Robotics competition encourages girls to get into STEM

It’s Super Bowl weekend, and a robotics competition in Laval is riffing on the football theme as it continues to encourage students, particularly girls, to take an interest in robotics.

17th annual competition has seen participation by female students increase exponentially, organizers say

Ioanna Korbis is a Grade 11 student representing Collège Sainte-Marcelline in the robotics competition. (Sean Henry/CBC)

It's Super Bowl weekend, and a robotics competition is riffing on that football theme as it aims to encourage students, particularly girls, to take an interest in robotics.

The 17th annual CRC Robotics Competition started Thursday at Laval Senior Academy, and a winner will be announced Saturday.

Organizers see the competition as a fun way to get girls thinking about pursuing further studies in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math.

Ioanna Korbis, a Grade 11 at Collège Sainte-Marcelline in Saint-Laurent, says she appreciates being surrounded by so many amateur engineers.

"It's a great feeling to know that I can come here, and it's perfectly normal, it's not like, 'Oh why is she here?' It's like, this is my thing, too."

Collège Sainte-Marcelline's all-girls team built a robot that can shoot footballs in two directions, well as pick up balls and drop them.

Hands-on experiments

Organizers of the competition said the involvement of girls has increased exponentially since it began. 

"One of our missions is always to promote women in STEM, having girls pursue their passion at a very young age," spokesperson Natasha Vitale said.

She said making competitors do a hands-on experiment and try things they wouldn't learn in a classroom gives them an edge if they pursue higher education in these fields.

"We also wanted to make sure they have collaborative competition they can go to and have fun," Vitale said.

One of the robots in the competition drops a football in a bin. (Sean Henry/CBC)

High schools and CEGEPs from across Quebec are participating, as well as a team from Vancouver, B.C.

With files from Sean Henry