Young robot builders draw visit from Rosen as her STEM bills advance

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Wade Vandervort

Isobel Letourneau, 13, explains the rules of robotics tournaments to Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., during a meeting with Greenspun Junior High School teachers and students from the school’s robotics teams, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018.

Sat, Feb 24, 2018 (2 a.m.)

Eighth-grade robotics enthusiast Isobel Letourneau is heading to a world competition in a few months, but first she taught Rep. Jacky Rosen some of her skills.

Rosen, whose Code Like a Girl Act and Building Blocks of STEM Act recently passed to the Senate, visited the Barbara and Hank Greenspun Junior High School Friday after Letourneau sent her a letter about her robotics team. Letourneau said she hopes more girls get involved in robotics, with everyone bringing different skills to the project.

“It’s really fun to me to build things to get problems solved,” Letourneau said Friday.

It’s important to keep girls like Letourneau involved in STEM, Rosen said. Kids learn how to analyze and solve problems, skills that can carry into any field.

“I want kids, young women, young girls especially, who oftentimes by junior high they think they can’t do math or science … I want them to know that it’s creative, it’s problem solving, and it’s for everyone.”

Robotics teacher and team coach Matthew Christian said the program has been building for eight years from 10 kids to three state competition teams and five robotics classes daily.

All of the eligible students build the robots to compete in a challenge to score points.

Nate Mack Elementary School robotics coach Casey Juliano also had her team there. The feeder school has had its team for about two years, and she says some of the kids were able to qualify for the world competition with Christian’s help.

Three junior high teams and two elementary school teams qualified to compete in Kentucky. Christian needs to raise about $15,000 and Juliano has to find about $7,000 in donations to get the kids there. Greenspun and Nate and Mack have GoFundMe pages set up.

“It’s a good problem to have, but a tricky one,” Juliano said. “We really just swept it between us. All three of (Christian’s) teams are going. There’s only one elementary school award, and the reason we have two is because one of our teams beat all the other middle school teams.”

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