Long time readers know of my conflicted feelings about robotics programs. The jury is out on whether they attract students to computer science and/or engineering. I’ve even tried to find research to support this one way or another, but so far no luck. We had our first robotics competition this weekend. It’s a long day. We left school at 7:30 and arrived back again at 6:30. Yes, that’s 11 hours. But I actually like the competitions in many ways. It’s a culmination of all that we’ve worked on. Unfortunately, it’s also where it shows who is dedicating more time or money.
Robotics competes with other activities for time. We hold it during the club period, 40 minutes twice a week. Other schools will meet after school for a couple of hours and even on the weekends. Our students have sports, piano lessons, and volunteer activities after school and on the weekends. The way robotics is set up almost requires you to dedicate a huge amount of time to it. There’s no room for dabbling, first-timers, or those just trying it out.
The girls had fun. They learned a lot. They got to talk to boys. I did overhear a parent, a dad, say, “Girls interested in robotics? That’s who our boys should be dating.” Yes, I wanted to puke a little. Part of me wishes we were a little better at this, so that we could show up the boys. We do have a team that could do that, but they weren’t able to be at this competition. Maybe next time.
I will continue to support my girls doing robotics because I think they approach it with the right attitude. They’re interested in learning something challenging. It’s fun. And if they win, that’s just gravy. I enjoyed being with them on Saturday. They worked well together and rose to some significant challenges. Will any of them go on to be engineers or computer scientists? Does it matter? Maybe not.