Young Filipino girls take the spotlight on the stage of robotics 

Female Junior high school students prove that they are ready to break the long-standing gender biases of society and proudly wave the banner of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics as they join the newly-launched Tagisang Robotics Competition 3.0: Girls & Gears – the first and only all-female robotics competition in the country, courtesy of the Department of Science and Technology – Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI).

Aiming to bridge the wide gender gap in robotics education and address issues of underrepresentation of women in STEM, the DOST-SEI recently launched the TRC 3.0: Girls and Gears, which is a reboot of one of its successful and decade-long running programs – the Tagisang Robotics Competition: Design, Build, and Play.

DOST-SEI Director Dr. Josette T. Biyo officially announced the launch last March 27, 2023 during the opening ceremony of the TRC 3.0: Girls & Gears’ Mobot Interfacing Using the Arduino Microcontroller, a five-day technical training and workshop meant to prepare the female students for the Competition Stage.

In her video message, Dr. Biyo praised the young girls for their burning passion to learn and take part in the field of robotics and promised to continue strengthening initiatives that aim to create a more diverse and more inclusive robotics community.

Dr. Biyo also expressed delight to celebrate the National Women’s Month along with the start of the new TRC. She challenged the female participants to make the most out of their learnings throughout the competition and use the new knowledge they will gain to improve the state of Science and Technology in the country.

In its maiden year, the TRC 3.0 features groups of four female students, together with their coaches, from twenty (20) science and technology-oriented junior high schools battling out to win a trophy and a Php 100,000.00 cash grant.

Here are the 20-participating school-teams who are part of the competition’s pioneering batch:

  1. Caloocan National Science and Technology High School
  2. Las Piñas National High School
  3. Makati Science High School
  4. Malabon National High School
  5. Manila Science High School
  6. Marcelo H. Del Pilar National High School
  7. Marikina Science High School
  8. Muntinlupa Science High School
  9. Parañaque Science High School
  10. Pasay City West High School
  11. Pasig City Science High School
  12. Pitogo High School
  13. Quezon City High School
  14. Rizal High School
  15. Rizal National Science High School
  16. San Francisco High School
  17. San Juan City Science High School
  18. Renato “Compañero” Cayetano Memorial Science and Technology High School
  19. Taguig City Science High School
  20. Valenzuela School of Mathematics and Science

The school-teams underwent the five-day technical training and workshop from March 27 to 31, 2023 at the Sequoia Hotel – Manila Bay, which focused on learning the basics about robotic technologies such as the microcontroller basics, electronics, sensors, and automation processes.

The training sessions were facilitated by lecturers from ThinkLab, namely, Engr. Elgie Cabarubias, Ms. Kate Justin Flores, Mr. John Paul Caballeda, Ms. Veena Barnachea, Engr. Mark Jayson de Jesus, and Engr. Josiah Sicad. Teaching young girls everything they need to know about the Arduino and Electronics, ThinkLab helped the female students program their mobots to perform specific tasks.

In celebration of the National Women’s Month, the students were also given the opportunity to unleash their girl power and join the “60-Minute GEWE for Girls”, a workshop on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment led by an independent Gender and Development consultant Ms. Marita Pimentel.

The five-day technical training and workshop concluded with a brief closing ceremony. During the program, Engr. Carlos Matti Opus, chair of the Board of Judges, explained the mechanics, schedules, and prizes of the game.

The closing ceremony also included a discussion of the DOST-SEI’s study “Women in Science Fact Sheet No. 4” – the 2021 publication which paved the way and solidified the need to push for an all-female robotics competition. Ms. Bern Irish Arguelles, a former scholar and currently a statistician of DOST-SEI, led the discussion where she provided an overview of the status of women in the S&T workforce, revealing their low representation in the fields of engineering, architecture, and other related fields.

Ms. Shumate Royo, a tech community enabler and former managing director of DEVCON, concluded the event by inspiring young girls to hold hands in aiming to close the gender divides in Science and Technology. Her words which focused on expressing women’s involvement in various scientific pursuits sought to give the girls the confidence to continue waving the banner of women, not just in the field of robotics, but in all aspects of life.

Ms. Royo ended her message by challenging the girls to become the STEM role models they ought to be and to not forget to pay it forward.

TRC 3.0: Girls and Gears follows the same phase format as the previous TRCs. After the five-day technical training and workshop, a series of practice games will commence to further test the teams’ skills in robotics.

The in-person practice round, along with the final game, is set to take place in July this year.