“Just Brilliant” All-Girls Robotic Team Works with Energy Institute Researchers

The atrium of the Powerhouse Energy Campus erupts in bubbly chatter as the all-girls robotic team from Liberty Common School called “Just Brilliant” files in for their weekly practice. The team is made up for six girls in grades 7, 8 and 9, and they all seem to have something to say at exactly the same time.

The Just Brilliant team discusses changes they want to make to their robot.

The team, made up of Amber Kranz, Carolyn Carpenter, Gemma Broskie, Gillian Hepworth, Priscilla Rowland, and Sydney Reinke, is preparing to compete in the First Lego League state competition, having already won their sectional event and beat 48 other teams.

“I am really excited that our team is all girls because it is really a great community, and robotics is really fun, especially the programing part. That’s my favorite part,” said Amber, who is in 8th grade.

The First Lego League competition is made up of three components. The first requires the teams to build and program a Lego robot to do various tasks autonomously like pick up another Lego or go under a Lego bridge. The second component is called core values, and evaluates how well the team works and communicates together. The third component is a service project related to the year’s competition theme — hydrodynamics. The “Just Brilliant” team choose to do their hydrodynamics service project on cyanobacteria, which can taint drinking and recreational bodies of water and be dangerous to human health. The team is currently developing an app, which can analyze satellite images of lakes, and then based on the RGB color values tell consumers if cyanobacteria might be present.

The girls poses with their team mascot — a rubber duck.

For this component of the project, the team turned to the Energy Institute’s Carlos Quiroz. Quiroz is a CSU graduate student in mechanical engineering who is an expert on cyanobacteria. He offered the team guidance and answered their questions in order to help them better develop their app. “It was my pleasure to have the opportunity to encourage young minds as these brilliant as these girls into the fascinating world of science,” said Quiroz. The team also worked with Allison Zimont, a CSU graduate student in biochemical engineering, to learn and test samples of cyanobacteria.

The Lego robot can be worked on in the left corner of the board, but once it moves from that zone it must move autonomously.
“It’s just amazing to work in this environment because it inspires you to really work hard and do your best,” said Carolyn Carpenter, who is in 9th grade and has a few previous robotics competitions under her belt.

The girls work with guidance from their coaches, Evelyn Carpenter and Bill Kranz, to prepare their Lego robot for states, and work with each other to troubleshoot issues when the robot doesn’t run through its missions correctly.

“Robotics is a fun activity for girls,” said Priscilla, a 7th grader who enjoys building parts for the robot. “There aren’t that many engineers that are girls, and I hope to change that.”
Priscilla Rowland, a member of the all-girls robotics team, re-positions the Legos.