By Kimberly Taylor, November 10 2023—
Robogals is a global student-run non-profit organization with a local chapter at U of C that aims to inspire girls about STEM. The club works with local schools and the public library to bring science workshops to children. Student volunteers organize the events and facilitate the workshops.
The club is made up of volunteers who facilitate workshops in the community with the aim of closing the gender gap in STEM. In an interview with the Gauntlet, chemical engineering student and Robogals’ Vice President of events Madison Switzer discussed the goals of the club.
“Our big thing is inclusion in STEM. It’s gotten a lot more inclusive, [but] there still definitely is a gap,” said Switzer. “We’re trying to bridge that gap by making it less of a scary intimidating thing and introducing kids to it at a young age, and enriching that passion.”
Switzer spoke about the importance of changing the stereotypes around STEM to reduce negative experiences for women who are interested in pursuing careers in STEM.
“When I first went into engineering, I told my peers about it [and] a lot of people were surprised. There was me and another girl in my class [who] were the only people going into engineering. We were talking about it and we couldn’t help but feel that a lot of that came from the fact that we were girls — and that’s already that’s the high school level, we were in grade twelve, and I think it starts younger than that.”
“Most women in STEM have some sort of experience like what I had where something happened and they realized the reaction may have been different if [they were] male. I think Robogals is important so that we can stop having those experiences,” Switzer continued.
Switzer described the workshops the club facilitates in the community. Workshops continuously offered are Rocket Workshops, Intro to Engineering, Simple Machines and Lego Mindstorm Robots. Robogals is currently developing Ozobots and Arduino board workshops and providing workshops at a more remote location at Nakoda Elementary.
“It’s a pretty big initiative we’ve been working on. Up until this point, we’ve only been looking at Calgary schools, and I think sometimes since it’s a further away location, those schools are forgotten and aren’t necessarily included in these sorts of programs,” said Switzer. “Especially because Robogals offers our workshops for free, we’re really excited that we’re going to be able to do this.”
Volunteers can engage with Robogals as much as they are able and interested, and the club also facilitates professional development panels. Switzer highlighted that volunteering with Robogals can inspire U of C students.
“I hope our volunteers can inspire the younger generation. I think they’ll gain a lot out of that. Getting to meet these students and see how excited they are about the things the students are teaching everyone is really inspiring for our volunteers, said Switzer. “They go into it expecting to give some advice and help the younger kids but the younger kids end up helping them just as much.”