Jan. 31, 2023
All-girls robotics team reaches semifinals
An all-girls FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics team from Upper St. Clair High School advanced to the semifinals and earned the Judges' Choice Award at the PA Blue and White Qualifier on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, at Penn State York.
ROGO, which stands for Robotics Offering Girls Opportunities, is comprised of seven members: seniors Srinidhi Rajaganapathy and Sherry Ren; junior Emily Neiberg; sophomores Nishma Ghimire, Maddie Kovacs and Kesahi Mathanachandran; as well as freshman Sofia Alfredson-Themudo. The team is coached by Lisa Kovacs, John Kovacs and Wanyu Ren. Botsburgh – an experienced FTC team from Upper St. Clair – has served as a mentor for both the team members and coaches.
The FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) program challenges teams of middle and high school-aged students to design, build and program a robot to play a floor game against other teams’ creations. This season, ROGO participated in two qualifying tournaments – competing for a spot at the Pennsylvania State Championship.
“ROGO was amazingly able to reach the semifinals in both tournaments,” Mrs. Kovacs said. “In the Blue and White Qualifier, the girls ranked third out of 24 teams. Unfortunately, they were defeated in the semifinals by only four points (136-140), which would have moved them on to the state championship.”
Even though the team did not advance to states, ROGO has much to celebrate.
“This is ROGO's first year as a team competing in the rigorous FTC robotics competition,” Mrs. Kovacs said. “Although they were unable to move on to states, they received the Judges' Choice Award to commemorate the unique origin and composition of their team.”
According to the FTC website, the Judges' Choice Award is optional and may not be given at all tournaments. During the competition, the judging panel may meet a team whose unique efforts, performance, or dynamics merit recognition, but does not fit into any of the existing award categories.
Before the ROGO team was established, Upper St. Clair had three FTC teams, with few, if any, female members. Recognizing the trepidation, Tracy Smith, teacher and USC Robotics Club founder, encouraged the students to make a new, all-girls team.
“The girls stepped up to the challenge and developed their brand-new team,” Mrs. Kovacs said. “They overcame many challenges in creating this successful team, which was feasible only through their prevailing motivation - to inspire and encourage young girls and women to explore their interests in STEM.”
ROGO team members have made it their mission to inspire younger girls to explore areas of STEM.
“They were able to achieve this by providing an outreach event to local Girl Scout troops,” Mrs. Kovacs said. “They helped a Brownie troop earn their first robotics badge by teaching them about the significance of biomimicry – how robotics and technology mimic wildlife in order to be more efficient. The event was such a success, that they have three more events with Girl Scout troops lined up for this year!”
To learn more about the USC Robotics Club, including information about the Upper St. Clair FTC teams, visit uscrobotics.org.