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THE ROBOPUFFS The rise of Carlsbad's all-girls robotics team

The Carlsbad Educational Foundation invests nearly $150,000 annually in robotics for CUSD students, offering an in-class program for 2nd graders, after-school programs for grades 4th-12th, and competitions for students. With robotics clubs at both Sage Creek and Carlsbad High School, all students are given a platform for exploring Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and discovering their passions. At Carlsbad High, the all-girls robotics team known as The Robopuffs uses this platform to help bridge the gender gap in STEM and pave the way for future female engineers.

"I personally see people join robotics in elementary school with no intent than to have fun and it turns into a lifelong passion for them," senior Shayda Moezzi said. "Giving kids hands on experience from such a young age can have profound impacts on their future."

Freshman year at Carlsbad High, Shayda Moezzi decided to explore her interest in computer science and software engineering, so she joined The Robopuffs. Now as a senior, Moezzi has held the responsibility of Head of Software for three years, Robotics Club President for one year, and has recently committed to MIT for college.

As a team of 16 girls, The Robopuffs has grown in both membership and team success. But reaching new heights hasn't come without challenges. Over the years Moezzi has seen her team lose experienced seniors and has put in the work to build the team back up again.

“What first seemed like it could mark the end of our team, turned out to be a huge learning experience for all of us and the new members on the team,” Moezzi said. “In a way, losing seniors was a blessing in disguise because it allowed us to learn everything and develop a passion for what we do because it is literally hands on learning. Also, each year we have performed better and better.”

This year, The Robopuffs was able to create a fully autonomous robot. Using live sensor feedback, their robot could make its own decisions and complete tasks without human intervention. The team's progress is well-represented in their recent success at the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) tournament on February 8, where the girls won 2nd place for the Inspire award. The Robopuffs' work doesn't end there- this year the team showcased their work not only at competitions, but at community events as well.

“My first year our robot was only able to do some of the game's tasks; this year, our robot was capable of accomplishing everything,” Moezzi said. “Because of this, we even created a second robot that we used solely for outreach and community building events!”

The Robopuffs' progress over the years largely results from the team's determined and committed mindset. CHS Robotics teams meet Tuesdays and Fridays from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., but two days a week doesn’t always cut it- before competitions, The Robopuffs meet practically every day and even pull some all-nighters to get everything done.

“Yes it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s a lot of hard work that pays off really well,” sophomore Josie Domo said. “You’re seeing exactly what you can do with your future, you’re seeing where you can apply skills that you have- especially with teamwork, building and programming- and it’s really just a fulfilling experience overall.”

The Robopuffs Head of Hardware Josie Domo has been a part of CEF robotics since 6th grade. Domo's involvement started with an interest in how things worked, and now she holds responsibility as the main builder and driver of the team's robot. Before competitions and community events, Domo looks forward to applying her skills and watching her team's hard work pay off through their success and community outreach.

“We are a big women in STEM team, we are an all-girls team, so it’s really important to us to reach back out to these people, and our performance with our robot is a big reflection of that as well,” Domo said.

“I feel like it offers girls at CHS a safe space to explore engineering and potentially even develop a passion for it,” Moezzi said.

Through the Carlsbad Educational Foundation, students gain the opportunities and resources to pursue STEM, and that support especially helps female students feel included and confident in their abilities. As the STEM industry grows exponentially, robotics will help prepare all students for their futures beyond high school.

“Being able to be one of the front runners of this [and] being a somewhat originating team within Carlsbad is really important, and especially being an all-girls team just empowering younger girls to see what they can do with their futures is really cool,” Domo said.

Created By
Catherine Allen
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Photos courtesy of The Robopuffs