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Nearly 200 elementary school students have been building sumo wrestling robots at Simon Fraser University over the spring break to test their programming and engineering skills.
The Sticks and Stars and Girls in Action outreach programs, led by Surrey Schools in partnership with SFU’s Faculty of Applied Sciences and HR MacMillan Space Centre, engages young students from inner city elementary schools through hands-on technology and science workshops.
This spring is the first time the Girls in Action program has joined the boys’ Sticks and Stars program in visiting SFU, with 100 girls participating. Through this expanded partnership, SFU and Surrey Schools hope to empower the next generation of female engineers and programmers by allowing girls to explore technology in a new way.
The students work in teams to create moving robots that duke it out in a final sumo challenge. The activities inspire students to think creatively, learn problem-solving skills and build confidence.
“It's important for young girls to have the opportunity to try programming and engineering, and crucially, also develop the self-confidence to pursue these fields,” says program coordinator Tina Tran, an SFU undergraduate computing science student.
The later years of elementary school are pivotal for students to develop positive interests and influences. Encouraging elementary-age students to participate in science, technology, engineering and math programs has also been shown to increase the likelihood they will pursue those areas of study in the future.
“Both the Sticks and Stars and Girls in Action programs were developed to ensure that boys and girls were connecting with positive role models, looking for engaging activities and finding ways to explore their passions,” says Pat Horstead, an assistant superintendent at Surrey Schools.
Girls in Action is made possible by generous donations from Chevron, TD Friends of the Environment and National Bank One for Youth.