Breaking barriers, Prosper engineering introduces FRC girls team

Shreya Srivathsan and Yasmin Garada

The intensity set in with the chaotic robot noises in the pit- what one might think of as groups of teenagers battling each others’ robots- is beyond what the story tells. Nevertheless, Prosper Engineering teams have made it to the international competitions after dominating the competition at the Worlds and nationals. Prosper ISD’s engineering teams at Rock Hill and Prosper High have competed in this tournament since 2015. 

FRC, or First Robotics Competition, is an international high school robotics competition that challenges students in different engineering disciplines. Students work in teams to design, construct, and brand their creations. The 2022-2023 season theme challenges students to reimagine the future of sustainable energy and power their ideas forward. 

Following the Prosper Engineering team’s successes, a new team with just as much potential entered the competition. Prosper Engineering has introduced an all-girls FRC robotics team before its competition season, hoping to expand teams and provide an equitable experience for women in STEM. 

“I want to be able to have another area where they are comfortable, and they can excel in,” robotics teacher Mr. Enrique Elias said. “That is something we’ve been focusing on with the FRC girls team; it is important to uplift and encourage STEM. So we have plans to have them shadow and create their own projects.”

Coming in, the girls were not expected to have any background knowledge- many were walking in as first-time STEM students. 

“There aren’t enough girls who participate in this, and I want to help take down barriers that kept them from being part of this.” senior Navya Swali said. “It really makes a difference when you see a female student in a leadership position, provided dominated STEM fields are by guys.”

Swali had worked with the volunteers and engineering teacher to create this program as a part of her legacy before she graduates and pursues higher education at the University of Texas at Austin.

“I was nervous,” senior Minnah Hayet said.  “I saw a lot of people doing a lot of complicated things and was hoping that one day we could all do similar things. It was intimidating, to say the least, but something about all of us girls starting and struggling on the same level has made the journey amazing so far,”

The girls team has been challenged in many ways- having to learn new skills during a comparatively short period compared to the other groups during afterschool practices on their own time. 

Some new FRC girl’s team members are pictured taking a garage tour.

“I thought I would like the building aspect when I first joined. I like the club because it is less intimidating and off-the-bat terrifying than the actual classes,” junior Jocelyn Lin said.  “I kinda knew nothing walking in because my friend encouraged me to join her. I didn’t want to seem stupid, so it was a nice experience for us to learn together and connect.”

Students actively participating in the stem courses at Prosper ISD have been tasked with mentoring the new girls team.

“FRC has taught me time management, communication, and decision-making skills since I worked with other people to deliver something quickly. It has also taught me important engineering design skills,” senior David Boosi said. “My favorite memories are from our competitions because I get to have fun with my teammates and meet people from other teams.” 

Prosper Engineering students plan to participate in summer programs to equip themselves with any additional skills needed to succeed. 

“We don’t have electrical knowledge,” sophomore Jocelyn Lin said. “We have a plan to work on the brake part over the summer. We have camps over the summer to help us learn. At the camps, we get kits to learn how to create a robot, and slowly they will give us more resources to not go in blind as first-time competitors.” 

One of the volunteers and the mom of a Prosper engineering student, Mrs. Elizabeth Phillips, is Pictured here.

Lin plans to prepare for the upcoming competition year by attending virtual stem camps to gain the hard hands-on skills needed to create the robot’s parts. 

“I was thinking of going into STEM-related, or if I’m being more ambitious, potentially a game developer. I’ve been interested in gaming and computer science.” junior Minnah Hayat said. “I’m excited to get a letterman and show up for the girls in the program. I hope to be on the drive team. I can’t wait to be able to take on new challenges and grow into the leader I wish to be, even though a field like this is male-dominated.” 

The girls team plans on structuring more with their mechanical, programming, engineering, and CAD [computer-aided design] resources. 

“I look forward to the teamwork. This year we weren’t getting much structure- participation has dwindled. We haven’t executed a lot of ideas,” Lin said. “There are so many exciting changes happening to help us prepare to succeed.” 

Prosper Engineering’s afterschool program runs with the help of volunteers such as Min Smart, Elizabeth Phillips, Stephan Phillips, and others who dedicate their efforts to mentoring and running the program.

It [The Prosper Engineering Team] amazes me with how much they create and bring these projects to life. It’s not easy to create from scratch at such a young age- but they are doing it and succeeding while doing so. People in this field are dedicated; they proudly walk in these engineering hallways because they put in the work and see so much growth. As a teacher, I am really proud.”

— Robotics teacher Mr. Enrique Elias

“We need to have people who are interested first in creating an official team to compete, so if we can help these girls succeed starting this year, we can have three strong teams representing Prosper ISD next year,” robotics teacher Mr. Elias said. “We are providing these students a safe space to learn and grow.”