GLEN CARBON – Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois (GSSI) has received a $25,000 grant from the Monsanto Fund to support Girl Scout robotics teams in Jersey, Macoupin, Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties.
Robotics are a key component of GSSI’s commitment to giving girls opportunities and guidance in science, engineering, technology and math (STEM). By participating in three robotics leagues at three age levels, GSSI aims to engage more girls across Southern Illinois in STEM, so they can explore valuable career options, build critical thinking and technical skills and sustain a lifelong interest in topics that many girls drift away from by middle school.
“Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois is very grateful to be able to provide even more girls an opportunity to participate in STEM programs and compete on a robotics team through support from the Monsanto Fund,” GSSI Robotics Manager Mary Buchanan said. “Engaging girls in STEM in fun, creative ways helps keep their interest in these valuable career fields, as well as develop their confidence, teamwork and problem-solving abilities.”
This grant is part of a broad commitment by the Monsanto Fund focused on strengthening the Greater St. Louis community, where Monsanto Fund and Monsanto Company are headquartered.
The grant will help fund GSSI’s robotics season, which starts this fall with First Lego League. In this global robotics program for 9- to 14-year-olds, participants build and program a robot using Lego components. Teams also conduct a research project and explore values such as active participation, teamwork and professionalism. After months of preparation, teams begin competing at regional tournaments, with the highest-scoring teams proceeding to a global tournament.
“Women make up 50.8 percent of the U.S. population but only 25 percent of our STEM workforce,” Monsanto Fund president Deborah Patterson said. “Programs like this, which really encourage young ladies to explore and expand their interest in science, technology, engineering and math, could be key to narrowing that gender gap.”
Grant funds also will be used to support several Junior First Lego League teams and two Botball teams, which belong to a league that challenges middle and high school students to build two autonomous robots, then program them using C, C++ or Java. The robots perform a series of preprogrammed tasks in direct competition with another team at the same table. Botball teams will compete at regional tournaments in the spring, with top-scoring teams advancing to global competition. In 2013, GSSI had the only all-Girl Scout Botball teams in the world.
The grant will also allow GSSI to purchase additional equipment to facilitate the robotics program, including robot kits and tablets. Financial assistance for girls who cannot afford the $15 registration fee to join Girl Scouts also will be provided.
In 2009, GSSI had just one robotics team. In 2014, they fielded 24 teams. GSSI has dedicated staff and volunteers who develop the STEM program through research, collaborator cultivation, training and hands-on experience. GSSI strives to offer diverse and high-quality STEM programming, such as simple circuit wiring, programming robots, exploring forensics and more. To ensure that all girls have the chance to take advantage of these future-building opportunities, GSSI has integrated STEM activities into its outreach programs – which bring Girl Scouting to girls in underserved populations, such as low-income neighborhoods, housing projects, rural communities and even detention centers.
For information, visit www.gsofsi.org.