Over the past few months, I have been following the activities of a friend’s teen daughter. Paige Jones, who lives in Texas, is a dynamic young lady with a wide-range of talent. She draws, writes and is on a robotics team. I was excited to see a young lady taking part in science, engineering and technology. With her mom’s permission, I interviewed Paige via email to get her perspective on her interests and her plans for her future. If you have an inspiring educational story, please email me. I would love to write about it.
When did you become interested in robotics?
I became very interested in robotics at the beginning of this school year. My engineering teacher persuaded me into joining a semester long team, and after that I was hooked. I later joined another robotics team for the second semester of the school year, and created my own team of four to build a smaller-scale robot I designed myself.
Tell me a little about the robotics team you’re on.
VEX, the first semester robotics competition, is what got my mind set on robots. We needed to build a robot that could pick bean bags off of the floor, lift them, and be able to unload them in goals of various heights.
FIRST, the second semester robotics competition, is what made me realize just how devoted I was to robotics and engineering in general. The team would meet five hours after school every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and nine hours on Saturdays to work on a frisbee-launching, pyramid-climbing robot. Our team, the Robonauts (team 118), is sponsored by NASA and JSC Credit Union. We get to work with NASA engineers to create a fully functional robot in the six week build season. And the robot cannot be anything below “world class”. We were entered in three competitions, got first place in all of them, and made it to the world championship, where we competed against 400 teams from around the world. Sadly, the Robonauts were defeated after making it to the semi-finals.
What kinds of experiences have you had while participating on the team?
Every experience I’ve had is a good one. There are times where it can be frustrating, but any problems you face, there is an answer for it. While working on prototypes, one of the main things I worked on while on the FIRST team, I was faced with many challenges, but working together with my team and being able to communicate ideas, we were able to find solutions.
Robotics is very hands-on, you learn so much so fast. It’s thinking up an idea and bringing it to life, and I think that’s why I like it so much. You get to travel around for competitions, which is a lot of fun to go out of state and meet new people that share the same interests as you.
Flying was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life, if not the best experience. My pilot built the plane himself, I greatly admired that. It took him seven years to build an RV-8, a two passenger experimental plane, and it was an honor to be able to take flight with him. I was allowed to take control and pilot the plane myself, which was incredibly exciting. I was a bit nervous, I don’t even have a drivers license yet, but was very eager to pilot a plane! I got to fly it about twenty minutes on my own.
Would you like to continue flying lessons?
I’d love to continue flying lessons. There’s nothing quite like being in the air. It amazes me that my pilot built his own plane, something that I think would be a very fun project to work on, and I have to admit that I’ve been thinking about building one for myself in the future.
Are you finding more girls getting involved in these types of activities?
As this year went by, I’ve seen an increased amount of interest from girls. And I really hope more girls get involved in science and engineering. It’s not just a boy job, it’s a girl’s too. Girls are more than capable to be able to understand Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering… any kind of engineering or science field.
Do you plan to study science and/or engineering in college?
I do, I am very, very much interested in both science and engineering. Engineering is something that is always changing, there is always something new that can be created if you put your mind to it. That’s why it’s so interesting to me, it’s a challenge for every engineer to come up with something great, and it’s a competition to make the best invention (And I really like the competition, it definitely fuels me to do better in my work).
What would you like to do for a career?
As of now I would like to be a Mechanical Engineer. I’d love to build robots for a living. There are so many different kinds of robots, they can be used for anything, so it’s definitely a job that would need a decent amount of creativity. A Pilot sounds pretty tempting now though too, so I’m going to have to think some things through!
Any advice for younger girls who are interested in robotics?
Never think of engineering as ‘just for men’. Females have the capability to do just as much in the field of engineering as males do. Robotics is very, very fun, and it will quickly make you realize if you want to pursue a career as an engineer or not. Don’t be discouraged by the work, because once one of your own designs come to life and works after weeks of building and programming, it is so worth it. I find nothing more satisfying than designing and building something that lives up and surpasses it’s expectations. And why not show guys what you’re made of? It’s fun to show guys that I do know how to use the tools they use, that I do know how to design things like they design, and that even though I’m a girl, I am just as much of a competitor as any guy. Don’t worry about a little bit of sweat and hard thinking, robotics and engineering is completely worth it.
Thank you to Paige and her mom Kristen!