Even 26 years ago when FIRST was founded there was a schism in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields between the young and the old. Young minds needed to be engaged in science, engineering and these new ways of learning. Now that these young minds are being inspired to enter STEM fields, there is a very evident gender gap, with females making up only a small of the participants in FIRST Robotics.
Devin McKinnon, former FIRST Robotics team member, now has a successful career in a STEM field. Since being on a team, she has graduated from college, become a high school engineering teacher and started and advises the FRC Team 5148 New Berlin Blitz. Their first year, the team won the Rookie Inspiration Award and made it to the World Championship competition. McKinnon states, “It’s really cool that [there are] established social settings for girls among teams to break [the stereotype that girls are not good enough for STEM].”
Members of Team 4511 Power Amplified, Abby Villafana and Megan White, have first-hand experience with these stereotypes. White says, “We always try to bring a guy along with us [while scouting other teams] because usually teams won’t talk to us because ‘we are girls’ and ‘we don’t know anything.’” Team 4511 has about 30 students on their team, but only 7 are girls. While the females are outnumbered, Villafana says that it has it’s benefits, “We definitely bring different things to the table, which makes it nice because we get both perspectives.”
Brendan Wagley and Maeve McGuire, members of Team 2220 Blue Twilight