Girls in Harrison Township Girl Scout Troops 65510 and 68125 are given the opportunity to learn about STEM through badge coursework.
The program was introduced to the national board back in 2017, and with new badges added this year, the girls are excited to learn more.
“It’s kind of like a script with step-by-step activities to achieve the goals for each badge,” said Cindy Vattasseril, troop leader, discussing the girls’ robots. “The problem is we don’t have a lot of robots lying around or laptops that have these programs.”
The troops have partnered with Clearview Regional High School’s robotics club to have access to the program and to learn directly from the high school students how things work.
“The girls learned how robots work, what makes them move. Then there’s a language robots speak, so they have to understand that they are the brain for the robot, and they have to tell the robot step-by-step within that algorithm,” said Vattasseril.
She said the greatest part is seeing the students’ work with the girls empower them and show them what they can do within the field when they get older.
“I hope through Scouting, it gets them more exposure and they are able to be challenged a little more,” she said.
Vattasseril added both Harrison Township and Pleasant Valley elementary schools don’t necessarily have a robotics course for students, except for an Innovations and Design class, so Girl Scouts is a way for many to learn.
She went on to say, in school, the girls can manipulate items on a computer screen and can get a basic understanding of how things work, but won’t be able to go through the trial-and-error of programming a robot, like they can now.
“It’s pretty awesome to watch because she hasn’t stopped doing anything this whole time with programming and tweaking the codes,” said Jason Shainline, dad of Lacey who participates in the STEM badges. “Her perseverance is also learning through this.”
The girls added they hadn’t had much exposure to robots prior to the introduction of the program, but have been in amazement in what they could do at their level.
“Whenever I get a paper that says STEM on it, I say ‘mom, go do this,'” exclaimed Girl Scout Sadie Zuba.
“To watch this come alive and see the high school kids work with the younger population is a positive because the high school kids get to master what they’re talking about, and the girls are learning more each day,” said Jason. “Any integration is a positive.”
Jason and Vattasseril both said the girls, thankfully, don’t realize the gender gap in the field because it’s “become their norm” and they hope other girls get into it.
To join the Harrison Township Girl Scouts or to find out more information on the Scouts’ STEM program, visit www.GSCNJ.org.