Robotics team shows how female engineers are taking over the controls

Righty tighty, lefty loosey. That was the extent of Elizabeth Nail’s technical experience when she joined the robotics team at the start of her senior year at Mayfield.

“When I started I couldn't tell a nut from a washer, and I had to chant ‘righty tighty, lefty loosey’ under my breath every time I used a screwdriver,” said Elizabeth ’18. 
Five months later she was travelling to Seattle with the Javabots, one of the top robotics teams in the West, which had earned a spot at a "Super Regional" competition. Thanks to a new partnership with the Girl Scouts of America and its award-winning robotics teams, eight Mayfield students have experienced transformative learning through engineering teamwork.

Elizabeth said her intense curiosity to explore technology in action moved her to make the major time commitment to join the Mayfield-based team, which meets after school and on Saturdays. Plus, she had been hearing about the thrill of designing and building robots from her good friend, Kemi Ashing-Giwa ’18, a five-year member of the Girl Scouts team.

“I've learned that design is a long, hard road, but it's so worth it when your final mechanism works,” Elizabeth said.

The Javabots built Latte, a robot, earning high scores at the FIRST Tech Challenge Regional Robotics Championships. Judged in areas including robot performance, computer programming and engineering, the competition challenges high school teams to program and build a robot that strategically completes tasks for points.

Elizabeth designed one part of the robot, an instrument that picks up objects. She first modeled it on software and then brought it to life by laser-cutting and 3D-printing parts that she designed herself. 

“I went through four different versions, but the ultimate iteration netted us a lot of points in competition,” said Elizabeth, who will be attending UCLA as a prospective mechanical engineering major, a credit to her robotics experience.

Fellow robotics rookie Annie Tighe ’19 helped by designing a REV-extrusion mechanism. 

“I joined the team with no real prior knowledge about robotics, but I allowed myself to dive right in and immerse myself in a world where I was learning incredible skills and meeting the coolest people ever,” Annie said. “No matter if someone is going to pursue science or not, being on the robotics team this year has been so rewarding and I love it so much!”

Annie and her Javabots teammates said their competition experience alongside some of the brightest minds in high-school engineering has inspired them to work even harder next season, with the goal of advancing to world competition.

“The thing that impressed me most was being able to talk to teams from around the country and get to know their experience,” Annie said. “Being with smart, dedicated and super fun people was such a blast and I wouldn't have traded that experience for the world. 

My biggest take-away? Never hold yourself back!” she said.

Kemi, who will be attending Harvard University and aspires to become a neuroscientist, said Mayfield’s partnership with her cherished Girl Scout team will continue to offer “limitless opportunities” for our students.

“At Mayfield, I have developed both as a student and as a person. In robotics, the intricate lessons I learn in class connect as pieces of a spatial puzzle,” Kemi said.

Beyond the competition, Kemi said she has forged strong friendships during her five years on the Girl Scout team.

“The best part is definitely the people—the robot is almost incidental,” she said. “The girls on the team are all brilliant and dedicated and creative, and the mentors are patient and helpful.”

Kemi is confident that her Mayfield sisters will continue to find inspiration in STEM through participation in robotics.

“I can state without a doubt that there are no limits to what we can do,” Kemi said.
Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 28 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.