Competing with over 300 boys from various Asian countries, the all-girls team felt intimidated particularly because of the not-so friendly welcome they got.

Published 2016-10-11 14:17:34

The Straits Times reported on Monday (10 Oct) that a Singaporean robotics team just won top honours at the August World Robot Games, held in Indonesia.

The most awesome part? It was a team of 10 secondary school students from Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (PLMGS).

Competing with over 300 boys from various countries in Asia, the all-girls team felt intimidated, particularly because of the not-so friendly welcome they got from the rest of the participants, who laughed at them.

“When it was our turn to send out our robots, everyone was staring at us. We were the outsiders,” said team member Christina Tan.

Their efforts were not in naught, and they managed to silence the laughter after the competition ended 4 days later, “clinching 15 awards across 34 categories”.

The PLMGS team at the August World Robot Games / Image Credit: The Straits Times
The PLMGS team at the August World Robot Games / Image Credit: The Straits Times

Said Ling Yin, a team member, “It felt good to beat the boys, who people think are supposed to dominate robotics.”

Victory Within Less Than A Year Of Formation

The team was reported to have formed less than a year ago, and was started by a Mathematics and Design and Technology teacher in PLMGS, Mr Indra Ahmad, after he received an invitation for a robotics competition in 2015.

As a leap of faith, he formed a team, and with just 2 months of training, they participated in the Asia Math & Engineering Competition that year.

PLMGS students at Innovation, Design & Engineering (IDE) Challenge & Robotics 2016 / Image Credit: PLMGS
PLMGS students at Innovation, Design & Engineering (IDE) Challenge & Robotics 2016 / Image Credit: PLMGS

Even then, the girls were painfully aware of the prejudices that come with females in male-dominated fields like robotics, engineering and the tech industry, but didn’t take those as excuses to not compete.

Eventually, the team came in at a very impressive 2nd.

Said team member Jia Min, “We exceeded our own expectations and our competitors’ expectations of us.”

With the latest victory, the school has full confidence to push forward in robotics, and is said to be “looking at future collaborations with tertiary institutions in the research field”.

A quick look at PLMGS’ website reveals the robotics team definitely challenging themselves by attending a good number of competitions, and are subsequently emerging victorious in most.

Singaporeans Respond

The news has so far gotten over 5,000 likes and 800 shares to date, and the comments section is flooded with netizens congratulating the team on not only bringing Singapore honour, but also proving that a field like robotics isn’t, and shouldn’t only be only for males.

“Stereotypical dominance mindset”
“To begin with a step to want to try from scratch, with zero knowledge, is already a champion mindset.”
“I hope you will venture further with start up on AI”
“We’ll have some glass ceiling shattered here as well”

ABB Singapore, a supplier of industrial robots, also took to the comments and proposed a very generous offer:

“We know a thing or two about robots too”

Females In (Currently) Male-Dominated Fields Shouldn’t Be A Novelty

The girls’ story currently serves as inspiration to other females who aspire to excel in male-dominated fields, but are too intimidated to get started due to prejudices.

However, I feel that as the years go by, and we get more educated and enlightened as a society, their story should simply be one of a victorious team winning top honours, not a victorious all-female/male team doing so.

The fact that you rarely see victors in such competitions being touted as “all-male”, or being seen as “outsiders” is already a signal that at the moment, female representation in ‘male’ fields is still sorely lacking.

What can we do about it, though?

Well, education is our best shot at being a great equaliser, and when girls (and also boys) are exposed to all types of fields, we would be celebrating victors for their hard work and eventual success, not because they are from a certain minority.

Feature Image Credit: The team at the Singapore leg of the Games / Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School

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