Almost three years ago, Women in Robotics launched a grassroots initiative aimed at attracting more female talent to the tech industry, particularly in the male-dominated field of robotics. Today the group is a global nonprofit network starting its new chapter in San Antonio.
The San Antonio chapter of Women in Robotics (WiR) is the group’s only chapter in Texas.
The city is home to a fast-growing technology industry and well-established educational institutions and was an ideal location for the group’s growth, according to Stephanie Garcia, business development and communications specialist at Port of San Antonio, which helped support San Antonio’s efforts.
The proportion of women in STEM subjects and especially in MINT subjects has been historically low Census data But Women in Robotics hopes to be part of that change.
The group’s goal is to “bring together a community that was once isolated,” Garcia said, adding that the tech industry was once isolated and difficult to conquer, especially for women.
WiR’s San Antonio chapter will host panels and exhibitions, host industry and school-level robotics competitions, and provide mentorship opportunities through nonprofit organizations such as:The first robots AndGirls store in San Antonio.
One of the program’s main goals is to “connect and interact with younger women,” Garcia said. The group’s goal is to serve students on-site at all schools in the San Antonio area, starting with San Antonio Lutheran High School, which is part of the FIRST Robotics program.
“There is a place for everyone in robotics,” she added. The group’s website states that non-binary people are welcome in its various chapters.
WiR has already begun driving new initiatives with schools such as Lutheran Schools, where students have the opportunity to begin their path in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) while being mentored by industry professionals. Mentors locally and across the country are available for students to participate in activities such as programming and building robots in competitive environments.
“We want to welcome these young women to FIRST Robotics…there are many volunteer activities that I encourage our chapter to do,” Garcia said. “But more importantly, I want these ladies to get involved in refereeing because they have those skills.”
One of the early collaborators in this initiative, New Hampshire-based FIRST Robotics, is working in area schools to introduce students to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through robotics competitions. The organization is now working with WiR to expand the student experience.
“It’s not just about the first one. The overall goal of this chapter is to provide that mentorship to these young women in STEM and support them in the careers they want to pursue,” Garcia said.
Ivy Vasquez Sandoval, this class’s mentor, is a San Antonio native and product of the city’s public school system. After working in customer service for over a decade, she decided to start her journey in technology. Now I’m drivingNo more robots, specializing in package handling robots, was selected to be part of the WiR San Antonio chapter.
As someone who didn’t have the opportunity to major in a STEM field in high school and took a non-linear path later in life, Vazquez-Sandoval uses her voice to advocate for “diverse representation within the industry.”
“Highlighting women who are professionals and hard workers … and who they are today will inspire these young kids and show them that you can do it too,” Vasquez-Sandoval said.
Vasquez-Sandoval said San Antonio has a vibrant heritage full of diverse cultures and she hopes to develop Port San Antonio on the south side of the city, where she also grew up.
“As the tech community grows, it is important to recognize that this is a Chicano community that should not be ignored,” Vasquez-Sandoval said. “There are a lot of networking opportunities and a lot of opportunities to participate in races that are less about technology.”
AStudy 2020 The National Science Council has shown that the least represented groups in STEM fields are Latino and Black communities.
“I know what it’s like not to see many people like you in the room,” Vasquez-Sandoval said. “I am a trans woman and have found my own path.”
WiR’s mission to partner with local businesses is directly related to San Antonio’s growth in the robotics industry.
“We owe our thriving startup scene to a few companies,” said Vazquez-Sandoval. “The world needs to see what is happening here in the city so that we can use it for the benefit of all. »
WiR hopes to work with groups like FIRST Robotics and Girls Inc. to raise awareness of STEM opportunities for women in grades K-12.
As careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) become more popular, social media is also helping those interested in careers in technology by providing better information about transitioning into a career in technology.
WiR also aims to reduce women’s hesitation about their STEM career goals by providing some of the best female and non-binary voices in the industry across the country to guide new participants on their own journey.
The WiR San Antonio Chapter will officially open at the March 21 event, where keynote speakers and expert panels will be able to meet with those interested in the chapter.