The Nerdettes are the only robotics team that qualified to represent the state of Alabama at the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championships this year. But that’s only the beginning—with help from their local community, this all-girls robotics team is building their future in robotics, and encouraging the next generation to follow in their footsteps.
The Nerdettes is an all-girls robotics team in Huntsville, Alabama. But they’re not just any team. They’re the only robotics team that qualified to represent the state of Alabama at the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championships this year. Currently, women make up 27% of STEM workers in the US. In Alabama, the number is much lower, at 4%. The Nerdettes hope they can inspire future generations of young girls to pursue robotics.
The team is made up of seven girls who split tasks to bring their robot to life. A few girls work on the mechanical side, building and putting together the robot. A few others are programmers, making sure the robot can move as intended and follow their commands. In their free time, they share the craft by teaching a younger team of girls—called the Gear Girls—robotics basics.
“It’s super motivating to see other little girls that are inspired by us. That’s one of our biggest goals—to get more girls into robotics,” says Emily King, an 11th grader on the Nerdettes team.
It came as a surprise when the Nerdettes were selected to go to the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championships, where over 160 teams compete each year. With over 6000 robotics teams worldwide, the team of young women was excited to be chosen.
“When they announced we were going to the world championship, we were all screaming and crying. It was a big moment,” Emily says.
The only problem is that getting to the world championships is expensive—so the Nerdettes turned to their community for help. They started a GoFundMe to rally their friends, family, and strangers around their mission and raised over $7,500 within two months—enough to cover their trip.
“We had so much support from our community and people all over. It was an awesome feeling to be supported for something that we were so passionate about,” Emily says.
The Nerdettes plan to use donations to their new GoFundMe to support ongoing costs, like purchasing robotics equipment, paying for competition fees, and covering travel. They also hope to continue inspiring young girls to pursue robotics, and careers in engineering or computer science through The Gear Girls.
“It’s really about showing people why they should try robotics,” Emily says, “some people think it’s kind of nerdy, but I think it’s pretty cool.”