All-girls team gear up for regional robot competition set for March

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

GALLUP, January 17, 2013

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(Special to the Times – Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Mentor and University of New Mexico-Gallup student Muriah Brown (center) observes Gallup High students, from left to right, Paloma Martin, Danielle Hutchinson, Alejandra Cruz, Kayla Begay, and Rebecca Carver build "Beep", a disc-throwing robot on Monday night in Gallup.

SECOND FROM TOP: Gallup High School students team up and assemble their robot "Beep" Monday night in Gallup.

THIRD FROM TOP: Gallup High School students team up and put their robot together Monday night in Gallup.

L ets build a robot" is not something you hear everyday.

But five girls from Gallup High jumped at the opportunity to build a disc-shooting, pyramid-climbing robot to enter in the FIRST Robotics Competition in West Valley City, Utah in March.

Danielle Hutchinson, 16, Rebecca Carver, 17, Kayla Begay, 16, Paloma Martin, 14, and Alejandra Cruz, 14, an all-girls robotics team who call themselves, "Girls Only", has begun manufacturing their robot "Beep" at the Rio West Mall.

"As part of the local community, we wanted to donate this space because we believe this program helps students develop a love for math and science," stated General Manager of Rio West Mall Kimberly Mans in a press release. "And, of course, we believe that Gallup High School will shine in the competition in March, and we're thrilled to support our team."

"Girls Only" is a team formed under the Boys and Girls Club of Gallup.

"It's something I think the community needed, having the kid's do something that is going to help their future," said Boys and Girls Club Unity Director Marisa Hutchinson, Danielle's mother. "I figured why not do the robotics team again."

The girls started building the base of their robot this week. Last week was dedicated to planning.

Marisa Hutchinson said that planning was the hardest part of the process and it takes the most time because the girls need to have a structured plan to stick to.

She also said the time is going to be the biggest pressure for the girls because it will get more and more intense with a deadline for a completed robot of Feb. 19.

"They have to stop building this robot on February 19 whether they are completed with it or not, and take it to Utah to compete."

Marisa Hutchinson said this team has helped the girls learn about supporting each other.

"We are an all-girls team and we want to be one that can show (that) just because we're all girls doesn't mean we can't do stuff like this," said Martin. "I think it's going to be fun."

Danielle Hutchinson, group leader, said that their robot "Beep" is going to have to be able to shoot discs into various goals ranging from three to nine feet in the air as well as climb a metal pyramid.

"To build our robot we're definitely of course going to need parts, and we're going to need programming so everything will work together," she said. "It won't just be materials we'll be putting into beep. We're going to have to put a lot of hard work into it."

"It's going to be really challenging, but I'm hoping it will be worth it," said Carver.

Technical Mentor Barry Lambson from Farmington, N.M. said he is assisting the girls with all the technical needs of their robot.

"I've tried to guide them along as far as planning. Just what steps to take and what order.

"The key focus has been learning to think in three dimension and learning to get ideas down," Lambson said. "The main challenge they will face is getting it all to work in unison."

"Our vision for her," said Danielle, referring to the robot, "is to be able to shoot the discs correctly, and we're really hoping for her to climb the pyramid. That probably is the most challenging part. We're really hoping that all our hard work will pay off in the end."

All the girls shared the same vision for "Beep" and that is simply them wanting to see her function properly, and shoot the disc right.

As for "Beep", "We had this whole paper full of names and we couldn't decide on any one of them. Then someone just said 'Well, let's name her 'Beep.' So we named her beep," Hutchinson added.

The competition includes anywhere from 40 to 70 teams with referees overseeing the competition, and judges evaluating the teams.

The FRC website states that the FRC is "a unique varsity sport for the mind designed to help high-school-aged young people discover how interesting and rewarding lives of engineers and scientists can be."

"Our kids need to be able to go out in the world and function on a global level," Marisa Hutchinson said. "They definitely have what it takes to compete in this male dominated field. I truly believe that.

"It offers them an extraordinary experience to see if they can build this robot, and also for them to work together as a team," she continued. "I like the fact that they all get along and that they all have gracious professionalism."

This isn't Danielle Hutchinson's first time at the FRC. She said she was able to attend the competition last year and it kept her interested enough to join the team this year.

"I saw how everyone worked together at the competition, everybody is really nice. It was just amazing with all that energy there and watching all the robots compete.

"I think it will be pretty cool seeing it out in the arena and seeing how everyone else's robot competes with ours," she added.

The girls can be seen building "Beep" in Rio West Mall in a space next to Gordon's Jewelers Monday through Friday from 6 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

The Utah regional FIRST Robotic Competition is set to take place March 21-23 at the Maverik Center in West Valley City, Utah.

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