The First-ever All-Girls Robotics Team Set to Represent India on the Global Stage

Mumbai: They are helping conquer the space. They are winning big at world championships. They are making the country proud. Women in India are surely having a field day when it comes to proving their mettle. They are not done yet.
Here is a bunch of very young and spirited Indian women (teenagers) – our first-ever all-girls robotics team, the Geared-Up Girls that will represent India at the First Global Challenge between October 24 – 27, 2019.

With more than 2,000 students (aged 14 to 18) from 193 countries from around the world, the 3rd edition of FIRST Global challenge is going to be held in Dubai.

The FIRST Global Challenge, a not-for-profit organization based in the United States, invites nations from across the world to send their teams to compete in a Robotics Olympics themed around the greatest challenges facing our planet. Each year a different challenge takes centre stage in an effort to foster understanding and cooperation among the youth of the world as they use their abilities to solve the world’s problems.

This year, the theme is ‘ocean opportunities’ and focuses on ocean pollution that negatively impacts marine life and global populations. It seeks to educate the participating teams about taking action to preserve our oceans and also throws up a challenge to the young and budding scientists to build robots to clean up the ocean of pollutants.

Meet the Team:
Representing India at this fascinating global challenge in 2019 is a team of five girls — The Geared-up Girls Team — from grades 9-12 from 4 schools across Mumbai:
Aarushi Shah: Aarushi works on robot design, construction and electricals in the team.
Radhika Sekhsaria: Radhika is responsible for fundraising and programming.
Aayushi Nainan: Aayushi’s primary focus is on outreach and programming.
Jasmehar Kochhar: Jasmehar focuses on programming and strategizing.
Lavanya Iyer: Lavanya is responsible for robot construction and strategy.
All the five girls have gone through a rigorous selection process that involved four rounds of technical interviews. They were pitted against 20 teams vying for the prestigious spot to make it to team India.

The girls are extremely passionate about robotics and spend most of their after-school hours, building robots. They have learnt to apply the principles of mathematics and science in real life scenarios to build robots. In the process, they have learnt teamwork, communication and acquired leadership skills that have benefitted them immensely.

Spreading the light of STEM education:
Participation of girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education is way below than that of boys. To address the huge gap that exists, the girls have taken it upon themselves to create a world of confident and fearless girls by reducing the gender inequality in STEM. Their mission is to empower and enrich the lives of women by inspiring them to pursue STEM.

To that end, the Geared-up Girls team has started conducting training programs and awareness camps. They are also mentoring children with an emphasis on making STEM education and robotics more inclusive. Some of the key initiatives the girls have undertaken after coming together as a team are:
Visiting schools to display the robot they have created and build interest among school children.
Meeting and interacting with underprivileged and physically challenged students to give them an opportunity to explore STEM with Lego kits.
Attending community events to display their work and spread awareness
Recently, the Geared-up Girls team visited the Acorn Foundation at Dharavi where they interacted with some incredible girls at the locality. They had insightful conversation with them about STEM, robotics and mathematics. While the Geared-up Girls team imparted their knowledge to the girls in Dharavi, they also learnt a lot in return. A session of dance followed bringing the two groups of girls even closer.

The girls are actively involved in teaching STEM to underprivileged students of Dharavi and hearing impaired students of Sankalp. They are also raising funds to support an all-girls team to participate at the First Lego League.

Words of appreciation from leaders:
It has been extremely heartening for the Geared-up Girls team to receive words of encouragement and appreciation for the work they are doing towards improving gender equality in the field of STEM and for underprivileged children.

Recently, the girls met Smt. Poonam Mahajan, Honourable Member of Parliament. Inspiring the girls, Smt. Mahajan, said “I am so happy to be with my girls. I wish you all the best. Team India is going to show how girl power is going ahead. Let’s win it.”

Words of encouragement and appreciation also poured in from Shri Vijay Rupani, Honourable Chief Minister of Gujarat. “The team is making consistent efforts towards making robots and also for popularizing the craft and its utility for the betterment of society at large. I, thereby, express my best wishes and blessings to the team for a grand success in the education, the fields of their interests and future life. I am sure the nation will be benefitted by their interest, activities and the future R&D in the field of robotics,” he said.

The Mentors:
Team Geared-up Girls are being mentored by Ms. Priti Patel, the Team Manager and Ms. Meenal Majumdar, the outreach and awards mentor, Mr. Nilesh, the technical mentor, and Mr. Rohit Sekhsaria who has helped with funding and logistics.

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