When it comes to mixing technology and trades, there is no better example for students than the FIRST Robotics Competition. This season, teams had to create a robot that could place cubes onto a series of teeter-totter-like scales and switches to earn points. This year, over 15,000 students from over 45 countries gathered for the World Championship in Detroit. One of those students was Abbie White, a grade 10 student from Sandwich Secondary School’s SabreBytes Team 772.
How did you first get involved in robotics?
My brother was on the team when he was in high school so my family would go along to all of the competitions and then I thought robots were cool. I ended up just hanging around a lot to learn and they taught me. Then I joined a FIRST LEGO League team and did programming there and it was fun so I joined the high school team when I was older and did programming there.
Were you always interested in computer science?
Not until I got interested in robotics because I liked programming the LEGO robots. And programming the big robots was basically the same thing just harder. I used to go to the high school when I was in grade 8 on PA days and shadow the team to see what I thought of it.
I like making robots move. I liked being able to make things move and work. It was fun and cool and interesting.
How did you get to be a Programming Section Leader as a grade 10?
All of the past kids had graduated and I was the most interested in the position. I get to guide and teach others. You get to be in charge of it in the pits as well. I was also the Technician so I got to stand down by the field with the drive team. I had to set up the computer at the beginning of each match and make sure that the right autonomous mode was picked based on our starting position on the field. I got to stand off to the side and watch in case any problems happened, and if there was a problem I would go and fix it.
It feels very good to be a female leader because last year I was the only girl in my section and this year we have all girls and one boy.
What was your greatest accomplishment this season?
My proudest moment was winning our competition in Windsor. I was on the field when we won and our coach gave me a high five which is huge praise! It was our hometown event and it was the first time we have won a district event. It was my first big win and I was able to be down on the field which was awesome.
How does your team encourage the participation of girls in all sections of FIRST?
For the last few years we have participated in an all-girls off season event in Auburn Hills where only female team members are allowed to participate. It is an off-season event so it happens before the official season and lets teams compete in the past season’s game. It helps our team because it inspires the new girls to do better and shows them that they can be on drive team one day. This year I was able to be a drive coach for the first time.
What other work do you do with FIRST?
I mentor LEGO League teams. I get to teach them, help them, and watch them succeed. I also ref at LEGO competitions and take part in a lot of outreach events with my team.
What do you like best about being on the team?
You get to work with other people who like the same things as you. We’re like one big family and the robot is our baby.