg/Roaring Robotics “RoboDad” showing fourth-grade students videos from Roaring Robotics competitions.

BPS101 Enrichment Coach Julie Allen (second from right) and RMS Assistant Principal Nicki Kitzmiller (far right) dreamed up the “Science Herstory Engineering” course for BPS101 girls. On the last day, some parents and students brought them flowers and cards. The 10-session course was obviously a hit!

NOTE: This article was originally written by Sue Gillerlain, Communications Manager, Batavia Public School District 101 (BPS 101), and posted to their website on May 8, 2018. In addition, the photos are also by Ms. Gillerlain. It is re-posted here with the permission of BPS 101 and minor edits for accuracy and presentation.

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