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All-girl robotics team at Mercy High School pushes to inspire teens

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MIDDLETOWN -- Inside the robotics lab at Mercy High School in Middletown you will not see any boys. The team is the first all-girl FIRST robotics team in New England. FIRST represents For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology and is a national and state organization.

The Tech Tigers showed off their lab, where they had six weeks to build and program a robot from scratch.

“This is Khaleesi, we built her ourselves,” said senior co-captain, Melanie Dworak, who said each year the robot is always a girl.

“It’s interesting to see the expression on people’s faces when they walk up to our pit and realize that everyone inside is a girl,” added Lauren Gasior. The TechTigers compete against mostly boys and the girls said it doesn’t ever matter, especially when crowds see what they can do.

Some of the girls entered the TechTigers’ den having never held a screwdriver. Now, they work with power tools. But, before that, there is a lot of leg work. Teammates can write code and have to tell the brain of the robot what to do. They spend about 6 weeks together during ‘build week,’ the time before competition. At competition they are assigned a task and compete with and against other teams to complete them. Khaleesi can throw totes and has an elevator.

The girls said time spent in the lab, is like time spent with family. They develop close relationships, “a lot of girls say this feels more like home than their actual home,” Dworak said.

The TechTigers are sponsored and have to solicit their own support. Some girls on the team run the group like a business and others create the website and social media pages.

Mentor and teacher Buff Bachenheimer oversees the girls. She said building the robot also builds confidence for them. “They learn a lot, they use it, and the get careers out of it. It’s a wonderful thing and it’s important for them to understand that girls can do anything.

To learn more about the TechTigers, you can visit their website.

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