March is Women’s History Month! This month, we’re celebrating the trailblazers of the past and the current women in STEM who are making history by inspiring our robotics community and paving the way for the future. Read more about our women leaders below as they share their experiences, challenges, and thoughts for the next generation of female leaders.
Angela R. Wells
Angela Wells is a Cloud Engineer, Patent Holder, and Associate Faculty at City University of Seattle Washington. She focuses on robotics and 3D modeling. She is passionate about impacting the lives of next-generation innovators under the umbrella of BlackInRobotics.She credits Dr. Carlotta Berry, Maurice Dawson, Reuben Ajayi, and Cyril Azubuine as her mentors and inspiration.
"The strength every student needs to thrive in this field of mine is to be persistence and willingness to pay the price." - Angela R. Wells
Dr. Ayanna Howard
Dr. Ayanna Howard is a Dean of The Ohio State University College of Engineering. She became interested in robotics in middle school when she watched a TV show called "The Bionic Woman" and made it a goal to build the bionic woman. She learned that she needed to develop interdisciplinary skills in engineering and computer science in order to accomplish that goal. As a junior in college, she became fascinated with artificial intelligence (AI) when, during one of her internships at NASA, she was tasked with designing my first neural network associated with terrain coverage. She quickly saw that if she could combine the power of AI with robotics, she could enable my robotic-building ambitions of the future. She believes a fundamental strength for students is to have passion for what they do. Things sometimes don’t work out exactly as anyone envisions. Sometimes life and/or people place barriers in a person’s way. And sometimes, a student might not have received the proper educational preparation due to no fault of their own. Despite these challenges, having passion is the one controllable element that can help motivate the grit necessary to push through.
“Always believe in yourself. Strive to be your best cheerleader and coach.” - Dr. Ayanna Howard
Jennifer Spencer has been teaching math and science since 1999 and added robotics to the lesson plans in 2010. She has always been a “techie” and enjoys all the latest and greatest technologies. are the ones in my head! She’s seen students uninterested in school become interested once robotics were involved. Students may not have the answer or know the correct programming step, but she’s seen them persevere. She became passionate about robotics because she’s seen it change her students’ lives. She believes it is important for girls to try robotics. Young kids are encouraged to try different sports and hobbies, and robotics should be the same.
"You are capable of more than you know! You are an amazing individual and you can do hard things!" - Jennifer Spencer
Jessica Constant has been a teacher for 12 years and has been coaching VEX IQ Challenge teams for the last 7 years. When she became a robotics coach, she was the only female coach in her district. She learned as much as she could about the program, the VIQC game, and the REC Foundation. She strived to become knowledgeable about the program, but also approachable. When her district participated in a REC Foundation District Grant, she became the grant manager. This allowed her to help schools in her district start a robotics program. Her leadership encouraged other women to start robotics programs in their schools, which has led to several female coaches and girls on robotics teams in her district. She believes girls should become involved in robotics because they can! Robotics is a great way to learn the design process. It helps build confidence through failure and iteration. Robotics teaches everyone to solve problems and think creatively.
"Keep working towards your goal with your head held high. You will face challenges. When you do, remember that you are amazing and able to overcome anything!" - Jessica Constant
Michelle Lonsinger is a professional with 25 years of experience in the STEM industry. Her daughter participated in the VEX IQ Challenge program in 2015, and she has been involved as a mentor and volunteer ever since. She saw students gain a variety of skills and a boost in their confidence as the season progressed. She believes that the tech industry needs more female leaders, and that can only happen if more girls pursue their interest in robotics and other STEM activities. Diverse teams (whether made up of students or career professionals) have a broader set of skills and perspectives, are more creative, and actively break down traditional barriers. Her advice to other robotics parents is that volunteering is a much better way to spend the day during competitions. Judging at an event and interviewing the student teams gives you a backstage pass to a very exclusive club filled with fascinating people. If you can’t make it to a tournament, consider judging the annual Online Challenges.
"Don't let yourself be boxed into anyone else's expectations of who you are or who you can be." - Michelle Lonsinger
We invite you to take our Girl Powered pledge! We're committed to showing how exciting it is to be involved with STEM, showcasing examples of how women are changing the world, providing tools for success, and enabling comfortable environments where all students' confidence and abilities can flourish. The Robotics Education & Competition (REC) Foundation and VEX Robotics are working to make robotics reflective of the diverse world we live in, and the one we want to leave behind.