By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WOODHAVEN – Thirty-two teams from Michigan and Ohio competed at Woodhaven High School Sept. 10 for the annual Goonettes Robotics Invitational, a competition designed to encourage teen girl robotic participation and leadership.
Event coordinator Brandon Queen, adult volunteer with the Woodhaven High School robotics Goon Squad, said the preseason event is designed to encourage teen girls to try robotic team participation and to step into leadership roles, with girls taking the leading roles on the drive team and encouraged to take the leading roles in the pits. Male team members are encouraged to attend and serve in supporting roles.
Previous invitationals were held in 2019 and 2022, interrupted by the COVID 19 pandemic.
“This is the biggest Goonettes Invitational that we’ve ever had,” he said. “And nine different organizations, universities and companies are here with hands-on STEM demonstrations to network with students.”
STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The Hands-on Hallway included representatives from Ford, GM and Stellantis; representatives from the University of Michigan representing women in aeronautics, neuroprosthetics and Michigan advanced in-space propulsion engineers; Kettering University; the Drone Camp Rebels; and representatives from Meta, Bosch, DTE Energy, Forvia, Altair and Eastern Michigan University.
Queen said it’s cool to see female students engaging with STEM activities and working hands-on with the team robots and in the pits.
“What makes our event especially unique is all of the access that these females have to industry professionals,” he said. “It’s really great to see them networking and having a great time with technology that they didn’t even know existed until today.”
Queen said that while the bulk of the robotic competitions run from January through April, most of the robotics teams operate year-round, with a limited schedule during the summer.
“Many of these teams, probably all of these teams, have been working extremely hard to prepare their robots and prepare their relatively new drive teams for this event specifically,” he said. “They’ve put in a lot of hours and they are showing off just how many hours they’ve put in on the field right now.”
Queen said the robotic tasks include picking up and reorienting inflatable cubes and traffic cones, as well as reaching out and placing them on shelves and nodes. At the end of the match, each team works with two other alliance partners to balance on a teeter-totter device.
“It takes a lot of cooperation, a lot of collaboration to make it work,” he said.
Queen said at the beginning of each competition school year, the robotics teams are given a list of rules on how to play the game and a list of physical constraints for the robots, such as height and weight limits.
“It is up to them to strategize, design, fabricate, run electrical and program the robots,” he said. “So, that is all on them, and they do it all from scratch, and it is super-impressive to see all the creative and unique designs that they come up with.”
Queen said it is fulfilling to see teen girls on the competition field engaged and driving the robots and working in the pits.
“Seeing them light up when they are in these roles and interacting with this cool technology is really, really cool,” he said. “Every year we do this, it’s like seeing it for the very first time.”
Local robotics teams participating included the host Goon Squad from Woodhaven High School, TnT from Taylor High School, Advanced Power from Allen Park High School, TorqueNados from Trenton High School, Retro5ive from Melvindale High School, the GR Pioneers from Riverview Gabriel Richard High School and Charger Robotics from Dearborn Heights Crestwood High School.
Crestwood was one of four first-place teams, with Trenton one of four second-place teams.
An interest in science encouraged Allen Park High School student Savannah Schonfeld, 15, to join the robotics team.
“I really like to study stuff like electrical boards and I really like to use a lot of workshop tools,” she said.
Schonfeld said the robotics team works together well.
APHS student Rosaria Osinski, 15, joined the robotics team at the urging of friends.
“It was a really good decision, because I really love doing it,” she said. “The competitions are really my favorite part. I’ve made a lot of new friends. I also designed the logo.”
Osinski said she would urge newcomers to robotics to not be overwhelmed by everything that is going on when the team gets together to work.
“There may be a lot going on, but once you get into it, it’s really not that much,” she said. “It just takes time, so just be patient.”
Woodhaven High School Goon Squad member Vriana Becker, 15, said the robotics club has become an important part of her school life, and she has made many new friends.
She said she plans to major in business in college, and the communication skills she is developing as a team member will help her in the future.
“This is offering me a really good entry point into learn how to communicate with other divisions and other people, and getting your ideas across,” Becker said.
Detailed results for the 2023 Goonettes Robotics Invitational can be found at thebluealliance.com/event/2023mibro#results.