BY JURRY TAALIB-DEEN
Journal Staff Writer
When Toledo’s only, all-girl elementary school robotics team, composed of Rytresha and Tylesha Smith, Destinee Ferrell, Caitlin Warts, Ashanti Smith, and My’Yanna Bragg, and their robotics coach, Cynthia Mandanski, all from Robinson Elementary, walked into a city wide tech competition at Toledo Technology Academy on December 6 2015, they received a lot of stares from the other competitors. Because, even at such a young age, the field is still dominated by males.
The competition consisted of three parts; first, build a robot out of Legos, programming it to perform autonomous functions, second, do a presentation on core, robotic values, and finally, research a topic, and design an innovative solution to a problem of the topic.
By the end of the day, the young team, who did their project on an innovative way of properly disposing of fingernail polish, titled, the “Trash Truck,” would not only be remembered for their gender, but by the fact that they would be the only Toledo Public School to advance to regional competition held on the campus of Bowling Green State University.
Ms. Mandanski, also a science support teacher at Robinson, said the formation of the all-girl team was deliberate. Under the sponsorship of Ohio State University’s Women in Engineering Department, the team was formed a few years ago with the hopes of introducing, and encouraging more females to pursue careers in engineering fields.
“They’re learning how to code, something that’s not offered in school,” she told The Toledo Journal. “They’re preparing for jobs that don’t even exist. Everything they’re learning will open doors for them. They will have opportunities other kids won’t have,” Ms. Mandanski said.
Worldwide, tech companies, as well as Universities are looking for more females in the field. Some companies, including those in Silicon Valley, according to a 2014 article on the online new site, The Daily Dot, are going as far as recruiting teens directly out of high school to work for them; some starting out with salaries high as $80k per year.
Rytresha Smith, 14, joined three years ago because she thought it would be interesting, and challenging, and was told that not many females are in the field. “I wanted to learn new things, and meet new people,” she told The Toledo Journal.
Rytresha influenced her identical twin, Tylesha to join a year later. “If boys can do it, I can do it; plus it’s fun,” Tylesha said.
Caitlin Warts, 12 and Destinee Ferrell, 13 both said they really enjoy programming robots, and watching them respond to their commands. Caitlin added that she was happy to see the boys response at the tech competition as they advanced to the regional competition.
Ashanti Smith, 12, joined at age 10, and said her time on the team has been a learning experience, and very exciting.