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Girls in robotics

Ivory Thompson used coding to program the robot to maneuver across the bridge. Photos by Jason Lewis


With only seven percent of robotic engineers being female, leaders from the Engineer Factory and SoLA Robotics are encouraging high school and middle school girls to enter the STEM field.

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Thompson hosted the Girls in Robotics workshop, which was held at the Beehive in South Los Angeles.

By Blake Carter

Ivory Thompson is a senior at Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale, and she’s heading to Cal State Long Beach to study mechanical engineering with a focus on robotics.  Her path is taking her into a male dominated field, so she is displaying leadership abilities with the goal of leading other girls down the road that she has chosen.  

Thompson organized the Girls in Robotics: Level-up full day workshop at the SoLa Technology & Entrepreneurship Center, which is at the Beehive in South Los Angeles.  The event was in partnership with the Engineer Factory, SoLA Robotics, and the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles.  Over 70 girls attended the event, which featured workshops in robotics, basic programing, coding, and underwater design.  

Thompson’s mother Audrey is the founder of the Engineer Factory, so Ivory was exposed to the STEM fields at an early age.  

“I always grew up around engineering,” she said.  “When I was first introduced to robotics, I was surprised.  I thought that it was really cool that this little robot could move like that.”

Colleges look for well-rounded students, and sometimes that is not reflected on an admissions application.  Being able to host an event like this makes Thompson a more appealing applicant to universities.  She was able to attract representatives from USC, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State L.A., and El Camino College to the workshop.  And this also helps her become a leader among her peers.

“I’m always a shy person, so I don’t publicly speak,” she said.  “This has helped me get out of my shell.”

This also helps Thompson achieve her Gold Award with the Girl Scouts, which is a very prestigious honor.

“Only five percent of Girl Scouts gets it, and thankfully I’m one of them,” she said.  “I’m happy about that.  With the Gold Award, you pick a project that you’re interested in and that helps the community.”

After college Thompson plans on building smart housing with robotics.  

Audrey Thompson was extremely proud of her daughter’s accomplishments, and she also wants to encourage young girls to enter the STEM fields.

“Given that 93 percent of all robotics engineers are male, and only seven percent are female, we wanted the girls to see that it is possible,” Audrey Thompson said.  “We wanted the girls to be in an environment that they felt was fun and where they picked up some skills.  And they were also seeing that there are a lot of opportunities on each one of the college campuses, which all have high school programs.  We wanted the girls to see that they don’t have to wait until they get to college to start doing things on a college campus.  They need to start getting familiar with the programs that are offered, because that ends up increasing their probability of being accepted into those schools.”

Introducing the girls to computer science and mechanical engineering can lead them into a lucrative career field.

“It can lead to careers in the blue economy, which is a growing industry,” Audrey Thompson said.  “Less than five percent of the earth’s ocean has been explored.  That’s why we start introducing our kids to underwater robotics.  It’s going to be a huge field.  We want to make sure that our kids are postured for those positions, and at least knowledgable of them.”

For more information about these programs, visit www.theengineerfactory.org and www.southlarobotics.com