Fresh Starts

"Prior computing experience is not a predictor for success" in Computer Science, say faculty at Carnegie-Mellon and UCLA.  But prior experience can give students confidence and bravado that can be intimidating to other students trying computing and robotics for the first time.  Unfortunately, the earliest technology experiences usually are had by boys, so that by 5th-12th grades, boys already dominate.

An unfortunate compounding effect can take place when robotics programs carry with them the baggage of relying on building toys sold 90% to boys. On top of that, programs too often rely on joystick control of the robots, a skill that boys have honed from remote-control toys and battle-themed video games.  Under these biased conditions, it's no wonder that despite the best intentions, outreach and gradual progress, a Brandeis study shows these programs to be populated by over 70% boys.

So what's a leader to do?  Gizmo Garden students assemble their robots from the wires up, creating a different robot in each program.  We do receive a little mild pushback, as in this audio clip of kids assembling circuitry for RoboPots, where a student longs to be back in a dominating position, saying "If this was like a Lego set, I'd be done already."

However, the overall effect of this leveling of the playing field is to give everyone a fresh start, enabling both boys and girls to blossom.  This girl sums it up best: