2012 has arrived!
Happy New Year! We trust that you all had a fun and enjoyable festive season, and a successful 2011. The past year has been a very exciting one for Robogals, and what follows is a quick overview of some of our acheivements:
Our chapters in the five major cities of Australia delivered robotics workshops to 773 girls from across 20 schools in the period September 2010 to September 2011, ranging from once-off visits to repeat visits at some schools: at the very top end of the scale, two schools in Brisbane had Robogals come 11 times each, as a regular weekly activity!
The new Robogals Rural & Regional (RRR) programme also made several road trips to regional areas across Victoria, with week-long trips to Ballarat, Latrobe Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Geelong, plus two more day-trips to Geelong, conducting once-off robotics workshops for 1,335 girls from 31 schools in total.
Robogals' chapters in the UK also conducted numerous robotics workshops, for which we don't have the exact figures yet, so stay tuned for our full Annual Report expected in March :)
In surveys of 348 students who participated in Robogals' workshops, they reported their "interest in engineering" on a scale of 1 to 10 as:
- an average of 4.2/10 before the session
- an average of 8.0/10 after the session
Most students also indicated that they knew nothing about engineering prior to the session. As for after the session, one student even wrote: "I learnt that engineering isn't just about engines"!
Talks about engineering
The new Robogals Rural & Regional (RRR) programme this year, funded by the Cochlear Foundation, also brought 20 university students from regional areas around Australia to Melbourne for a training weekend on 13-15 August. The 10 regions represented were Swan Hill, Mildura and Warrnambool in Victoria, Wollongong and Newcastle in New South Wales, Rockhampton and Townsville in Queensland, Hobart in Tasmania, Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and the Canberra area in ACT. These students then returned home to visit schools in their local areas!
As we don't have the resources to run robotics workshops in all those areas, the aim of RRR was to instead visit schools to give inspiring presentations. They spoke to individual classes or to whole school assembles about engineering and technology careers, and the difference that engineering makes to our lives. Between the 20 of them, they spoke at 43 schools, to 1,700+ students in total.
Some of Robogals' other activities included:
- Held the inaugural Robogals Science Challenge (see article below!)
- Robogals in Manchester, Melbourne and Adelaide were judges at their local FIRST LEGO League competitions
- Robogals London had a stall at the Big Bang Fair and held a workshop at the London Science Museum
- Our Western Australia chapter had a stall at the SciTech Science Awareness Expo in Geraldton
- The Bristol chapter had a stall at the Changing Perspectives event at the University of Bristol
- Robogals Adelaide ran an activity at the University of Adelaide's Women in Tech Challenge, which was rated the 2nd best activity of the event (Pictured right: Robogals Adelaide Vice-President Brooke Balogh speaking at the event)
- Our Edinburgh chapter gave a presentation at a women's conference
- We assembled an Advisory Board chaired by Dr. Bronwyn Evans, Senior Vice-President at Cochlear, to advise the Robogals Global executive team on a range of issues
- This year saw the widespread adoption and use of myRobogals by our chapters to manage their member list, send out emails, manage school visits and other functions
- Robogals was internationally recognised through the awarding of the Anita Borg Change Agent Award to us by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (pictured right), and a YouthActionNet Fellowship from the International Youth Foundation.
- And finally, Robogals founder Marita Cheng is currently one of eight finalists for Young Australian of the Year 2012. We await with anticipation the announcement on 25 January!
The Robogals Global Team would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to:
- All the Robogals chapter committee members and volunteers, and rural & regional ambassadors, that have made Robogals what it is today!
- All the schools who have given us the privilege of visiting them!
- Our national sponsors in Australia: Beck Engineering, GE Energy, Leighton Holdings and CSIRO as Gold Sponsors, Google as a Silver Sponsor and NICTA as a Bronze Sponsor
- Our national sponsor in the UK: National Grid
- The Cochlear Foundation for their generous grant which made Robogals Rural & Regional possible
- All our Advisory Board members: Bronwyn Evans, Andrea Boyle, Jamie Evans, Bruce Howard and Jessica Wrigley
- All the universities where we have a Robogals chapter, for the support and resources they provide their chapters
- All the girls who entered into the Robogals Science Challenge and their parents.
- Engineers Australia, particularly Glenda Graham, for her amazing support and advice
- Our mentors and friends Victoria Lennox, and Bruce and Robin Campbell, for their advice and support
Bring on 2012!
The inaugural Robogals Science Challenge
Written by Mark Parncutt, Operations Director, Robogals Global
The Robogals Science Challenge was a new Robogals initiative in 2011. It is an Australia-wide competition for girls aged 5-18, together with a parent or mentor. The entrants did a science experiment at home, and then submitted a video of their experiment online! Judging criteria includes the difficulty and creativity of the experiment, and a demonstrated understanding of the theory behind the project. The entrants were split into three age groups: Primary (5-8), Intermediate (9-12) and Senior (13-18) and judged by Bernie Hobbs, Sally Dominguez and Veena Sahajwalla, all regular panelists on the ABCs New Inventors, and Dr. Alberto Elfes from CSIRO.
All the finalists in the Challenge were invited to a weekend in Melbourne on 3 and 4 December, flights and accommodation courtesy of GE Energy, to attend the award ceremony as well as some science-related attractions!
The weekend kicked off with the finalists and their guests being greeted at the hotel, and escorted on the tram to GE Headquarters where they were met at the tram stop by two robots! After a nice informal lunch where all the finalists were able to get to know each other, the award ceremony began, MC'ed by one of the judges, Sally Dominguez. After a brief introduction to Robogals, the audience enjoyed watching all the finalists videos, followed by the judges' comments. And then finally, the winners were announced! See at the end of this article for their videos.
The finalists and guests then returned to the hotel for a short rest before embarking on a brief walking tour of Melbourne, including a visit to the viewing deck of the Eureka Tower. Finally, we had a banquet dinner, also sponsored by GE, at the Shark Fin Inn in Chinatown.
On Sunday morning we were up early to visit the Melbourne Aquarium! We stayed at the Aquarium for about two hours, enjoying such sights as the penguins, the tropical coral atoll, weird & wonderful tank and shark tank. After a quick lunch nearby, we headed to the final activity of the weekend: a visit to ScienceWorks where we saw the current special exhibition, Explore-a-saurus, as well as our guests being free to explore all the regular exhibitions.
The inaugural Robogals Science Challenge was the beginning of an annual competition that we hope to see grow in the years to come. From 2012 onwards, the Science Challenge is set to be much more engineering-oriented, with the entrants encouraged to demonstrate the practical application of science to solve problems faced in their daily lives (i.e. what engineers do), as well as discipline-specific prizes for the various disciplines of engineering.
Robogals would like to thank the following people for their amazing support:
- Mun-Xin Lee, Science Challenge Manager, for her excellent work in bringing the Challenge to fruition
- All the girls and their parents who entered the Challenge!
- GE Energy, particularly Andrea Boyle, for making the Science Challenge possible
- The other sponsors who donated prizes: Science Illustrated, ScienceWise and COSMOS Magazines. And Joanne Chan for arranging all the amazing prizes!
- David Lee for his great work in promoting the Challenge
- The judges Bernie Hobbs, Sally Dominguez, Veena Sahajwalla and Alberto Elfes.
- All the volunteers who helped on the day of the award ceremony: Shu Jie Lam, Makiko Nagasawa, Kelly Chiu and Shane Lyndon, of whom the latter two even dressed up as robots in the sweltering heat!
- Tim Macauley for being our official photographer for the award ceremony.
- Jia Choong for interviewing the winners.
The winning entries:
What do you study?
Biochemistry at Imperial College London.
What have you done with Robogals?
I have taken part in outreach workshops and have run some sessions myself. I hope that I have managed to pass on my enthusiasm for science to the girls (and teachers!) who attended.
What was the biggest highlight?
Learning from the other members of Robogals. As a natural scientist I had no previous experience with robotics and the other members of the group are really great teachers.
What are your dreams and goals for the future?
I hope to continue sharing my enthusiasm of science with people of every age and intend to follow a career in science communication (in one form or another) when I graduate. I think it is vitally important to make science more accessible to the public - something that Robogals does wonderfully.
What are your hobbies outside study and Robogals?
I enjoy theatre and film-making. In my spare time (if I can get any!) I like to direct plays, visit the theatre and make short films.
The Amplifier is the official newsletter of Robogals, collating articles written by our chapters all around the world for the benefit of Robogals members, supporting faculty, partners, sponsors and anyone else interested in following our activities.
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