Building and Tinkering Your Own Path: How Snapology Can Inspire and Support Girls in S.T.E.A.M

An invaluable skill developed on my life path was the process of building, testing, and going back to the drawing board. As a child, I was initially unaware of my introduction to learning this process which began with S.T.E.A.M related activities in elementary school. The typical kid, I wanted to try anything and have fun with my friends. Luckily, I had a supportive parent who encouraged as many paths as I desired and asked questions along the way.

My experiences with discovering and building my own path inspired me to help other young girls build their own dynamic and creative path in S.T.E.A.M. Working with Snapology has provided me the perfect opportunity to do so. Snapology’s wide range of classes in fun themes gives kids the chance to try out or strengthen their interests in a variety of different areas.

One of the best ways to support a young S.T.E.A.M enthusiast is to simply ask questions! Showing support and genuine interest in ALL of their interests and curiosities builds trust and confidence to explore all of the places S.T.E.A.M can take you.

So, that's just what I did. Diya was a student in my Snapology Animation Summer Camp. As she was creating a hilarious short film about a Minecraft Pig, I began asking questions about her interests. Diya had participated in a number of Snapology Camps and I wondered how those activities and experiences might inspire her choice of classes or clubs! With parent permission, we scheduled a zoom call and as a fun activity, pretended she was a celebrity, and I was interviewing her...

Image from Pig Animation

I am here with Diya, a 6th grader who is going to join a Robotics team soon (in 7th grade).

Diya, what is your favorite subject in school?

I think my favorite class is math. Doesn’t mean it’s my best subject, but it’s definitely my favorite.

Why do you think this is your favorite subject?

I think it’s because I like doing the calculations and trying to problem solve. I like solving equations and expressions. I don’t really enjoy when you are being taught a concept and are just expected to understand it though. I like to actually figure that concept out using pattern recognition and other computational thinking skills.

So, you like problem solving, kind of like puzzles when you have to figure out the pieces.

Yes, kind of like that.

What is your least favorite class?

I think its ELA (English Language Arts). *laughs*

Have you always liked math more than ELA? Has your favorite subject switched around?

It changes depending on what we are learning about. I liked poetry. The rhythm and rhyme, along with the powerful language and flow of poetry is amazing to me.

What is your favorite thing to do when you are not in school?

Of course, I can’t always do this, but I love to swim. And when I don’t have access to a pool or if I’m not going to be at swim team practice, I usually like to draw or maybe go for a bike ride.

What is your favorite video or computer game?

I don’t play a lot, but I like Minecraft.

What has been your favorite Snapology class or activity?

My favorite class was a robotics class. There were a lot of kids there that were my age, and we were all creating different builds. Then we would take the builds apart a bit, tinker with it, and change it so that it would be more powerful or could do more. We would go battle against each other and see whose robot could destroy the other one. If yours got destroyed, then you would go back and improvise and make it better. It was so much fun with all the teamwork occurring and getting to compete against each other. The only thing that bothered me about that class was the fact that I was the only girl in my class of twenty.

Has anything that you have done at a Snapology camp helped you with a class in school, even if it was not directly related to a school subject?

I think I’ve applied some concepts we’ve talked about such as Kinetic and Potential Energy in science class. We have talked about different forces that are being applied in the robots that we build. I’ve also learned many intangible skills as well. I’ve gotten better at working with people and thinking more outside the box. Eventually, skills like that get so embedded into your head that you start to use them without even thinking about it.

How did you decide to join a robotics team?

In my school we have different electives, and one of the electives I am taking is mechatronics or robotics. I think the builds and concepts that we learn are really interesting. This furthered my interest in robotics.

When I applied (for the team) it asked me about what skills I have that could benefit the team. At first, I was stuck on what to write. To be honest, the main reason I had wanted to apply for the team was because when I saw that the robot the team had built that season could stack large versions of Lego, I wanted to build a robot like that as well. Eventually I pulled out a few skills like math and previous experience in robotics. Even still, when I was selected to the team, I practically knew nothing. During the off season I learned a lot of skills that I lacked. Rookies like me were also taught the about the importance of the FIRST core values. One of them is called Coopertition, that basically means that whether you're a friend or foe you must help each other. Another one of the core values is called Gracious Professionalism. Gracious Professionalism is exactly what it sounds like. It’s staying kind and respectful to your teammates and other teams, even when you have conflicting ideas.

That's really cool, so you're learning skills that are not only directly related to the STEM fields, but you're also learning social skills and how to handle teamwork situations.

What is your favorite thing that you have done with your team?

My favorite thing that I’ve done with my team was the meeting when we watched the game reveal for the season together. We worked all throughout the off season learning and preparing, and it felt like we were at an important point in some investigation where we would find out if we were working in the right direction.

Wow, so you are already working with the engineering design process!

Yeah! But to be honest, I think my favorite part of FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) is the people I get to work with. Our team of eleven can spend hours laughing together and it would feel like minutes.

When I was on a robotics team, we had different project teams that focused on different elements of our robot or presentation. Does your team have this?

Yes. Our robot must be able to accomplish many tasks on the playing field, so it has to have very specific mechanisms that need to be consistent and accurate. The best way to get there is to focus on one mechanism and follow it through the Engineering and Design process until it is at the best that it can be. So now within our team we have a drive train team, intake team, arm team, scoring mechanism team and more.

Do you know anybody on your robotics team?

Our team has five 7th graders and six 8th graders. I knew all the girls on our team, there were only two aside from me, along most of the 7th graders. My teammates are amazing though, and I’m glad I met them.

You mention a lot about wanting to see more girls in robotics, what do you think about the number of girls in STEM?

I always feel like there needs to be a better balance of boys and girls. I don’t understand why there are way more boys in robotics than girls. Back when women weren’t treated equal to men they fought for their rights, and now that women and men have equal opportunities, it still doesn’t reflect in the numbers. I think the only way that will change if more girls are aware of more opportunities and start to take a chance and go after them.

Do you see yourself continuing to do robotics?

Absolutely. At this point, I don’t see why anyone would want to do anything else.

I can see how you have always involved yourself in these different types of building, programming, and puzzle solving activities. Now you’re moving on to the next big step- how exciting!

Yeah! Excited to see what comes next.

Student building Robotics

Schedule your own celebrity interview with your child! You will not only get to know more about what they love, but you will also hear about what they want to explore more... and have fun! Have them take a peek back at the interview in a few years to see how much the path they’re building has changed.