Last weekend our Robotics Club had a wonderfully successful weekend at the Regional Round of the World Robotics Olympiad. A day or so afterwards, I realized something which I immediately tweeted:
|Sean HC @SeanHCole|
Just realized something interesting: Of the 30 kids we entered into our regional #robotics competition, exactly 50% were girls.
Of the 10 who won medals, 7 were girls. Robotics might be the best way of getting more girls involved in coding & engineering.
But then I began wondering: Is there really something special about it that attracts girls to robotics? Is there a reason why they turn out to be such good young robotics engineers and coders? Is our experience unique? Could it be that there is something deeper at play besides the actual building and coding of robots?
After much head scratching, I’ve realized this: There is nothing special about robotics which makes girls so successful at it. What has driven our girls to love the coding and engineering inherent in robotics is simply this: We offer them a level playing field.
Every girl in our Robotics Club is treated the same way as any boy. Most of our teams are mixed gender teams and the girls all play essential roles as either coders, builders, or both. Nobody has ever said to any one of them that they are pretty good at building or coding… for a girl. They have never been patronized or spoken down to. We provide them with the same opportunities and have the same expectations of both boys and girls.
Most of the girls who have done well in robotics at my school are in Junior High – or were when they started – and they simply have not been conditioned into thinking that girls are not good at mathematics, science, engineering, or technology. They think (rightly) that they are as good as any boy at these things – and there is no-one telling them otherwise. Our girls simply have not been exposed to the nonsense entity theories which assert that STEM abilities are genetic and stronger in boys.
So here’s the secret: We don’t have to treat girls any differently to boys to get them interested in STEM subjects. They are already interested. We just need to give them the same opportunities to succeed.
Or that’s what I think anyway.