WATCHUNG – Mount Saint Mary Academy’s robotics team enters this year’s competition season as the only team from an all-girls school in its division of the FIRST Tech Challenge, a national robotics competition for high school students. In an activity dominated by boys, the Mount team has excelled and looks to continue to improve its performance as it resumes competing this month.
“It’s really important for women to have opportunities in the science fields because in many areas, we’re underrepresented,” said Mount senior Meaghan Conlon of Edison. “We’re proud to compete and excited to have this experience.”
Students in the FIRST Tech Challenge designs, builds, and programs their own robots which then compete against those created by other teams. A new robot must be created each year in order to perform specific functions pertaining to the challenge. The Mount team has named this year’s robot Sisyphus since it is designed to perform a similar task to the mythical king who repeatedly pushed a large bolder uphill.
For some students, the Mount robotics team creates the opportunity to expand on scientific knowledge in order to prepare for higher education. “It’s interesting to be able to learn, build, and program,” said Mount junior Kaitlyn Pellicano of Dunellen, an aspiring computer engineering major and last year’s recipient of the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Award. “It’s nice to apply academic skills to something fun while preparing for the challenges of college.”
The Mount robotics team was created only last year and in its inaugural season, the girls reached the state championship round and won numerous Motivate Awards for team spirit and community outreach.
The ten-player team gives much credit to faculty moderator and team founder Suzanne Grandstrand for helping them get off to such a strong start. “The teachers here are always looking for new opportunities to help students and we were fortunate to have Mrs. Grandstrand help us form the team,” said Pellicano. “It’s because of how supportive and encouraging our teachers are that we’re able to compete.”
The team’s hard work and ability has also have a lot to do with its success. In addition to practices after school, the girls spend multiple hours on campus every Saturday preparing their robot for competition. The Mount squad resumes FIRST Tech competition this month.
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