Power to the girls

Power to the girls

Fun, learning and robotics; It's proving to be a winning combination to get girls more engaged and interested in science, technology, engineering and science, or STEM-based learning. 

Proof of this was when CPIT recently hosted the Canterbury regional RoboCup Junior New Zealand competition, which attracted 140 school-aged children. They put their robot design and building skills to the test in a number of disciplines. More than a third of the entrants were all-girl teams, or composite boy-girl teams. These numbers were encouraging, Canterbury RoboCup organiser Jill Pears said.

 "When I started doing robotics competitions a few years ago I realised there weren't many girls involved, but now there are and that's happening from school, which is great to see," Pears said.

 Pears, the Associate Principal at Sumner Primary, is about to start her teaching doctorate on the value of engaging girls in STEM-learning. In her study, she explores the growing concern at the lack of participation of girls in STEM subjects, in both their education and their careers.

 "New Zealand needs to produce a workforce that has the skills necessary to solve the problems of the future. The shortage of students and professionals in STEM fields, including Computer Science has made this a high priority topic for education." she said.

image of STEM girls 

 STEM education is not an official part of the New Zealand school curriculum.

 One of Pears' pupils and robotics team member Mia Wright aged 13, recently wrote a school speech citing research from the United States that STEM occupations were growing at 17 per cent compared with other non-STEM jobs at 9.8 per cent. 

"The future depends on my generation. Without STEM our country could be in deep, deep trouble as new career options open up that require knowledge, understanding and experience of STEM."

 CPIT runs regular holiday and weekend junior robotics programmes to engage children of all ages and genders in learning how to build, programme and play competitive games with robots of all types.

This is in line with robotics initiatives such as VEX Robotics, which includes VEX IQ, Kiwibots and Ecobots. Like RoboCup, these programmes not only show kids the mechanics of robot-building, they encourage fair play, sharing and teamwork, CPIT STEM Coordinator Miranda Satterthwaite said.

"The project based learning skills, combined with programming and mechanical engineering showcased in this competition reflects the type of learning undertaken in our Bachelor of Engineering Technology degree at CPIT. We hope these girls stay in science and technology, and possibly consider engineering one day."  

Christchurch will host the national RoboCup Junior New Zealand Championships at Burnside High School on Saturday, September 12.

Results from Canterbury RoboCup Junior New Zealand competition on Sunday August 16:

Theatre Junior

1st The Rainbow Llama-Corns - Selwyn House

2nd Cyborg Zoo - Selwyn House

3rd Jack and the Beanstalk - Sumner School

 Theatre Senior

1st 104 Days - Rangi Ruru

 Rescue Junior

1st Shark Marshmallows - Ashburton intermediate

2nd Robot Russley - Russley Primary

3rd Robo Skill - Teehnotutorz

 Rescue Senior

1st Joel and the Lads - Buller High School

 Rescue Premier

1st  The Untouchables - Burnside High School 

 Soccer Junior

1st  FOSV3 - Fendalton Open Air School

 Soccer Senior

1st - Insert Witty Pun Here - Rangi Ruru