On Friday, November 17th, 2017, the Girls of Steel hosted a FIRST Ladies meet-up and movie night in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University with girls from surrounding FRC and FTC teams. As an official regional FIRST Ladies partner, Girls of Steel decided to kick off the year’s events with a showing of the movie Hidden Figures (reviewed here). The movie follows three women, Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, that work as “human computers” for NASA in the 1960’s. In the midst of the space race, the Americans experience the pressure of sending an astronaut into space. To accomplish this successfully, they must accurately calculate every aspect of the mission. Katherine G. Johnson, a mathematics prodigy, is promoted to a department entirely filled with white men to perform analytic geometry calculations. Unlike the existing employees, Katherine is not affected nor intimidated by their differences and begins calculating the extensive work she is assigned. She does not fail to complete her work, despite her co-worker’s covering necessary calculations with Sharpie and doubting her abilities. The movie captures not only the gender disparity but also the racial segregation these women experienced during their time at NASA. Katherine would run over a half a mile to simply use the designated women’s restroom, pour from a separate coffee pot, and she was never treated with the true level of respect she deserved. Nevertheless, her persistence prevailed and she took on an influential role in the desegregation of NASA, sending astronaut John Glenn into space, and many more iconic NASA missions. Dorothy Vaughan took the initiative of learning the early programming language, Fortran, and applied her knowledge to be the first to successfully operate the IBM computing machine. She was later promoted to be the supervisor of the IBM computing department. Finally, Mary Jackson played a huge role in the improvement of the first American manned space mission’s heat shields. She pointed out a major flaw and was encouraged by her coworkers to continue her education in order to qualify for an NASA engineering position. She experienced many roadblocks but eventually won a court case allowing her to attend night classes at a local all-white high school. She then goes on to become the first African American female engineer at NASA. These three women embody the #SeeHerBeHer movement that coincides with FIRST Ladies’ mission.
By creating a community in FIRST that supports our future goals in STEM, we can close the gender gap and reach great accomplishments as the ladies in the movie did! And the best part is, organizing a meet-up is super easy! Organize the event around something that is both fun and embodies the FIRST Ladies mission of empowerment. Some of our past examples include talking with women in engineering at a lunch conference at competition with attending teams.
Send out an invitation and RSVP form a couple weeks ahead of time and then spread the word. If possible, reach out to your regional director to send out an email to all the teams in the area. Here is an example of the form and invitation we sent out through Google Forms: Pittsburgh FIRST Ladies Meet-up and Movie Night
If you are interested in hosting a movie night of your own, here is a list of girl-power documentaries about women in technology. All documentaries listed are available to request a screening:
Thank you to FRC teams 4991, Horsepower, and 4150, FRobotics, along with FTC team 13873, the OC Eagles, and our FTC team 9820, Girls of Steel Hypatia, for joining us! We really enjoyed spending time with our FIRST Ladies community and can’t wait to see you all again at future FIRST events!