Brookline Bot Boizz robotics team encourages girls in STEM



The Brookline Bot Boizz robotics team poses behind their creation. The all-girls team strives to create a welcoming and warm niche within STEM.

Teenagers at a high school robotics competition hover over a glass enclosure filled with toaster-sized robots that glide across the floor. The participants are dressed mostly in colorless hoodies or monotonous suits, but one team sparkles in pink tie-dyed shirts and shimmering face paint. Poised and focused on driving their robot, they are the only girls visible, and their presence demands attention from the room that is filled with boys.

The team in pink is the Brookline Bot Boizz, an all-girls robotics club that competes against other teams to build a functioning robot. The Bot Boizz spend months creating a robot that completes specific challenges, then at competitions they battle other teams to prove that their robot best fulfills the given tasks. In the process, they have created a welcoming environment that cultivates inclusivity in STEM.

Junior Ava Rizika started the team last year, recruiting members by reaching out to friends she knew through sports and other extracurriculars. A growing team soon emerged, which Rizika said is composed of an unlikely group of girls whose personalities and interests defy the norms of any conventional robotics team.

“None of us really fit into that stereotype of the STEM nerd, the guy who’s in his mother’s basement coding,” Rizika said. “There’s a wide variety of interests on our team. And while pursuing their passions, at the same time everyone gets to try STEM, which I think is cool.”

Team member Hannah Intille added that by creating an inclusive team that welcomes girls of any level of experience with robotics, they have developed into a powerful force in the local robotics community. As a group, she says, they radiate a frenzy of exuberance, unintentionally challenging assumptions about how teenagers in STEM should look or act.

“Eighty percent of the people competing are boys,” Intille said. “It’s something unique about us that I think can inspire other people and make them feel like they can do robotics too. It’s a good feeling because we’re changing the dynamic.”

Co-captain Divya Rajaraman emphasized that every girl on the Bot Boizz plays a central role at competitions, which is unlike most of the teams they go up against.

“What we have noticed is at the competitions you see a few girls on other teams, but none of them are on the field driving the robot,” Rajaraman said. “They’re all on the sidelines for the most part. I feel good to be the only all-girls team and have every girl on our team play a huge part.”

According to Rajaraman, the Bot Boizz thrive because they are able to foster a collaborative environment that encourages all members to share their ideas and take up space without fear of criticism. Rajaraman said that being on Bot Boizz is unlike any previous experience she’s had.

“I’ve done a lot of math competitions, and it’s always been a lot of boys in the room,” Rajaraman said. “And so being on an all-girls team, I never really felt that I had to hold back in any way.”

Rizika said that working with a group of all girls creates a rare sense of comfort and freedom.

“If I’m doing a group project at school and it’s a co-ed group, often I feel a little bit self-conscious, and I don’t feel as confident to speak out and say all of my ideas,” Rizika said. “I don’t want to be too overbearing. I want to give other people room to speak. With robotics, there’s not as much social pressure to take up less talking time, and I’m not as afraid of being seen as a know-it-all.”

The unconstrained environment of an all-girls community allows the Bot Boizz to excel, not just in the performance of their robots, but also in their ability to engage others in robotics and broaden the parameters of what youth robotics looks like in Brookline.

The Bot Boizz leads an outreach program that works to get kids in Brookline involved in robotics. According to Rizika, they are successful partly because their unconventional presence in the world of STEM welcomes kids who haven’t necessarily seen themselves represented in science and math.

“The main goal of our outreach program is to get kids from all different backgrounds engaged in robotics,” Rizika said. “It’s rewarding to see all of the change that we’re making in Brookline.”

The Bot Boizz teach an interactive youth robotics class at the Brookline Teen Center and lead a program called Robot in a Box that gives kids all the resources they need to build their own robots. Through their efforts, the Bot Boizz have been able to involve 110 elementary and middle school students in Brookline in the past year. Intille said she is proud to see the impact that the team is making.

“Just by working together as a bunch of enthusiastic girls who are interested in STEM and are competitive, we’re changing the dynamic,” Intille said. “We make other people feel like they can do robotics too. We can inspire an open community. It wouldn’t be the same if we weren’t here, and I think that’s the best part.”