CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Chapel Hill was home to the first off-season robotics competition of the year for FIRST NC, and in a break with stereotypes, the arena was dominated by women. 


What You Need To Know 

  • Seventeen all-female teams of high schoolers competed against each other for the win   
  • Women represent just 15% of engineers  
  • G-Force Robotics was the only rookie to compete


It may be 2022, but some girls are still being deterred from entering fields involving mathematics, engineering and mechanics, based on the premise that it's too hard for them, according to Marie Hopper, FIRST NC's president. Data from the U.S Census Bureau shows that women make up only 15% of engineers – a concept that is baffling to the girls who are building and battling robots.

The view of the arena from a driver's perspective through plexiglass at the competition. (Spectrum News 1/ Rachel Boyd)

“Women are between 16-18% of the workforce, and yet we're 50% of the population, and when I was growing up I had a high school physics teacher tell me that girls shouldn't do physics,” Hopper, the president of FIRST NC – the organization hosting this all-female competition – said.

A few months ago we heard the story of G-Force Robotics, an all-girls high school robotics team who was preparing for their first off-season competition. At that time, their robot, Electra, wasn't battle tested and neither were they, but FIRST NC Robotics Competition Doyenne Inspiration was their chance to prove what a rookie team can do. 

“Right now, you don't know what's going to happen it's like a mystery box that you open every match,” Sloan Mann, one of the drivers for G-Force said. 

This competition is for any female or non-binary student - those who may be overlooked on a co-ed team. Seventeen teams of girls met up at Chapel Hill High School to hold an all-day showdown involving 23 back-to-back qualification matches leading up to the finals.

Electra hanging by her climbing arms, one of which broke in the second match. (Spectrum News 1/ Rachel Boyd)

“We haven't had time to fix our intake because our qualification matches have been back-to-back-to-back,” Mann said. “The welding for one of our climbers like completely broke off so we only had a little bit of time to put zip ties on it.”

Their robot was built to function both autonomously and with the guidance of a driver and operator — both skills were put to the test in this competition. 

“It's hard to watch something get beat up that you've worked so hard on,” Mann said. “It makes me happy when I run into a robot and their ball goes completely another direction, and it's nice because it's like 'hey, I just stopped that point that could've been game changing.'”

Broken climbing arm and all G-Force ended up bringing home the trophy for this competition. All of their matches are free and open to the public, who is encouraged to come out and cheer these STEM trailblazers on. You can click here for a list of upcoming events and competitions.

“It's more than robots, it's about inspiring our youth to achieve more, inspiring our youth to grow up and be their best selves,” Hopper said.