by Christy Parrott
Recently, West Grand student Jessica Gregory attended and competed in a robotics summer camp, hosted by the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City. Over the week-long camp, Gregory, along with 18 other students, assembled and programmed what Gregory describes as “Robotic Smart Cars” for a final competition. The process began with Gregory applying for acceptance to the camp, which included an essay and letter of recommendation. Additionally, there was a three-hundred dollar application fee along with another six hundred seventy-five dollar charge to attend, to which Mountain Parks Electric generously donated three hundred dollars to help defray costs.
Gregory has been working with robotics since the sixth grade, developing an interest after having watched her older brothers in the years prior. According to Gregory, building the robot was simple, but programming the machine and competing with it was far more challenging and where her passion lies: “The main focus of the competition is the electronic and programing aspect, which is my preference,” Gregory shares. Gregory and other students in attendance programmed their robots to independently navigate a four-part obstacle course, which included using ultrasonic sensors to avoid obstacles while completing a maze. “If you picked up or restarted your robot or didn’t finish in under four minutes, you were deducted points,” Gregory explains. She credits her persistence and dedication to her robotics’ instructor, West Grand teacher Lori Birch for “Teaching me to never give up when I have ideas,
to be persistent and use my voice.”
Gregory took first and second place in individual challenges and won second overall. In fact, while there were only three girls attending the camp, all three placed first, second, and third in the competition. “If you look at history, there are a lot of fields where women don’t feel capable to even attempt a male-dominated profession,” Gregory says. “I want to show other women that they can try robotics and succeed.” Gregory plans on continuing her education, focusing on computer science and programming in college, and eventually work for an international company “Such as Google,” a government agency, “Like NASA,” or work as a teacher, “Just like Ms. Birch.”
by Christy Parrott