Lego Robotics – Broadview Thomson

On March 7, girls from Broadview Thomson came together to gain hands-on experience building their own Lego robots! The event was put on jointly between IGNITE, Technically Learning, and Microsoft. The event was so much fun for everyone! We brought together 22 girls in grades 6, 7 and 8 for this outing.P1000886

Many thanks, to Aparna Vishwanathan, at Microsoft, for all her hard work as the liaison between IGNITE and Microsoft for the Lego Mindstorm event. Aparna handled all the planning logistics, reserving a room for us, recruiting 8 female Microsoft professionals including engineers, program managers and directors. We appreciated the great room where the event was hosted and other items critical Aparna arranged for a smooth and fun day. Thank you for being such a talented, reliable and inspirational volunteer, Aparna!

P1000861We 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: Sadaf Waheed – Senior Manager, Tracey Grove – Director, Reham Abdelshahid – Microsoft PM, Robin Smith – Sr. Solution Manager, Femila Anilkumar – Technical Writer, Esin Saka – Applied Researcher, Marlene Cota – SDET, Eileen Chou – Sr. Solution Manager, and Anne Freeman – Biochemist and volunteer with Technical Learning. 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! We especially appreciate the fantastic pizza lunch they provided for all of the girls and volunteers! Thank you so much to you both!

Last, but definitely not least, we want to recognize Susan Nelson and Mica Wegener from Seattle Schools. They were great supporters for the girls from the start of the day traveling to the Microsoft campus on the bus and being fantastic cheerleaders and helpers for all of the teams throughout the day. Additionally, we can’t forget all of the support we have had from Emma Hong from the district. She has been the coordinator on this event from the very start. We can’t thank you enough for your dedication to the program!

Robot 2 for mktg
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 6 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. Over the course of the event, the girls went from a fairly quiet audience to a then very engaged, talkative group of teams. The truly enjoyed not only the building of the robots but the collaboration with their classmates and volunteer mentors.

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 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 very diverse backgrounds, and faced challenges to get where they are now. They also shared with the girls how much their skills are in demand and that right out of school they were able to find really fun and interesting jobs that they LOVE. They all agreed that the pay for the work they do is great and also mentioned how you can have a family and a career both.The importance of perseverance, not P1000881taking “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

  • I liked how we learned how to make robots and work on computers.
  • I realized that not many girls go into engineering and that you get paid a lot.
  • Robots are like humans
  • We can be good in engineering if we are good in math.


  • Listening to all the volunteers and hearing how they got interested in technology was the most interesting
  • Microsoft can pay for your school.
  • I liked how the robot can do a lot of things
  • The most interesting thing I heard today might be how a lego robot is “like a human”.
  • I like building robots and testing their speed.
  • STEM – I learned that each letter means something.
  • I liked the dancing robots.
  • I learned how to make robots, also what STEM means, and the pizza and soda were the best
  • Everything I learned was interesting.
  • The best part was watching the robot that we created move.
  • I learned how fun it is to work at Microsoft.
  • the best was the archery and getting it in to the bulls eye.
  • I liked to put a robot together and try to make it work.
  • It was really fun and I think you should do this at other schools.
  • The best was building the Lego cars.
  • Back then women didn’t do a lot of technology.
  • Programming the robot, it was so cool to see that I could put something in the computer and the robot would do it
  • I liked how we built the robot and when the volunteer talked about college degrees.

Thank you all for a great event, and for your dedication to IGNITE!
Cathi Rodgveller M.S. Ed.

View the Broadview Thomson K-8 Chapter page