WRO partners have real impact in a world where many students don't have easy access to STEM offerings in school.
This is even more true for girls, so we wanted to increase their numbers in our robotics competitions. Our partner Juniper Networks jumped at the opportunity by offering the Girls in STEM Award. The first two winners are already creating results.
The two National Organizers who won the Girls in STEM Award in November are both on a mission to onboard more girls in 2021 and are putting the prize money to work. So far the National Organizer in Cambodia had more girls than boys in a country-wide online competition, and Robot Olympiad Schweiz just kickstarted a series of girls only workshops.
Cambodia: Reaching 19 out of 25 provinces
Cambodia has recently had the first serious outbreak of Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, so focus is on the response. Schools in most provinces are closed with only online learning for students, and they may not reopen any time soon. But the National Organizer in Cambodia, STEM Education Organization for Cambodia, led by Dr Una McCarthy-Fakhry, knows that STEM education can play a part in this response. So they are working on ideas and strategies to still deliver their proposed Girls in STEM activities utilizing their existing STEM Sister community.
The first part of the plan to recruit more girls was an online STEM festival in January, which took place before the outbreak. It was a great success: 63.000 views reaching 19 provinces out of 25 across the country.
"We had five STEM categories in our online STEM festival with one being dedicated to Robotics & Technology, which was the clear favourite among the entries to our competition, the Smart STEM Challenge. Interestingly the participation was 60% female, 40% male," says Una McCarthy-Fakhry.
Next step is planning a robotics workshop for the STEM Sister community. Una and her team will include participants from the online STEM festival to teach the Girls in STEM workshop, which will enable new participants to enter the National WRO Cambodia Round – so far scheduled for September 2021.
Read the blogpost 'Girl Power in Robotics – Oh Yes, You Better Believe it’s a Thing! on Juniper's website.
Switzerland: Existing project and new workshop series
The National Organizer in Switzerland, led by Monika Koch, already have a successful project onboarding girls called 'Mehr Girls in Robotik!'. They give robotics kits and learning materials from LEGO to team coaches when they register an all-girls team. They have 18 kits sponsored by the ETH Zurich, whose rector, Prof. Dr. Sarah M. Springman, is a strong advocate for the advancement of young women and from Science Olympiad Switzerland's Gender Fonds. This year so far 15 all-girls teams have received their robots. Some of them already wrote in the Girls in STEM blog. There are 3 kits left, which Monika hopes will be sent out before long.
Then there is a series of workshops led by women and sponsored by the Girls in STEM Award to help newcomers ease into WRO and in robotics. The first was held 20 March where 22 Elementary and Junior category girls built and programmed their robots.
"For 18 of them it was their first LEGO robot. The remaining four girls have further developed their skills. All of them learned a lot and got tips and tricks from the workshop teachers. It was a great atmosphere," Monika Koch says.