From robots that vacuum your floor to those that can cook you dinner or perform surgery, robotics plays an important part in our lives. Learning how to program, design, and maybe even compete with a robot you’ve built may sound daunting to some, but Girl Scouts know that robotics success is within their reach!

Introducing girls to all things robotics, isn’t just for tech wizards! The new Girl Scout robotics badges are designed to be accessible to everyone, girl and Troop Leader, so you can learn right along with your girls as they earn these badges. Who knows, you might even discover you have a passion for technology! It doesn’t take sophisticated materials, kits, or actual working robots to help teach the simple concepts and principles behind robotics—the materials on the GSNorCal Volunteer ToolKit (VTK) paired with the badge books will make leveling up girls’ robotics skills easy as pi! 

Building a Young Engineer

To be competitive in the global market, the US will need an astounding 1 million more STEM professionals over the next decade than it’s on track to produce—that’s a whole lot of opportunity for young women to take the lead in science, technology, engineering, and math! Simple exposure to robotics will pique their interest and boost their confidence as they learn not only technical skills, but also interpersonal skills that will be crucial to their growth in school and success in their careers; teamwork, collaboration, improvisation, resilience and problem-solving skills are required elements of becoming an engineer, not to mention a well-rounded member of society.  

These badges are an incredible opportunity to show girls what they’re really capable of! Seeing other girls at robotics competitions or women leaders in tech succeeding can be transformative—that ‘ah-ha’ moment that shows girls that they can do whatever they set their minds on. Having older girls host an activity with your younger girls lends a way for both parties to benefit. Local all-girl robotics teams are the special dose of encouragement your girls will need to feel inspired to try something new; build a robot, compete at a tournament, or maybe even become an engineer some day!

Meet our Space Cookies! The Space Cookies VEX Robotics Team 1868A (combined middle and high school team, left) won the Design Award at the January 2019 Google-GSNorCal Tournament. Space Cookies VEX Team 1868K (middle school team, right) won the Excellence Award at the Google-GSNorCal Tournament as well as the Design Award at the California VEX Middle School State Championship at Google. Google-GSNorCal Tournament qualified both teams to compete at 2019 CREATE U.S. Open Robotics Championship in Council Bluffs, Iowa on April 4-6, 2019. 

Robotics Badges 101

Each program age level has 3 badges they can complete. The Daisy badges cover What Robots Do, How Robots Move, and Designing a Robot, while all other level badges are broken into the same three main topics; Programming Robots, Designing Robots, and Showcasing Robots.

Daisy Badges (3 steps per badge)

Badge 1: What Robots Do
When girls earn this badge, they will know about the many things robots can be designed to do.

Badge 2: How Robots Move
When girls earn this badge, they will know how to create a program that could be run by a robot.

Badge 3: Design a Robot
When girls earn this badge, they will know how to design a robot that solves an everyday problem.

Brownie Badges (5 steps per badge)

Badge 1: Programming Robots
When girls earn this badge, they will know how to create a program that could be run by a robot.

Badge 2: Designing Robots
When girls earn this badge, they will know how to design a robot that helps other people or animals.

Badge 3: Showcasing Robots
When girls earn this badge, they will know how to share my robot with others.

Junior Badges (5 steps per badge)

Badge 1: Programming Robots
When girls earn this badge, they will know how to create a program that could be run by a robot.

Badge 2: Designing Robots
When girls earn this badge, they will know how to design a robot that helps other people or animals.

Badge 3: Showcasing Robots
When girls earn this badge, they will know how to share my robot with others.

Cadette Badges (5 steps per badge)

Badge 1: Programming Robots
When girls earn this badge, they will understand how robots work and how to control them.

Badge 2: Designing Robots
When girls earn this badge, they will know how to design a robot and build a prototype. 

Badge 3: Showcasing Robots
When girls earn this badge, they will know how to share my robot designs with the world.

Senior Badges (5 steps per badge)

Badge 1: Programming Robots
When girls earn this badge, they will understand how robots work and how to control them.

Badge 2: Designing Robots
When girls earn this badge, they will know how to design a robot and build a prototype. 

Badge 3: Showcasing Robots
When girls earn this badge, they will know how to share my robot designs with the world.

Ambassador Badges (5 steps per badge)

Badge 1: Programming Robots
When girls earn this badge, they will understand how robots work and how to control them.

Badge 2: Designing Robots
When girls earn this badge, they will know how to design a robot and build a prototype. 

Badge 3: Showcasing Robots
When girls earn this badge, they will know how to share my robot designs with the world.

To start earning the badges for your troop’s level, you can purchase the badge booklets at the GSNorCal shop for $5, or download PDF copies for $1.99. Then head over to the Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) for customizable agendas, meeting plans, material lists, and resources. Make sure you review all the resources on the VTK as they work together with the badge booklets to create the best possible learning plan for your girls! 

Space Cookies Robotics FRC Team 1868 hosted over 130 Daisy, Junior, and Cadette Girl Scouts at the LA North Regional Competition in Santa Clarita on March 16, 2019 introducing them to FIRST and robotics. This team’s amazing outreach efforts earned the Regional Chairman’s Award and their outstanding robot design, programming, strategy, and collaboration resulted in winning the Robotics Competition. The Space Cookies FRC Team is on their way to the 2019 FIRST Championships in Houston April 17–20, 2019.

Robotics badges, and more!

Girls all have their own interests and passions—so if after your intro, robotics doesn’t end up being a big focus for your troop, that’s ok! But, if a few of your girls are super enthusiastic about robotics, help connect them with local robotics interest groups (or start your own!) to pursue their new passion! FIRST© (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and VEX robotics offer excellent opportunities for girls of all ages to get involved in fully immersive learning experiences by forming or joining local teams. Online training portals on these sites offer extensive education support for adults who are new to robotics to give you what you need to feel confident in coaching a team.  

Robotics Education & Competition Foundation offer grants including special support for all-girls teams through their Girl-Powered Initiative. And for the past two years, Google has supported GSNorCal’s efforts to get more girls involved in robotics by hosting local middle and high school GSNorCal troops who have an interest in forming a team and competing during the VEX season!

Team INVICTA

2nd year alumni team INVICTA from GSNorCal’s Google-sponsored VEX Troop 43426 qualified to compete in the CREATE U.S. Open Robotics Championship in Council Bluffs, Iowa on April 4–6, 2019 and earned the Excellence Award at the 2019 State Championships, earning them the opportunity to compete at the 2019 World’s VEX Competition in Louisville, KY April 24-27, 2019.  

With these resources and a little STEM confidence under your belt, you’re ready to introduce your girls to the diverse world of engineering and robotics. Has your troop earned any of these badges yet? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

What to do next:

  • On the GSNorCal Volunteer Learning Portal, you can listen to the STEM Monthly Webinar that corresponds to this content and to past webinars in this series, and find other resources to help your troop earn the robotics badges. 
  • There are more helpful STEM webinars on the horizon taking place on the third Thursday of the month from 7–8 PM. Register today!
  • Visit GSNorCal’s Robotics page for additional resources and info about starting a robotics team, learning about local community partner badge programs, and ways to reserve kits like LEGO Mindstorms, VEX IQ, and mBots.

Brenda Gabel—Brenda is the Program Director, Partnerships for Girl Scouts of Northern California, where she works with many corporate, community, and university partners to support our hands-on STEAM programs for girls through the help of amazing mentors and role model volunteers. During the past 12 years with GSNorCal she has worked in many capacities from working with youth leading hands-on science programs in the classroom to leading well-being programs at local shelters and now directing programs. In her spare time she is a kitty mom, gardener, amateur chef, and loves spending time outdoors.