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Statewide robotics event aims to steer girls in STEM activities and career paths. 

On Saturday, Oct. 15, female members of the West Linn and Wilsonville High School robotics teams showed that girls not only have a place in STEM but also on the field, in the pit and within the design process.

In their first preseason event, West Linn High School's robotics team, 2BDetermined, and Wilsonville High School's Error Code Xero competed in the Girls Generation competition, which highlighted girls in science, technology, engineering and math and promoted female engagement in robotics. The event hosted 18 teams at Wilsonville High School's auditorium.

In the final results, 2BDetermined were part of the first and second place alliances, while Error Code Xero finished 18th.

During the contest, alliance teams aimed to shoot a colored ball into a two-tiered dome. Reaching the lower level earned the team one point, whereas the higher level garnered two points. Then, in the last 30 seconds of the match, teams directed their robots to climb up a series of horizontal bars. The alliance that had its robots on the higher bar for the longest length of time was given additional points.

The competition started strong for 2BDetermined. The team had two robots, one old and one new, that they used to compete throughout the day. Both of 2BDetermined's groups steadily climbed the scoreboard as the competition unfolded. Heading into the qualifying round, the step before the alliance selection, 2BDetermined secured the second and fourth rankings.

This season, Wilsonville High School's Error Code Xero introduced a new robot nicknamed Sparky. The team had not competed with the robot and experienced technical issues that caused malfunctions on the field. They ranked last out of 18 teams going into the finals. They were not selected in an alliance, ending their time in the competition.

Beyond giving the robotics teams a taste of the upcoming competition season, which starts in January, the event gave members a chance to lead the team. Girls were able to lead the drive teams (which directed the robots around the field) as well as the pit crew that worked on the robot between matches.

"The competition lets girls have actual hands-on experience and do things, because a lot of time (robotics) teams are male-dominated and it tends to be that girls don't get to be in the pit or in the drive team, just because there's not enough of them," said Asha Patel, Code Error Xero's driver.

According to software design lead Max Dodge, West Linn's robotics team has strong participation by girls — some of the largest among robotics teams.

The event also aimed to point more girls into STEM-related fields beyond robotics. According to the U.S. Census data, women are nearly half of the U.S. workforce but only 27% of STEM workers. Over the years, only 8% of women have been in STEM fields since 1970.

"I think it's important (to have events that are girl-focused) because not as many women are in the STEM field. It's been better recently, but it's nice that events like this encourage young women to join STEM (activities) and maybe follow that career path," said 2BDetermined driver Tia Galler.

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