Members of the Hall of Fame Bloomfield Hills High School FIRST Robotics Team 2834 are preparing to visit the United Nations as part of the February 11 International Day of Women and Girls in Science event. The team was invited by the event host and chair HRH Princess Dr. Nisreen El-Hashemite of Iraq, Executive Director of the Royal Academy of Science International Trust (RASIT) and President of the Women in Science International League. Six BHHS students will be presenting directly and the rest of the group will be part of a panel over a two-day program at the UN headquarters in New York.
Senior Evelyn Sorgenfrei is one of the captains of FIRST Team 2834 and also one of the students from BHHS who will be presenting at the event. "We will be speaking at the UN regarding our experiences with FIRST Robotics as well as our experiences as females in STEM fields to promote awareness and add our thoughts on issues," explains Sorgenfrei.
The other presenters are junior Sophie Henderson, sophomore Maggie Kirkman, junior Hilary Lam, sophomore Maggie Murray, and sophomore Thaneesha Sivapalan. They all have been working on their speeches along with their other robotics responsibilities as the team currently is at a critical point in their build season before their first competition in Southfield on March 1-2.
While only six students officially will present, around 15 other students also will be participating in the trip for the experience of visiting the UN, serving on the panel, and helping to promote STEM education. Several parent mentors will accompany them.
Senior Hanna Halstead will be traveling with the team to New York and says joining the BHHS FIRST robotics team was instrumental in having these types of opportunities. Halstead says, "Robotics is great for getting girls involved in activities having to do with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. On the robotics team, you can be part of areas such as programming, electrical, build, and CAD. I hope people see how great this is and how important this is for our future."
Although new to the high school robotics team, ninth-grader Lilly Polilto will be participating in the trip as well. Polito says, "I've always done robotics and thought it was really fun. For the past few years, I was on an all-girls team which really inspired me to keep doing it because it showed me that we can do a lot and that the girls can run the team and do just as well as any other team. I'm going on the trip to watch other people on the team and see how they interact with other professionals and also to be inspired by other women."
Diane Victor is a long-time robotics mentor and parent. Both of Victor's children, Jay and Mia, attend BHHS and participate on FIRST Team 2834. Diane was the first point of contact with RASIT. Diane explains, "When my daughter Mia was in FIRST Tech Challenge, which is middle school robotics, that is when the resolution about the International Day of Women and Girls in Science first became officially recognized by the UN. Once I heard about it, I reached out to RASIT, which was organizing the event, and congratulated them on making this amazing resolution because it was so great for girls. I also told them that my daughter was on an all-girls team and that robotics had changed our lives. Princess Dr. Nisreen El-Hashemite herself wrote back saying that her mission was to create a community that respects and promotes science and technology and invited us to the UN. In the meantime, Mia moved up to the high school team. As we continued our conversations, Princess Dr. Nisreen was excited to hear that we had won the Hall of Fame award and invited us to speak at the UN."
The Hall of Fame designation, won at the FIRST Robotics World Championships in Detroit in 2018, has been important to Team 2834. Senior Noah Stillman was part of the group that prepared the presentation for the award. Stillman says, "What makes us a Hall of Fame team is winning something called the Chairman's Award. It's given to teams that best represent a team to emulate and follow. It recognizes things like helping in your community, spreading the goals of FIRST Robotics, and advocating for STEM education across the world. One of the main points of our team has always been encouraging girls in STEM. We have a girls' robotics summer camp, we host an all-girls high school robotics tournament, we promote robotics at Girl Scout events, and we encourage girls at all levels in Bloomfield Hills Schools to get involved in robotics."
Maggie Murray, sophomore at BHHS and one of the speakers, is passionate about encouraging girls to participate in robotics. "One of the reasons I'm really excited to go on this trip is because I'm in the advocacy group on our high school team, and that's something I want to go into in the future. This will be a cool experience for me to see how I handle myself in these types of situations." Murray continues, "We are hoping to spread awareness on what we try to do which is get more girls involved in STEM and making sure everyone knows it's an easier thing to do than most people think it is."
Victor says that Princess Dr. Nisreen El-Hashemite has the same goals for the BHHS students who are participating. Victor explains, "When I asked her what the objective was for the speakers, Princess Dr. Nisreen said, 'What I want is for the girls to have an opportunity to be heard, to be visible, and to learn about the UN so they can be leaders in the future.'"
Sorgenfrei adds, "It will be a great experience. Obviously, it's a great honor to go to the UN. I think it is a chance for us to become more open-minded and for us to push ourselves. We haven't been in this situation before, so to have an instance where you are talking to people from different countries and where it's such a unique experience will allow us to grow a lot."
More information about the International Day of Women and Girls in Science event at the UN and the program for the event can be found at www.womeninscienceday.org
. More information on FIRST Robotics can be found at www.firstinspires.org
. To connect with the BHHS Bionic Black Hawks Robotics Team, visit www.team2834.com