Forty-six Oak Park-area 5th-8th grade girls participated in OPEF’s 3rd annual Robotics Workshop for Girls on May 12 and 13 at Julian Middle School. The girls were assigned to teams of 3-4 girls and given a remote-controlled bot chassis that they customized and brought to life. They then pitted their robot against other teams in a exciting game in the official VEX Robotics arena.

VEX Robotics Coach Jessica Moncatch led the workshops. Supporting her were female STEM professionals and female high school mentors, themselves graduates from the OPEF VEX Robotics program. One of the professionals, Arti Walker-Peddakotla, who is the Product Analyst at local mobile security company NowSecure, spoke to the girls about how much STEM businesses need women, and encouraged them to, “Look at these women and girls here to support you today. Be inspired by them! Think of them as role models and people who will cheer you on and help you when it gets hard.”

The Robotics Workshop for Girls is just one of the strategies OPEF VEX Robotics has been using over the last few years to interest girls in STEM. The effort has been paying off and the percentage of girls participating in OPEF VEX Robotics has been steadily climbing. This past season, girls made up 29% of the program.

Thanks so much to the female STEM professionals who helped make this year’s workshops so successful: Tanya Berger-Wolf (Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, UIC), Samina Hadi-Tabassum (Associate Professor, Dominican University), Arti Walker-Peddakotla (Product Analyst, NowSecure).

Check out this slideshow of the girls in action at our workshops. Thanks to VEX parent Kristi Braun for these excellent photos!

For girls (and boys!) interested in getting more hands-on experience with robotics, check out this summer’s OPEF BASE Camp, which has classes in VEX Robotics, Waterbotics, plus many more exciting STEAM option