How One Teacher is Inspiring Girls' Futures to Engineer a Better World

Nadine Amaya is an elementary school teacher of gifted students at Oak Grove Lower Elementary School in Hattiesburg, MS and spends countless hours working with her VEX IQ Challenge and Girl Powered teams. She was recently distinguished with the Teacher of the Year Award and played a pivotal role in establishing the VEX Robotics program at her school.

"Three years ago, I was invited to go to a workshop about robotics and was extremely impressed with the program and all that it could offer our students," said Nadine. The school administration, parents, and students responded enthusiastically to adding the program. Eight teams formed with three qualifying for State Championships in their first year. After a lot of hard work fundraising and spreading the word, the program quickly gained momentum and participation.

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day is February 22, 2018. This day signifies how girls’ future's can be inspired by engineering. Nadine not only introduces girls to engineering but also encourages them to dig deep and get involved. "Girls are definitely an asset at the 2nd and 3rd grade level and they're more willing to go above and beyond. Girls want to program, work on their engineering notebooks, and STEM Research Projects," explained Nadine. Fifty-five percent of Nadine's teams are comprised of girls, and of the six teams qualified for State Championships, three of them are Girl Powered teams.

"When a team dives in and gets excited about all of it, all of a sudden, they drive better, and they are a better team. When they start getting together after school at someone's house and work together on their STEM project, they become better friends, more confident and excited about what they're doing and end up going to tournaments and driving better and getting more points," said Nadine.

As a coach, Nadine always tries to inspire her teams to understand the real reasons why they compete and why they work so hard. She encourages her teams to understand that whether they win or lose, they are still winners. "I tell them that being in robotics is all about the learning. When we go to a tournament, I tell them this is something that a lot of kids don’t get to do, so you’re already winners right now. If you get a trophy it’s like icing on the cake. I have to break it down for them and say ‘Cake is good but if you have icing, it’s even better. If you bring a trophy home that’s better but it’s not our whole purpose. Our purpose is everything that you learn.’ They're understanding that it’s okay if they don’t win, because they’re already winners because they work so hard on everything”, described Nadine.

Girl Powered encourages teachers, coaches, mentors, and parents to introduce girls to engineering all year long by ensuring a vibrant robotics community that welcomes everyone. We're thankful for the work that Nadine is doing with her Girl Powered teams, and all of her teams to help encourage an inclusive approach to robotics and STEM within her school district and beyond!

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