Two teenage girls are leading a robotics camp this week at the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. Monday was the first day. The week-long camp is thanks to a grant the girls won to focus on getting kids excited about science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, subjects.
Hannah and Rachael Tipperman are sisters. They’re both 16 and both are going to be juniors. They’re also the creators of a program called Robot Springboard. Both have a passion for science and technology, and as Rachael explained, it’s about the process of working through a project.
“The thing with robotics and the thing with STEM is that I found that so much of it has not been the end product, but the journey to get there. And I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned about myself and how to problem solve. I’ve found that STEM and robotics as a whole has just been a fantastic platform to put tons of different skills together and you get a really great result on top of that,” she said.
Hannah and Rachael were first introduced to robotics when Rachael was playing lacrosse. Hannah needed something to do while she waited for her sister to finish practice.
“I needed something to do for two hours so my mom didn’t have to pick me up. I picked robotics and… it just has snowballed from that point. And I’m happy about it,” she said.
Rachael said she joined in after a while just thinking it would be a hobby, but now they both consider science and technology to be a life-long pursuit. About a year ago, the girls applied for a grant called the Aspirations Award through the National Center for Women and Information Technology. As runner-up, they had the money and materials on hand to create their program.
Hannah said Alaska is a great place to focus on robotics because it’s still new to many kids. Plus, she said they were hoping to return to the state after a family vacation a few years ago.
The girls’ enthusiasm for robotics was contagious during the first day of camp. There were almost a dozen kids and one was dressed appropriately for the day by donning a white lab coat. Rachael pointed out Teddy, who was on Team Nindroids. He’s an old pro at robotics and had programmed his team’s robot to play a song. He tried making it play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, but it didn’t work out as planned.
“Apparently you can’t have two notes of the same type right next to each other. It’ll turn it into one long note,” he said.
Hannah and Rachael went through the room checking on everyone and asking if they needed help building or programming the machines. They hope to inspire all the kids who take part in the camp, but Rachael is hoping to pull more girls into the field especially.
“Women are just as valued in this field. Women have just as many amazing experiences. And I think having Hannah and my program may help girls to think ‘wow, if they can do it, we can do it, too,’” she said.
They both plan to have a STEM-related career in the future, but for now they’ll focus on their work with Robot Springboard.
Read another write-up about the camp in the Homer Tribune here.
Listen to a radio interview here.