Letter to the Editor

Vernon County Robotics needs more girls

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Dear Editor:

There is a new opportunity in Nevada you may not have heard about. Vernon County Robotics is a program for boys and girls to learn how to design, build, and program robots. I was part of the team to begin VCR because my son fell in love with programming robots at a summer camp. Because we did not have robotics for 9-year-olds in our community, a group of interested parents set about to make it happen.

We have great advocates for children in our community and it was easy to find other collaborators. 4-H and the Nevada Public Library MakerSpace were eager to lend a hand to develop VCR.

Last spring, we piloted a test VCR program with a 27 children, just to see what we were getting ourselves into. Each week began with a "mission meeting" to receive the day's challenge. The students then worked in teams to design, build, and program their robot to complete that challenge. Robot challenges included a maze, travelling along a colored line, or competing in an obstacle course. Honestly, I think the parents/coaches had as much fun as the kiddos!

That first VCR session, I learned a valuable lesson: We need more girls! I am mom to a set of boy/girl twins. While my son had shown the most interest in robotics, my daughter was interested, too. The very first day of the VCR program, my daughter was the only girl in attendance in a room full of boys. My confident, strong, and smart 9-year-old girl cried.

Here is my plea to other moms and dads of girls: please let your daughters test the waters with robots. I have heard parents say, "I didn't think about signing up my daughters" or "my daughters really haven't shown any interest in robotics." I would argue, have your daughters given robotics a chance? I don't know that my daughter would have ever been interested in robotics if her brother hadn't shown her how cool it is to build and program a robot to do tricks. It is pretty awesome!

And, if you need some solid statistics of why you might want your girls to learn these skills, here is some information from an organization called Girls Who Code: Tech jobs are among the fastest growing in the country, yet girls are being left behind. By 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs available in computing related fields. US graduates are on track to fill 29 percent of those jobs. Women are on track to fill just 3 percent. (www.girlswhocode.com)

If you are convinced your daughter should be a part of Vernon County Robotics: The fall 2016 session will meet on Tuesdays, Sept. 20 -- Oct. 25, at the Nevada Public Library MakerSpace. Space is limited and will be determined on a first-come, first-served basis. There is participation fee that includes a t-shirt. Registration forms are available from the Nevada Public Library or the Missouri Extension Office.

Denise Carrick Hedges,

VCR team member