The FIRST® in Texas community gains many new teams every year. While 2020 was a challenge for many, one group in Austin, Texas saw an opportunity to grow a brand-new community of engineers. Chicas Roboticas is a pair of FIRST® LEGO League (FLL) teams formed within the Latinitas organization in Austin. Their goal is to provide a safe and encouraging space for girls to develop knowledge and skill in what is a traditionally male-dominated field. Their drive for Inclusion and Discovery is only one part of their success.
Founded in 2002, Latinitas is a non-profit organization that strives to empower girls through technology and media. They began as a magazine before expanding their outreach to after school programs and clubs. Today Latinitas reaches a global community with a variety of programs and conferences focused on skills like coding, photography, and robotics. Like many organizations, Latinitas was forced to go totally virtual in 2020, but they didn’t let that slow them down. They met the challenge of a global pandemic and overcame, developing Chicas Roboticas, a pair of FLL teams are comprised of 4th – 8th grade students. Their current mentors are Beatriz Castillo, Karla Bruciaga, and Nataly Mata. They have spent the past year learning as a team everything that goes into a competition robot, from design to coding and construction.
“It’s a space where I can have goals and accomplishments that she wants to achieve, and [no one] will tell her ‘you can’t do that (because) you’re a girl. It’s a nice community.” – Olivia, member of Chicas Roboticas
Building a team from the ground up is a challenge and doing so virtually is even more so. One obstacle the team faced was finding a way to learn and teach coding over the internet. The solution came from the students in this case, who suggested the use of a screen sharing and remote-control software often used by teachers that allowed them to work together on one screen, even miles apart. The physical distance between students wasn’t enough to keep them from building new friendships though. Icebreakers played a unique part in this team’s success, providing a chance to get to know each other without the natural social environment so many teams are used to.
Like every team, there is more to Chicas Roboticas than the technical aspect of the competition. Teams become many things for their members. Olivia, a member of Chicas Roboticas, said that the team is “a space where [she] can have goals and accomplishments that she wants to achieve, and [no one] will tell her ‘you can’t do that (because) you’re a girl. It’s a nice community.” Chicas Roboticas is a place for these girls to meet up and have fun while learning a skill that, before this team, they had never had a chance to explore. While their focus is robotics, their effect is greater. They are inspiring girls to strive to do what they think is impossible, to push their limits and grow their opportunities for the future. When asked how she had been affected by the team, Olivia said, “I am the future. I am the next generation. I am going to work hard to try and make this world better.”
As they move forward, Chicas Roboticas hopes to keep their team’s momentum and growth. They have already begun to develop relationships with other teams in their community, seeking advice from those who came before. While they don’t know what the future will hold, they hope to see many of their students return next year to continue their robotics journeys.
Chicas Roboticas is just one of many incredible teams across the Texas district and we want to hear from as many as possible. Post your story on Instagram with the hashtag StoriesFromFIT and you could be our next team spotlight!