Lego Robotics South Shore School at Microsoft

On November 29, girls from South Shore School came together to gain hands-on experience building their own Lego robots! The event was put on jointly between IGNITE and Technically Learning, and Microsoft, and was so much fun for everyone! We brought together 35 girls in grades 7 and 8 for this event.

Many thanks, to Vazjier Rosario, a Service Engineer at Microsoft, for all her hard work as the liaison between IGNITE and Microsoft for the Lego Mindstorm event. Vaz handled all the day’s logistics, reserving a room for us, recruiting 10 female Microsoft Engineers, providing the girls with nametags and delicious pizza for lunch, securing a monitor and other items critical for a smooth and fun day. Thank you for being such a talented, reliable and inspirational volunteer, Vaz!

We had a great turnout of volunteers for this event, who worked in small groups with the girls to encourage their scientific minds and answer their many questions. They also shared their stories with the girls during lunch. Most were first time volunteers and you all did a great job! We hope you found the experience to be as enlightening and inspirational as the girls found you to be! Thank you to Microsoft volunteers: Mei Lau, a Program Manager, Lori Shufelt, a Lync Team Lead, Max Lathrop, an AIM Service Manager, Karen Ladd, a Service Excellence Manager, Bobbie Buck, a Capacity Planning Manager, Shondele Lyte, a Change and Release Manager, Farhana Mohammed, a Service Manager, Vazjier Rosario, a Service Engineer, and Anne Freeman, a Biochemist. We are so very grateful to you all!

A huge thank you goes out to Technically Learning staff Katie Apone, who is the Director of Educational Programs, and Michelle Page, the Executive Director. Katie and Michelle are committed to inspiring more young women into STEM .They showed the girls how to build the hardware of their robots, and design the software to control its actions, not to mention providing all the equipment, including many sets of Lego Mindstorm kits and laptops! Thank you so much to you both!

We are also gratefully indebted to Mawiayah Fields for her tireless efforts on behalf of her students and IGNITE. Mawiayah is a Career and Technical Education Teacher at South Shore K-8 School, and has a background in chemical engineering that she shared with the girls, many of whom had never heard about her work before teaching! Mawiayah is a clear inspiration for her students. Thank you Mawiayah, we are lucky to have you!

We have so many people to be grateful to. The list goes on and on! Principal of South Shore School, Keisha Scarlett, made time to come to the event to support the girls throughout the day, and sent many picture text messages to parents, so they could have a glimpse of their child experimenting with robotics. Keisha also was gracious enough to share her story with the girls during lunch. She joked that the girls mostly know her as someone who “walks through the halls to stop running”, before going on to illuminate her background in science and math, including a stint at NASA. We could not be happier to have Keisha as a STEM advocate, a Principal and an IGNITE champion. Thank you Keisha!

We are so thankful as well to Kim Mustafa, an IGNITE parent who consistently offers up her time and wonderful energy to come to events and support the girls as they learn new skills and becoming exposed to new possibilities! We are grateful to you, Kim, for your enthusiastic support and we will do everything possible to inspire your daughter and other girls in their lives and careers!

The day started with a discussion of what exactly a robot is, and the many ways robots can be useful. For example, we watched a great video of a man with a robotic arm and hand which, just like a non-robotic arm, followed instructions from the man’s brain! The girls then broke into 5 teams and each team built a robot together, using Lego Mindstorm. One of the great things to see was how everyone shared responsibility in the teams, asking each other questions, taking turns building, debating the various ways the robot should function. At the end of the day, the girls took part in an “archery competition” in which they were told the distance their robots would have to travel to reach a bull’s-eye target on the floor. In this case, the distance was 11 ½ feet, and the girls calculated how many seconds their robot should travel to reach the target, based on their robots speed. They all were so close to the target and they cheered their robots (whom they had named things like “Robo” and “Robert”) to the finish lines. It was such a great and inspiring experience!

One of the most powerful things about this event was hearing the stories of the volunteers. Many shared that they come from low-income backgrounds, and faced hardships that challenged them to overcome to get where they are now. The importance of perseverance, not taking “no” for an answer, and believing in your ability to achieve that which you dream were all important take-aways from the panel of women. As you will see from the comments from the girl’s evaluation sheets, the impact on them was great!

Here are the comments from the girls’ evaluation sheets:

  • The most interesting thing that I heard was about the women’s lives.
  • I liked that you don’t have to have a lot of money to do what you dream about doing.
  • The thing I liked best today was racing the robots. I liked this the best because it was fun and it was using the robots we made ourselves.
  • The most interesting thing was that you can earn a job at Microsoft by applying for an internship.
  • I liked how you could make the robot say “hi”.
  • I liked building the robot and learning that robots can dance and help people.
  • I liked hearing the women speak and I liked the building’s free soda.
  • I liked building the robot and testing it with my team.
  • I liked making the robots work with real engineers and my group, and also seeing the inside of Microsoft.
  • It was interesting how people got the job of being an engineer and what their background was.
  • You can do anything, no matter where you come from.
  • Hard work really does pay off.
  • When we got to build the robots, and when we programmed them, that was my favorite part.
  • I liked the whole robot programming thing and also hearing everyone’s stories.
  • I liked when the engineers talked about their stories.
  • What I liked is that people talked about their background.
  • I learned that engineering can be fun and that STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
  • My favorite parts were racing the robots and learning about the workers.
  • The most interesting thing was learning about the teacher’s life. And winning! Go Robo!
  • Robo (our Robot) won archery! (I knew we were gonna win)
  • I liked that you can build robots through a computer and program it and make it run, talk, and do things humans can do.
  • It was interesting to hear how you can get a lot of $$$ in this work.
  • I liked the archery contest and hearing about how others ended up working at Microsoft.
  • I liked hearing the stories of the women from Microsoft and the teachers.
  • I love the concept that you can make mistakes and still learn and grow in the process.
  • I liked making and programming and doing the formulas. I’m kind of a math psycho.
  • The most interesting and best thing today was building the robots, and learning about the engineers’ stories.
  • I LOVED the programming and hearing the engineers’ stories.
  • I liked making and testing the robots and the engineers telling us about their lives.
  • I liked programming the robots to do what I say.

To all of you who helped make this event such a great experience, we say thanks! We could not do this without you.


View the South Shore K-8 School Chapter Page