After a two-year hiatus, this year saw the return of the Grand Rapids Girls FIRST Robotics Competition! The one-day, off-season competition featured 14 teams from across Michigan with their robots from the previous FIRST Robotics Competition season. The Girls Robotics Competition was established in 2016 to encourage girls to get involved with FIRST robotics programs, providing the opportunity and skills to drive and repair robots in a fun, supportive environment.
Anzen Unmanned saw the value of this event in encouraging more women to enter college programs and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). For decades, women have been underrepresented in STEM occupations. Women currently make up just 15% of engineering professionals and 25% of computing workers.
Studies by FIRST Robotics show that FIRST students are three times more likely than their peers to major in STEM fields. Before the competition, Sarah Shapin, a senior on East Kentwood High School's Red Storm Robotics, said “FIRST has immersed me head-first into so many different aspects of STEM. I am gaining many skills in a multitude of fields - programming, mechanical, electrical, marketing, and being a Gracious Professional. The Grand Rapids Girls Robotics Competition provides a gateway for women to an incredible community that all people should feel welcome joining, regardless of one's identity; I excitedly anticipate it."
Prior to the robot competition, the day kicked off with a Ladies in Tech panel featuring Kalee Stutzman (TGW Logistics), Kristen Armstrong (GE Aviation), Lina Spross (Joby Aviation) and Danielle Schneider (Pridgeon & Clay). The panel was moderated by Anzen Unmanned's founding partner and COO, Wendy Ljungren. The panelists shared their experiences and insights from being "the only woman in the room" in STEM-related careers.
As an additional incentive for participants, seven girls were nominated by their teams and interviewed by Courtney Albers for four $750 Outstanding Leadership scholarships.
Anzen Unmanned is proud to be a sponsor of the Girls Robotics Competition, and along with many volunteers, help make the event a success.
In its continued support of FIRST Robotics, Anzen Unmanned is looking forward to sponsoring the upcoming middle school FIRST Tech Challenge competition at East Kentwood High School's Freshman Campus on Saturday, November 5.
If you're in Michigan, come check it out - and encourage more girls to engage in STEM!