Host I: This weekend, over 2000 high school kids will take part in an annual robotice competition in midtown Manhattan. They’re hoping to be crowned robot king…or queen.
Host II: Men outnumbered women aroudn 3 to 1 in Science and Techology degrees. But Joe Sykes found one team that isn’t paying attention to gender disparity.
Up Ambi The Match: And we starting the match in 3 2 1….
The first Robot Competition is kinda like a high school basketball game…fans cheer from bleachers, mascots prowl the outside and nervous teammates sit on the sidelines biting their nails to the quick.
Except at the Javit’s Center on 34th Street the players on the court…well…they aren’t really human
Up Ambi: Robot Noise
Play for 00.05 seconds and then fade under
It’s in the pit, where the teams make repairs to their robots, that the humans really take center stage.
Up Ambi: Drilling from Iron Maidens
10 girls stand around their 6 foot aluminium robot. These are the Iron Maidens and they’re an all girl team from the Bronx High School of Science. They’re women and they’re here to do just one thing.
Kiana Dyson: We’re gonna win, definitely it’s happening.
That’s Kiana Dyson. She’s the driver for the team and a senior. The robot has the task of moving the robot around arena avoiding obstacles and stacking recycling boxes on top of one another within a set time limit in order to progress to the next round. She looks proudly at her robot. To me it looks like…well..a big hunk of metal but to her
Kiana: It’s a girl, a very pretty girl, it’s got long hair and stuff, it’s a pretty girl.
She knows the girls might be outnumbered here but she says when it comes to competition that means nothing,
Kiana Dyson: I think it’s very clear there are more males here than females but when we compete we don’t think we’re any different from anybody else. We think we have a fair shot just as anybody else does.(00.08)
And the boys team from Bronx Sci, building their robot right next door are definitely taking the threat seriously. Do they wanna beat the girls?
Boys Team: Absolutely
Alex: So badly. It’s killing me man
Kiana says building robots made her feel comfortable with herself.
Dyson: When I was in middle school i was the huge geek/nerd who was too weird to be normal but when I came here everybody else was just as weird as I am.
Girls on the team wear sweatshirts saying “talk nerdy to me.”Geekiness is something to be embraced here. And for the Maidens their willingness to talk nerdy could lead them further than just winning a robot competition.
Out in the main hall, Jennifer Bell from the university of Iowa College of Engineering, is scouting for talent. She asks one 10 year old girl, a spectator, what she wants to do.
Little Girl: help the world out
Me: you got a first sign up here.
Jennifer: Our youngest recruit ever.(00.07)
Bell says it’s tough for girls in STEM but when she comes to events like this she keeps an eye out for talent.
Jennifer: I’m always on the look out for girls who have that spark I always give them that extra girl power thing when they come over to the booth.(00.11)
And meeting the college recruiters are not the only advantage to competing
Sam Alexander: So First provides 20 million dollars in scholarships to First participants(00.04)
Sam Alexander is the competition coordinator. He says many of the students learn a skill here that will set them on the path to success
Sam Alexander: Maybe its a certain software design, maybe its the wiring of one team’s robot, maybe it’s a video but we hope wherever a student finds inspiration here they can find a career i nthat space too.(00.15)
For the Iron maidens back in the pit, that’s good news. Their team logo looks like a soviet era woman striding out into the world with a wrencg and screwdriver in her hand and…Kiana says it means
Kiana: It’s kinda like we’re ready to go.(00.04)
Today that just means they’re out to win at robot wars. But for tomorrow and the future they’re ready to fry bigger fish. On Monday Kiana will find out whether she’s got into her college of choice.
Kiana: I’m pretty excited about the world and what can I do, I think that goes for everybody here.
The competition goes on all weekend at the Javit Center, Joe Sykes Columbia Radio News.