Samantha Adelberg said her all-girl robotics team is often underestimated by its adversaries.
“We do get pigeonholed and stereotyped,” Adelberg said of the Icebreakers 4183 team, which competes in the often male-dominated circuit. “We still have to deal with sexism in the engineering field .?.?. but it pushes us to work twice as hard to show what we are capable of.”
Adelberg, 17, of North Merrick, is one of nine high school girls — five seniors and four sophomores — on the Icebreakers, a FIRST (For Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics team linked to the Girl Scouts of Nassau County. The roster also includes North Merrick residents Brianna Kitchener, Danielle Abrahams, and Katharine and Lauren Conroy, Farmingdale’s Caeley Looney, Garden City’s Dessie DiMino, Wantagh’s Natalie Bloniarz and North Bellmore’s Sandi Peters.
She said most of the teams they face have more members and resources, because they’re affiliated with public or private high schools. But that hasn’t stopped the girls (and their robot “Steve”) from knocking out the competition.
The team has won an award at all six competitions they’ve entered this season and this week they’re in St. Louis to compete against the top 128 teams from around the world in the 2014 FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship. The contest kicked off Thursday morning and runs through Saturday.
This is the team’s third appearance at Worlds since it was formed in 2007 by Kitchener’s father, Steve, an engineer, and mother, Diane. At the time, Diane Kitchener said her daughter was struggling in school and needed an outlet in which to excel.
“I wanted to show my daughter, ‘You are smart, you are good enough,’” she said.
They started out as a team of four in the FIRST LEGO League, which is geared for students in Grades 4 to 8, and progressed into the FTC league once the girls reached high school.
Over the years, Diane Kitchener said she’s seen positive changes in all the girls, as they’ve developed skills and confidence. Some, including Peters, 18, a senior at Mepham High School, plan to pursue careers in engineering, technology and aerospace.
Peters said she intends to major in mechanical engineering in college, but without the Icebreakers, she probably wouldn’t be so sure.
“I can’t imagine my life without it,” she said.
Both Peters and Adelberg said after graduation, they plan to create and coach robotics teams at schools near the colleges they attend.
“Seeing other kids falling in love with robotics, it’s very inspirational,” Peters said. “I love building and being able to use your creativity to help people.”