I was delighted that one of the BIG announcements at this year’s FIRST Championship was a new partnership between the Girl Scouts of America and FIRST.
Every Girl Scout troop will now be supported and encouraged to form a
robotics team. The young women on the Girl Scout’s existing teams will
be tapped as mentors. There are already close to 100 Girl Scout FIRST
LEGO League programs around the country to date. Two high-school-level
Girl Scout teams competed in the World Championship finals in Atlanta.
Emily Tweaks Her Team’s Robot
Photo by Akill11, Flickr
Emily Stephens, a senior at Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis, tweaks the team's robot at the 2008 FIRST Robotics Competition—the team was a finalist for the Autodesk Inventor award.
Bottoms-Up Demand for more STEM Activities. It’s
interesting to note that this is not a top-down, adult-initiated
partnership. It’s more of a bottoms-up, girl-demanded activity. Many of
the young women who are active in scouting come from inner cities as
well as from affluent suburbs. They see science, engineering,
technology, and math (STEM) as disciplines in which they are
under-represented and under-mentored. They look to their scouting
programs to provide the much-needed exposure to these activities in a
“safe” all-girls environment. The founder of the Girl Scouts was an environmentalist, inventor, and aviator. The Girls Scouts have had engineering
and scientific merit badges since their inception. But the demand for
more active STEM programming is increasing. One of the more popular
programs since 2001 has been the Design and Discovery program, in which
girls have the opportunity to “learn by doing”—working on their own
engineering and design projects with mentoring by engineering and
design professionals. Now, with the FIRST partnership and
additional corporate sponsorships (from supporters like LEGO, etc.),
more girls will have the opportunity to discover competencies and
talents in science, engineering, programming, math, and other related
areas. As Kate Pickle, one of the program managers for the Girl Scouts’
STEM program told the Visionaries, “Women represent 46% of the total
workforce but only 12 to 15% of the technology workforce. Early interest in
science, math, technology, and engineering is critical to girls'
success in these subjects.”
One of the things the Visionaries discussed in relation to the Girl Scouts is the brand image that many of us (particularly men who haven’t ever experienced the program) have about the Girls Scouts. “To us, you’re cookies and camping,” one guy admitted. It’s great to hear that you’re really thinking “out of the box!” So, bottom line, if you have daughters who aren’t currently involved in their local Girls Scouts activities, check out the options and make sure that their troop takes advantage of the FIRST partnership.