TechGirlz Teen Advisory Board Member, Navya Alva, shares some of her experiences and insights with TechGirlz and being involved with robotics leagues.
My journey with robotics first began in 8th grade. One of my friends invited me to join her team because they needed an extra member. I wasn’t too excited about joining. Robots intimidated me. Coding seemed awfully boring. Building? I’d never done that before. But entering this team changed the course of my life. I loved using legos growing up and FIRST Lego League combined both legos and robotics. It taught me the basics of the design process and exposed me to a whole new world of STEM.
At the same time, I also began to attend TechGirlz workshops. Before 8th grade, I thought that STEM was not for me and not something that could combine my interests. Through TechGirlz workshops I learned everything from cybersecurity to animating with python and met terrific women who mentored and inspired me. It was through this that I found out my future high school had a robotics team and I was immediately excited to join.
Joining the RoboEagles (FRC 4828) was the best decision of my high school career. I met so many incredible people and learned invaluable skills through robotics. It was a lot larger scale than middle school but using the basic skills from there I was able to work on mechanical projects, electrical wiring, outreach events, and business. Running a robotics team is not limited to just the robot it is also necessary to work on maintaining it and spreading STEM awareness. As a sophomore, I became a board member and continued to work to better the team. Over the pandemic, we lost our workshop and lead mentor and we were worried that we would have to suspend the team. However, through hard work and miracles, we were able to have a successful season and made it all the way to the state championship this year.
This season I became a Dean’s List winner at the state level. Dean’s List is an award that recognizes “the leadership and dedication of the most outstanding secondary school students from FIRST”.
The FIRST community has opened my eyes to the impact STEM can have not only on technology but on the community as well. We volunteer with our local elementary school to provide underprivileged students with robotics education and it is amazing to watch their eyes light up at the different challenges and problem-solving. It has changed my perspective on STEM and shown me the importance of networking and support.
Girls are underrepresented in the STEM community and it upsets me because they can absolutely break the stereotype that STEM is not for girls. Through robotics, they can gain exposure to a ton of different things as well as have the support system to try new opportunities. There is something for everyone to get involved in from marketing to mechanical. I highly recommend reaching out to your local teams and going to competitions nearby (they are free to attend!). There is a robotics opportunity for everyone from elementary schoolers to high school. There is also a huge alumni network and many come back to volunteer and run events. It is necessary that we encourage this exposure and help increase the amount of girls in the ever-relevant STEM community.
Experience With TechGirlz/TAB
When I was in 8th grade I attended my first TechGirlz workshop. It was an incredible experience for me to meet so many other middle school girls and meet wonderful women in the tech field. I learned about cybersecurity, mapping, coding and so much more. It was at the animating graphics with python workshop that I realized I wanted to have a career in the STEM field. I used to be intimidated by coding and thought it was too hard for me to try. After this workshop, I began to love programming because of all you can create with it and couldn’t wait to learn more.
In my freshman year of high school, I joined the teen advisory board! Immediately I was welcomed into a group of like-minded girls from my area and met my wonderful advisor Alicia. She showed me so many opportunities for me to get involved in as well as supported me with all my goals. I also met Ameya, a senior at my high school at the time, through TAB and she is a huge inspiration to me.
I started by TA’ing at workshops and getting to know how running a workshop worked. It was awesome going to the different locations they are held and meeting the other TAs and teachers. Every TechGirlz workshop is held at a cool workspace and run by amazing women who are passionate about spreading STEM education. I loved working with the girls and I learned so much about them and everything they are excited about. It is amazing what TechGirlz does because of the exposure and involvement it allows for all women.