All-girls team shows robots aren't just toys for boys

Princess Peach, the OHS Robotics Team's robot, took 14th place out of 48 at the state championships.

An all-girls robotics team is proving that engineering isn't just for boys.

The seven-member team from Ottumwa High School placed 14th out of 48 teams at the State Championship in Iowa City Saturday. The girls have been working on their robot, which they named Princess Peach, since September. They worked with a mentor, Amber, from John Deere, who gave them suggestions and helped with improvements.

The team hosted the First Tech Challenge, or FTC, qualifier at Indian Hills in January and represented Ottumwa and girls everywhere at state. The team said their robot performed better than ever on Saturday, only breaking down in the first round and then never again.

"And that's actually really good," said team member Kelsey Granneman, a senior at OHS. "It's really good that it didn't break down, because it's never done that before."

Each year's competition has a different theme and this year's was "Ring it Up". The robots had to pick up rings on different pegs and place them onto a center peg. They were also allowed to pick up other robots in the last 30 seconds of the round. This year was the team's third trip to state and they were the only all-girl team in the competition.

"I mean, it's not an all-boy thing, our robot has glitter all over it, so it's not just an all-boy's thing," said Kenzie McCoy, another OHS senior.

Some of the girls are interested in careers in engineering, some are not. But participating in the group and in the robotics competition is a learning experience for everyone.

"You can learn a lot about yourself, even if you don't know if you want to be an engineer, it's still a learning process and it teaches you a lot along the way," said team member Nicole Peyton.

The team also won the Motivate Award at the competition for the team's work in the community. They mentored a First Lego League robotics team, which consists of younger members, introduced robotics to elementary school students and held a GEMS camp -- or Girls in Engineering, Math and Science.

Grannelman, McCoy and Peyton are all graduating seniors, but the four sophomores on the team said they are excited to be involved in the group for the rest of their high school careers, so the world of robotics hasn't seen the end of Ottumwa's girl power quite yet.