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Buchser’s Girls Robotics Team Breaking Barriers

It was 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning and hundreds of middle and high school students were at the Google complex talking robotics and focused on the upcoming matches where their robots would be competing.

Past robotics competitions had shown Santa Clara Unified and the Girls Scouts of Nothern California that Latina students were underrepresented so in partnership, they created a team that would work to address this lack of inclusion. Challenges that were identified as playing a role in preventing students who don’t usually participate in these events from doing so included transportation, parent availability for chaperoning to practices and events, little to no past experience using robots, the cost of the VEX robots, and competition fees. With support from a plan to address these challenges, SCUSD and the Girl Scouts formed a team of three girls, including two Latinas, from Buchser Middle School.

The hard work establishing a team paid off from the very first event, where Buscher’s new team faced off against competitors more experienced in VEX robotics tournament at the Google Complex. Although they lost almost every match, their team was not deterred. In fact, the early adversity only served as motivation for them to do better. The team watched videos of other competitions, practiced different strategies, and learned from their mistakes.

The learning curve was very apparent by their second competition when their robot was flipped over in the first few seconds of the match. Instead of being frustrated with the robot's driver, they began strategizing on how they could improve their robot and even made it to the semi-finals.

Ed Tech Teacher on Special Assignment Alicia Vazquez said that one of the parents told her “Esta oportunidad es única y preciosa, tenemos que aprovecharla,” expressing that the opportunity her daughter was getting was precious and a one time chance and that they had to take advantage of.

With support from parents, teachers, and SCUSD staff the team overcame many obstacles. In particular, without the parents’ commitment, there would not have been a team — from a parent who rode two buses to get her daughter to practice at the Google Lab, to the positive can-do attitudes. Buchser teacher Anita Kodi and Vazquez were instrumental in the team’s success as they volunteered many hours of their own time, including late nights and long weekends supporting the team.