Innovation, Representation, and Presentation


Sarah Ungerer

Anjali Sinha, Reporter

Women of Innovation–that’s what many Pres girls strive to be. And for the past 12 years, our robotics team, Presentation Invasion, has encouraged Pres students to become women of innovation and to get excited about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

The team’s biggest competition is the annual FIRST Robotics tournament in January. Presentation Invasion–also known as Team 2135–and other high school teams are given only six weeks to fully internalize a given game challenge and to prototype, design, manufacture, build and program robots weighing in at about 120 to 130 pounds.

Last year, the season was filled with many successes for the team. Team 2135 won the 2016 Chezy Champs tournament hosted at Bellarmine during the pre-season and also the Central Valley Regional in Madera, Calif., in March 2017. This qualified the team for the Half World Championships in Houston, Texas.

Last month, the team once again competed at Chezy Champs. Ranking 17th out of 40 elite teams from all over the country, Presentation Invasion was extremely reliable and successful and advanced to semi-finalist status.

Increased visibility has led to a surge in participation–the team now has 61 members.

As Control Systems and Programming Lead and officer Alyssa Ungerer stated, “Before, we couldn’t fill the conference room in the Jenvey House, and now, we can barely fit. From last year, membership has over doubled in size.”

Joining the team has many perks. Members are exposed to various fields and areas such as Mechanical Design (designing 3D parts), Programming/ Control Systems (controlling robot functions with software), Manufacturing (machining the parts that they’ve designed and assembling the robot) and PR/ Marketing (advertising, making flyers, etc), all while working with professional industry mentors.

Ungerer said, “People stay because of the close community that encourages learning while having fun.” On the team, we always promote a hands-on approach through which girls can actually try things out for themselves, a concept that some teams are not able to implement due to their structure and size.

She added, “One of our main struggles now is compensation for a bigger team. Some of the veterans had the opportunity to work closely with the robot because the team was significantly smaller, therefore, gaining a lot of experience. We want to continue that so all our members can be a part of the robot building process and have that opportunity to learn as much as the veteran members did.”

Nevertheless, having more people on the team is certainly an advantage. More people means more hands. This leads to greater efficiency and a faster turnaround. There are many benefits that increased participation brings to the overall performance. This transitional year will set the precedent for seasons to come, and we love that more people are stepping out of their comfort zone to delve into STEM fields.

Presentation also offers many other clubs, organizations, and afterschool programs such as WICS, Girls Who Code, PEM, Mu Alpha Theta, ISTS, the Math and Science Independent Research class, SEAS and Astronomy, besides Robotics. With the revitalization of the Math and Science Academy, young women will be more open to these fields.

WICS and PEM officer Shruti Pai said, “In the Silicon Valley, there are a lot of opportunities, especially for girls going into STEM and computer science. Clubs like WICS and Girls Who Code will encourage girls to explore these fields which is really necessary because of the gender gap.” Given our location in the Bay Area, the numerous possibilities available can foster an interest in science or math, knowledge that will be useful for any career path. Presentation encourages a supportive environment where students can discover and fully engage in their passions.

Pai said, “Recently in PEM there’s been more interest with students when there are guest speakers coming. I’ll see them, after meetings, go up to the guest speakers and ask them specific questions about their interests and about the fields that they’re working in. It’s really nice to watch them be able to apply what they learn to their own life and think about what they want to do in the future.”

Science teacher and Math and Science Academy moderator Dr. Tracey Hughes described the reintroduction of the program. She said, “There wasn’t enough recognition, so at the end of the school year getting a certificate, a pin, a medal, and recognizing the efforts people are putting into these activities is the goal of what we are doing.”

Hughes continued, “It’s not academic and has nothing to do with your grade point average, but rather it’s your involvement in STEM-related activities. We do give points for Mu Alpha Theta membership, for students going to Math and Science Colloquiums, participating in math contests, doing science fair as part of Math and Science Independent Research, being in robotics or being in any of our STEM related clubs. Everyone is eligible to become a member.”

In the 21st century, female representation in STEM fields is growing in importance. Innovation is key, and the only way to gain experience is to get involved. Presentation’s efforts are shaping young women into the next leaders and innovators, and by joining these activities, students can take part in that initiative.