After a successful event in December 2017 with a group of young Girl Scouts from Daisy troop 16121, we decided to hold another event in May where the girls would earn a robotics badge. Since Girls of Steel and the Girl Scouts organization have similar missions in boosting the confidence of youth girls and giving them new experiences and exposure to new ideas, it seemed like a great connection to make. The Girl Scouts organization recently launched a set of robotics badges for Daisy Scouts, including one called “What Robots Do” which covers foundational knowledge of robotics and engineering. On Sunday, May 6th, at the “Daisies Meet Robotics Workshop” the scouts earned this badge and learned about our team.
About 35 girls from 6 different troops (Daisies and Brownies) from the Avonworth School District came to Carnegie Mellon University on that Sunday afternoon. We began the workshop with an introduction to the Girls of Steel, with videos of our 2018 robot, Clyde, and an explanation of the levels of FIRST. We then projected images of iconic fictional robots as we engaged with the scouts to discuss Baymax or R2-D2’s purpose in their fictional worlds. This launched to a conversation of defining the word robot as “a machine that follows instructions to complete a task.”
To define the job of an engineer, “someone who solves problems with inventions,” we explored these questions with the scouts:
WHAT is the problem that needs to be solved?
WHO has the problem that needs to be solved?
WHY is this problem important to solve?
With these questions in mind, the scouts broke off into groups to brainstorm scenarios that would be the job of an engineer to solve. Some of their ideas included: getting lost, losing items, choosing matching outfits, and packing their lunches for school.
As we delved into an explanation of algorithms, the girls completed two activities. First, to show the importance of good instructions we drew a picture of a robot face with simple shapes. Without showing the scouts our sample, we gave them “instructions” to draw the same picture. We simply told them what shapes to draw, not how to place them. In the end many girls had random squares and circles of different sizes sketched on their paper. They were surprised to see that our picture appeared to be a face. This activity highlighted the fact that an algorithm must be perfectly specific in order for the robot to successfully complete the task, since a machine is only as smart as the instructions that it is given. Then, in another activity, they “planted” daisies (to coordinate with the Girl Scout brand) in pots in a systematic fashion to simulate how an algorithm works. In small groups, a few girls would work together to use their given tools and ingredients (shovels, gardening gloves, pots, “sun”, “water”, “dirt” and plastic daisies) to pot a daisy, but only with instruction of precisely how to do so from their teammates.
We then did a quick foundational lesson on mechanical and programming vocabulary and the use of robots in the real world, before we had the girls design their own robots that would solve the issue that they had defined at the beginning of the workshop. They brainstormed with their groups and drew colorful robots with creative mechanisms that would help them get around a city they had never been to before or save their moms the trouble of making them sandwiches before school. They named their robots, and presented their ideas to the group.
With the remaining time, we brought the scouts to the Girls of Steel workspace so we could introduce them to our 2017 robot, MO. The girls took turns driving the robot and toured the area where we build robots. To commemorate our first ever Girls of Steel Girl Scouts Workshop we are going to design a special patch for the back of their vests!
This event was very successful, and we look forward to doing it again next year and possibly seeing some of the scouts on one our teams one day! Please click here if you would like to use the activities found in our “What Robots Do” slides, and if you do, let us know!