The Robot Queens

How Teamwork and Freedom Results in Creativity

Westside’s STEM program allows students to dig into their creative side.

Westside’s STEM program allows students to dig into their creative side.

This is the “Zamboni Edition” of the robot.

This is the “Zamboni Edition” of the robot.

First, it started out as a little car. 

It was a bit delicate, but at least it could do turns. Then something went wrong. The little car was mysteriously dismantled. And the Robot Queens had to start all over again.

Madeline, Claire, and Sabine are The Robot Queens. 

They're three girls in Grade 6 who've been teaching themselves robotics with the help of three kits that were given to Westside back in December. These robotics kits had a fatal flaw: they were missing instructions.

This might have been for the best. Because without instructions you're free to make whatever you want.

All they had was a single sheet of paper with a diagram of the three potential creations and a list of all the pieces.

From that slim blueprint, the three girls began cobbling together their robot.

For the past one-and-a-half months they've run their robot through many different versions of itself. 

Some have been more successful than others. The current iteration, The Jeep, refuses to turn on. It was working last class, but now it won't move.

Madeline is frustrated for a moment that it's not behaving the way they want it.

Claire reminds her, "It's a good thing it's not working because then we can figure out what made it work before." Using pieces from all the different kits, they're trying to figure out how to make a stable vehicle that can turn. But first, they need to get it moving.

Their work strategy is to play around. 

They add parts, pull them off. Sabine races back into the classroom across the hall to grab more pieces. She comes back with a handful of cables.

Within the first ten minutes of class, they manage to get the Jeep running again. 

But work doesn't stop there. They need to figure out how to get it to turn like it did before.

They make a change. They test it. Make another change. Test it.

Stop to take a photo of their creation. And keep going.

 They've even created a trailer for The Jeep, which you can watch by clicking on the link below.

The girls have taken over the multi-purpose room across the hall from their ADST classroom.

They need the open space of the room to test the speed and turning ability of their robot. And like most deep work, building a robot requires uninterrupted swathes of time for any progress to happen. So the fact that they're given the freedom to work at their own pace with these materials is huge.

Women are vastly outnumbered by men in both engineering and robotics. 

But studies have shown that women are actually uniquely designed to be excellent at robotics. According to Inverse Magazine, "research shows that women are “wired” to thrive in this type of environment — they are capable of managing multi-thread thought processes, and bring creativity, innovation and a fresh perspective...women have the potential to excel in robotics, and drive innovation."

The Robot Queens definitely prove this thesis to be true. 

They also show how communication and teamwork drive momentum and creativity. Each girl builds on the others' ideas.

Within the span of half-an-hour, their robot, who had been unable to turn for the previous two weeks, has been fixed and is able to pull off an ungainly left-hand turn. It can't do donuts, but it's a big improvement. At the beginning of the class, their robot wouldn't even move. Something had gone wrong with the receiving transmitter, but they weren't sure what.

Their Jeep is now more of a Zamboni. They dub it the Snow Plow Edition. By taking off the front wheels, they were able to give it stability and let the back wheels do the turning.

"I'm so happy it works!" exclaims Claire. 

They pause to enjoy the moment, and then seconds later they're pulling pieces off again, deep in discussion about how to make their robot even better.